Rioba – the name of one of the Moorish merchants carved on the corner of a nearby house – is a delightful restaurant in one of our favourite areas of Venice – quiet, and south-facing so you can catch the sun and sit outside, even if it’s cool. The charming Eloïse is effortlessly efficient and the classy menu is one that tempts you back for at least a second tasting, with prices that would be good value at a much more standard establishment.
It’s ironic that this restaurant is just across the Calle from Fondamenta, about which we raved this time last year – but which has morphed into a decent but not exciting pizza joint…
We kicked off with a ‘flan’ of zucchini with a fennel sauce – more like a mousse really, very delicate and quite delicious (€7). Star of the antipasto stakes though was a tortino di pasta briseé filled with broccoli, served with a couple of grilled prawns and a balsamic vinegar reduction (€10). The prawns were almost superfluous, the short pastry case filled with broccoli was so good.
All the pasta is hand-made and there is a ravioli or lasagne dish of the day; I chose reginette(wavy ribbons of pasta) with a lamb ragù (€12), which involved supremely tender chunks of meat rather than the more prosaic mince I had expected.
Secondi are very reasonably priced (€15 – 22) and the tagliata di manzo is an absolute snip at €18 – a huge piece of beef fillet roughly sliced, cooked to perfection and served on a bed of red cabbage with rosemary. So tender and pale that one wondered if it should really have been called veal…
Puddings (€4 – 6.50) are also home made (it’s so good to see more and more Venetian restaurants doing more than the bought-in tartufi or the standard tiramisù). Crema di mascarpone con amaretti was delicious; it also comes flavoured with cinnamon.
House white is is choice of prosecco or tokai, the latter highly drinkable at €9.50 per litre, and there is a vast list of grappe with which to finish your meal. As it was a sunny day we asked whether sgroppini (lemon sorbet with vodka, served in a glass…) might just be available, and were rewarded with a couple so good we had to get the chef to raid his freezer for additional sorbet to make us a couple more.
A treat all round, and a restaurant to which we’ll be returning, especially as the menu changes most months to take advantage of the ingredients in season.
The weather forecast for our usual week in Venice – leading up to Easter – was discouraging; but aside from early morning and late evening fogs we enjoyed warm sunshine. This allowed us to eat lunch outside every day, and there are few venues as desirable as the Fondamenta della Misericordia, a wide promenade beside a quiet canal – an ideal place for watching the world pass by, while enjoying the outstanding experience of Ostaria da Rioba, which we sampled last year for the first time, and to which we returned twice more.
The prices are slightly up on last year’s, but the quality of the food and service more than justifies the small increases. Andrea and Tommaso look after their guests very well – and are quite prepared to make recommendations for those in a quandary about anything. We were particularly grateful for Andrea’s selection of a desert wine, Zibibbo (Martinez), a rich but clean muscat from Sicily that would complement any pudding. The crema di mascarpone con amaretti did not disappoint – when you encounter something so good it is difficult to choose any alternative, even in the interest of reviewing.