The perfect spaghetti
The benefits of befriending the concierge
Our first few meals in Venice were unequivocal disasters, from sloppy pizza near Rialto Bridge to cardboard biscotti at Piazza San Marco. Starving, I staggered up to the hotel concierge to vent. Sputtering “basta basta!", he gestured us to step out with him.
His palms rocketed forward, waved a left, then a right, arched over an invisible bridge, and stopped. He pointed to his necktie, and gave me a thumbs-up sign. Half an hour of winding lanes later, my husband Nikhil and I found ourselves outside an unwelcoming locked grill ensconced in a stone facade. Two glass windows peered into darkness. Then a balding man with an armful of groceries walked up and ushered us in. We entered sceptically. As he put on the lights, I saw neckties hanging from the ceiling and walls.
We asked for a menu, and he held a white plastic bag under my nose. The ocean crashed into my face. I nodded so hard, my head might have fallen off. The little restaurant was smaller than my hotel room, with five wooden tables. Sitting by the window, we peeked into the kitchenette where he was chopping garlic at lightning speed. Soon the smell of parsley and heaven wafted by. He set down a bottle of white wine, a Soave from north-east Italy, and poured us both a glass. Putting the spaghetti on boil, he indicated with his fingers how long it would take.
Ten minutes later, two steaming bowls filled to the brim with spaghetti, cherry tomatoes, parsley and clams were placed in front of us. We ate in silence. I remember putting aside my fork and lifting the bowl to my mouth to make sure I got every bit of the silky sauce. He laughed and made us another helping. Each glass of good Soave I have had since has been a throwback to that perfect meal, and a reminder of the chances a traveller must take.
Order the Spaghetti Vongole from Osteria ae Cravate on Salizada San Pantalon, a residential street leading off from the canal.