Address: Salizada San Lio, Castello 5471
Notes: Open every day
Tables outside? No
Vaporetto Stop: Rialto
The Salizada San Lio is one of the main routes through Venice, running between the Rialto area and Campo Santa Maria Formosa, a little north of San Marco. It’s bustling and crowded and noisy, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the many restaurants lining it are likely to be nothing but tourist traps. Until last year that would have been true of Ristorante da Sabrina, but in June 2012 it was taken over by the charming Roumanian Luciano and he has set about turning it into a restaurant with good, fresh food at sensible prices.
It’s a very traditional Venetian establishment, with dark wood and lots of red and gold. The menu is traditional too, but because care has gone into the cooking you know you will be tasting Venetian dishes as they should be.
Antipasti include an excellent sarde in saor (€12) with masses of succulent onions and the antipasto misto pesce (€15) was a joy to behold and easily served two – mussels, clams, prawns, baby octopus salad, sarde in saor, baccala with polenta… a feast in itself, and the baccala (salt cod, ubiquitous in Venice and not normally our favourite dish) was fluffy, creamy and delicious. Other good options are capesante gratinate al forno (scallops) or beef carpaccio (both €14).
Pasta dishes start at €13 for the classic spaghetti alla veneziana con nero di seppia, spaghetti alle vongole or tagliatelle gamberi e zucchine; there’s also linguine all’astice (€19) if you’ve a fancy for lobster.
We went straight to the secondi and watched as Luciano expertly filleted a perfectly cooked orata (sea bream), which came with potatoes, olives and capers (€22). Rombo (turbot) was also on the menu (€25), as was the classic fegato alla veneziana con polenta (€15) – liver and onions, which was excellent with very tender liver and meltingly soft onions, and even the polenta was tasty. There are other meat options too: tagliata di manzo con funghi porcini or filetto al pepe verde looked good value at €19. The main emphasis is on fish though, with seppie (squid) and prawns a major feature.
Luciano was at pains to tell us that the only pudding made in-house was the tiramisù, which was light and lovely. However as the rest come from the local bakery (torta di Nonna, a very fresh torta di limone…) it’s worth saving a bit of room if you can.
The house white is a very smooth soave and the coffee is excellent.
Currently seating over 100 downstairs, there is soon to be an upstairs room too with an extra 40 covers – a more secluded spot for a romantic dinner, perhaps (though in the evening the lighting downstairs is subtle and the gentle music provides a pleasant atmosphere). Luciano and his staff have worked wonders on this place and it’s good to see all their effort paying off – it’s a safe bet for a really good meal just a couple of minutes from the crowds of the Rialto. And it’s worth knowing they are open from 10.00 until midnight every day – there aren’t too many options for late-night dining in Venice.