Antica Osteria Al Pantalon just scrapes into the Dorsoduro sestiere but it’s virtually in San Polo, just a step from the Frari, and has the feel of that bustling area packed with small, interesting shops. The Calle is narrow so there’s no room for outside tables, but there are large windows and it’s pleasant watching the world go past outside. Inside it’s very traditional – dark wood, whitewashed walls with an eclectic selection of paintings and photographs – a very typical Venetian osteria. It was quiet when we visited but as it’s close to the University, I hear it’s always busy during term, students taking advantage of the good food at reasonable prices.
The menu offers a few diversions from the standard tourist fare, too. Antipasti (€8 – €12) include involtini di bresaola con caprino e rucola – rolls of air-dried beef with goat’s cheese and rocket – and petto d’oca affumicata con olio tartuffo (smoked goose breast with truffle oil).
Primi at €10 – €14 offer a fairly standard range of pasta and secondi also cover the normal dishes found in Venice, but the quality is high and so is the value. Rombo alla griglia (grilled turbot) was big and beautifully cooked and at €16 a real bargain – many restaurants price turbot by weight. Fegato alla Veneziana at €15 was similarly good, the liver meltingly tender and the polenta (not normally my favourite food) soft and a perfect foil for the sauce.
There’s a home-made tiramisù that’s good but not special – otherwise dolci are commercial. House white is a pino grigio blend and also OK but not great – but not too expensive either at €10 per litre.
Overall this is a place that is just right for a simple, no-nonsense meal. You wouldn’t go there for a special celebration but it’s always good to find really good honest food, reasonably priced, and the service is friendly and charming.