A Michelin star, three souls and herbaceous, bitter and balsamic dishes that interpret the Lagoon. On the Mazzorbo Island, a Michelin restaurant where to stop in Venice (almost)
When you hear the definition of vegetable cuisine, think of those ethereal, delicate, basically vegetarian dishes that tend to be sprinkled with flowers of a thousand colors and few flavors. Then you sit at Venissa and the concept of vegetable cuisine takes on new meaning.
Venissa is an atypical wine estate, produces wine on theisland of Mazzorbo, a step away from Burano, and does so by growing a native vine that had been lost, special because it can grow in a land in the middle of the lagoon and often ends up submerged in brackish water. Venissa is a "clos" cultivated as a vegetable garden and a vineyard, surrounded by medieval walls and water on three sides, it is crossed by a canal and with a fish pond in the middle. In the shadow of its fourteenth-century bell tower was born the project of a small resort with a few rooms, a restaurant and a tavern; immersed, literally, in the waters of the Venice lagoon.
The Venissa restaurant has seen over the years chefs such as Paola Budel, Antonia Klugmann, then a brigade of four chefs who cooked with eight hands and finally in 2017 Francesco Brutto arrived. And with him, Chiara Pavan.
The strange couple
Francesco is one of the rising stars (but seriously) of Italian cuisine. He is young and talented. And it does not go unnoticed. He worked with Piergiorgio Parini at the Povero Diavolo and shares with him a passion for certain dishes. He has taste, he puts together ingredients that in appearance (and for anyone else) would be disgusting and instead become poetry in his hands. The legendary Tortellini with tamarind, double cream and angostura: fat, sweet, comforting, bitter and acidic at the same time, indeed, in a rainbow of flavors that evolve in the mouth at every bite. He came home to Venissa a bit, he worked here as a brigade with Klugmann, and thanks to his friendship with Matteo Bisol, patron of the project, ten years later he found himself supervising the kitchen. He brought his signature dish, a culinary imprint, but above all he chose to bring Chiara, ripping her off at the Zum Löwen restaurant. He, the best young Italian chef in 2017, is the best Italian woman chef in 2019 for the Guide de L’Espresso. He has been a Michelin star since 2018 from the Eleventh Winery in Treviso, she who keeps the star of Venissa firm. Francesco takes the car on closing days and comes down to help in the kitchen what, in the meantime, is not a secret, has become his companion. Chiara is smiling, elegant, refined, sweet and precise in detail. Francesco is a man of intuitions, unfriendly and rough. And the cuisine of a chef is exactly like his character, he does not lie, and in the kitchen of Venissa both are found.
Beyond the zero km
No clash, not two faces that show themselves according to the moments, but a whole: a bit like the Lagoon. Today from Venissa we eat a cuisine that is not traditional, it is not Chiara's and it is not Francesco's, it is Venissa's and that's it. It's almost a situationist installation that exists here and now like the ones that host the Bisol vineyard.
The history of zero km and local raw materials is a bit of a cliché, it is now a mantra that has lost its meaning, but here it is a bit different because the flavor of the Lagoon is not that of the sea or of the earth: it is savory , you find it in vegetables as well as in fish. But no meat, only feathered game and poultry, because there are no pastures or stables here. Without moeche, go, spider crabs, eels, mullets, and even garusoli, the kitchen would not be the same. Without the salicornia that grows in the canal, the artichokes, the garden cultivated by the elderly of the town, the unripe juice of Dorona grapes, the nepetella and the salads of barena the kitchen would not be the same. But it could be that of a thousand other restaurants in this area, if there were no Chiara and Francesco.
An imaginary lagoon
You are not in Venice, you are not in Burano, you are an imaginary place where the eel ends up smoked with beetroot and sorrel, spaghetti is sprinkled with gold but seasoned with butter, tenacissimo garum of sardines, juice of unripe Dorona grapes of Venissa vineyards, lime and fennel leaves. Each dish is herbaceous, balsamic, very long and able to take on one flavor after another with each bite. The artichokes are served natural, with marinated yolk, coffee with artichoke, ambretta (aka seeds of mallow) and Ravioli with artemisia butter, pine nuts and bitter salads are bitter, but also sweet, crunchy and nutty. The kitchen pushes, there is no room for the just mentioned flavors, and woe to define that of Chiara as a female kitchen. It really isn't; and she, a philosophy graduate, does not like simplistic definitions.
The pre-desssert is a wild fennel ice cream, fermented carrot cream and purple carrot powder, very fresh. Green desserts are served with Verde Mare, which tastes exactly like that, thanks to macha semifreddo, candied wakame seaweed, spirulina algae and green apple ice cream. And then there is garusoli ice cream, coffee sponge, mushroom semifreddo and dandelion custard. Ice cream eaten alone is madness, it tastes like sea snails, it is made of sea snails, but it is with mushrooms and dandelion that finds balance and becomes delicious. A perfect metaphor for Venissa today.
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