Club del Doge, Gritti Palace Venice

Down by the canal.

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The famed Gritti Palace hotel in Venice, resplendent on the Grand Canal, right across from the Guggenheim Museum, underwent an extensive renovation, and recently re-opened its Club del Doge restaurant. The revamp included opening an entrance from the street, which had been closed for decades, encouraging locals to drop in for a drink or a meal without having to go through the lobby. All in all executive chef Daniele Turco’s mandate is to make the restaurant a classical Venetian place, while adding plenty of modern elements.

Weather permitting, there is a patio directly on the canal, but the inside seating still provides great views of the water and the constant activities on it, a charming environment in which to dine. “Many of our regular clients told us they wanted more classic Venetian dishes on the menu, so I did that,” says Turco. “But, we are not afraid to accept new challenges, and I think that is the best way to constantly improve and to stimulate our guests.” Stimulation includes various options to participate in cooking classes, which take place in a large room adjacent to the dining room. “We have been gratified that the cooking classes have been so popular,” Turco says. “There is a lot of interest in Venetian cooking, in local foods, and of course a bit of history as well.” Street access to the space was important for Turco, who says they wanted it to be more welcoming. “I would often be asked if we were open to non-guests,” he recalls. “Of course we were, but the perception was that we were too exclusive. That has all changed now.”

The main dining room is all comfort and classical décor, plush seats, thick linens, splendid tapestry. The food does take its inspiration from the nearby famous lagoon, and the local markets. A spider crab and eggplant mousse is light yet profound, a fantastic way to open a meal. Cichetti, Venetian tapas, have proven immensely popular, and Turco notes that they “are a great way to explore true Venetian cooking.” Such delicacies as marinated anchovy, salume rolled in a breaded crust, grilled baby squid, grilled polenta covered in creamed cod, and polpette (tiny meatballs) are all wonderful. Best to try a sampler plate, called a cichetada. From there, a unique fish, similar to a langoustine, fresh from local waters that day, then some charred octopus. A seafood risotto, made with fish broth. Then another Venetian classic: liver and onions, so delicate and sumptuous. Finally, braised lamb neck, before an array of cheeses.

Club del Doge is bringing a new excitement to Venetian cooking. Being knowledgeable about the past, but folding in contemporary approaches, makes it one of the destination restaurants of Venice.

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March 24, 2016