Enoteca Ai Artisti is a tiny but perfectly formed establishment in the delightful area between Campo San Barnaba and the Rio San Trovaso, close to the Accademia, with its bookshops and pretty little canal. We first realised the people running Ai Artisti were nice when they happily sold (and opened for us) a bottle of wine to take away with the pizza slices we’d just picked up next door (it’s rather good pizza, by the way). We didn’t get to eat there until this year, though – and then we had to go twice, just to make sure it was good as we thought the first time.
It pays to book because there are no more than around 21 covers inside, including four high stools at the bar across the window, plus three or four tiny tables outside. It’s basic brick and dark wood, with bottles around the walls, and despite the lack of space Vincenzo and Gilberto serve with panache and charm. In the kitchen Francesca rules – and constructs the menu daily according to what’s freshest and most tempting in the markets. Thus the buffalo mozzarella sampled on our first visit – so creamy it tasted almost like a burrata - wasn’t on the menu two days later, frustrating my desire to have one all to myself…
Each day there are three or so antipasti on offer (around €13), all simply based on the freshest ingredients possible. Tonino grillata con speck is a melting cheese parcel wrapped in crispy bacon served with sun-blush tomato. A plate of meats and cheese was a delight, with a wide range of ultra-fresh and soft salami, sopresa, prosciutto etc, and wedges of very interesting local cheeses. And we’ve already talked about the mozzarella, served with the sweetest of cherry tomatoes. Many of these dishes would happily serve as a light meal in itself.
The range of primi (around €14) and secondi is slightly larger – about five of each. We sampled a superb gnocchi con zucca, Gorgonzola e scamorza affumicata - the pumpkingnocchi sweet and almost honeyed, glowing golden with thin strips of the smoked cheese.Tagliatelle con capesante e radicchio was also excellent, light with a good, tart radicchio flavour.
We didn’t make it to secondi even on our second visit so there’s no help for it, we’ll just have to go back.
There are dolci (€6) made in house, not surprisingly: the chocolate mousse is highly recommended, especially with a glass of Moscato di Pantelleria… there was also a wicked chocolate torte on our first visit. The wine list is fairly extensive, though not everything on the board is necessarily available; we drank a very good bottle of Tokai for €20 and there are many wines by the glass.
Whatever is on the menu, and whatever you choose, is almost certainly going to be good, if not downright great. Ai Artisti definitely goes on our list of favourites.