Venice - Pronto Pesce
Twice I tried to find Pronto Pesce and failed. I honestly don't know how I missed it. In general, I had a hard time with food in Venice. Despite some extensive research, blog recommendations, and a google map full of potential restaurants, things just didn't come together like I'd hoped. That's not to say I didn't eat any good food (I did, read on!) but I barely made it to any of my planned culinary destinations. Everyone says get a good map and don't worry about getting lost. Well, I didn't worry about getting lost, but even with a so-called 'good map,' Venice is a maze of canals and alleys, restaurants are tucked around odd corners and hidden in plain sight.
But persistence pays off in Venice, especially when it comes to food. My meal at Pronto Pesce was the best thing I ate in on the island. Featured on No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain and covered by many, many bloggers, Pronto Pesce came highly recommended. And the casual nature of the spot put it high on my list. In the end my perseverance was rewarded, if you're looking for excellent seafood at a reasonable price in Venice, this is the place to go.
Located in the square just beyond the columned seafood section of the Rialto Market, the restaurant is made up of two small rooms. Order at the counter, choosing from the prepared seafood dishes in the glassed display case. There are a few lone bar stools for diners, but most of the seating is in the adjoining dining room. The casual space features more high tables and bar stools plus large windows that maximize the rather cramped space. On my visit the dining room was reserved, packed with an American tour group of seniors. Luckily I arrived just as the group was clearing out (slowly, one at a time making use of the lone restroom,) and I ended up having the space all to myself.
To be quite honest, I was a little wary of the big display case of food. All stacked together, few of the options looked super appetizing. But I had faith and chose three items (well, three plus a liberal glass of prosecco.) First bite first, one perfect scallop baked in its shell. Eat the scallop, then follow up with two bites of balsamic dressed microgreens. Despite being pre-baked the scallop was tender and sweet with a slight crunch from a sprinkle of fennel seeds.
Next, a generous plate of shrimp flavored in a surprising buttery curry sauce. When I ordered I certainly wasn't expecting such a large portion, but after the first bite I was convinced by Pronto Pesce's brand of gourmet food served on disposable plates. A crunchy mix of sauteed cabbage and celery added welcome texture to complement the richly spiced shrimp. On the side, a mound of creamy white polenta rounded out the plate, soaking up the sauce and making for a balanced bite.
By this point I was pretty full. But I still had my cornetti sandwich. I carried it with me for a bit, snapping some more photos around the market. It was just around noon and the fish mongers were near sold out, packing up their leftovers. But the market was still bustling, plenty of shoppers and tourists admiring the stalls of fresh fruit and veg.
Eventually I took a seat by the canal to people watch and eat my sandwich. It looked so simple, just a small croissant filled with sliced tuna. But it was more than the sum of its parts. The fish was sliced micro thin and delicately smoked. The seasoned and buttery bread spread with an artichoke cream and a hint of mustard. It was unbelievably good.