Al Fontego dei Pescatori

Tel: +39 041 5200 538
Address: Sotoportego del Tagiapera, Cannaregio 3711
Notes: Closed Tuesday

Al Fontego dei Pescatori must sometimes just feel like an overflow for the enduringly excellent Vini da Gigio on the other side of the canal. Disappointed diners, not yet clued up to the year-round need for booking in these more crowded days, are sent across the bridge to its more spacious inside. But Al Fontego deserves serious consideration in its own right. The food is imaginative and highly competent, and the whole package entirely convincing.

The menu features all the Venetian favourites – cuttlefish, risotto, artichokes – but the emphasis is on finding gently novel renditions. Sometimes this is a broadly familiar combination such as a pleasingly bitter salad of shrimps and artichokes, or polenta with pilgrim scallops. Sometimes it is more cosmopolitan, like sea bass and salmon marinated with dill and Marsala. It feels ambitious and original but without the tedium of innovation junkies.

The eel and giant gamberetti were excellent. The eel was cooked to the point where it had a soft sausage consistency – a crunch followed by a slow giving texture. The prawns were almost sweet. The monkfish cooked in a light curried sauce was also immaculately executed.

The service is unhurried – you’d say slow if it wasn’t worth the wait – but the staff are all obliging and warm. The yellow walls and sensibly spaced tables make for a warmer experience than most Venetian restaurants, squashed and windowless, and the result is relaxed. Not quite remarkable but a long way short of the sort of disappointments that are commonplace throughout the city. Moderately expensive.