Campo Santi Filippo e Giacomo, 4359
30122 Venice, Italy
Tel. +39 041 522 4292
Polpetta tradizionale di manzo e maiale / Traditional beef and pork meatball
Crostino con Baccalà mantecato / Bread and purée of dried salt cod
Sarde in “saor” (10 pezzi) / Sardines “in saor” marinated with onions, pine nuts, raisins, vinegar (10 pieces)
Pizzetta con acciuga/ Little pizza with anchovies
Peperonata / Pan-fried pepper stew, onions & tomatoes
Impepata di cozze / Mussel stew
Affogato al Whisky / Ice cream in Whisky
Affogato al caffè / Ice cream in coffee
Corte Sant’Alda 2021 Molinara Agathe Veneto 90
Situated in a small but busy and pretty campo a few minutes walk from piazza San Marco, Aciugheta has long been one of the city’s most famous bacari (the local name for a wine bar and bistro). Founded in the early 1900s, the place got by selling ombre de vin (glasses of wine) but quickly became famous for its bread and anchovy snacks and other cicheti (Venetian tapas, to generalize). When in the 1970s owner Gianni Bonaccorsi (originally from another beautiful Italian city, Ferrara) brought Aciugheta back to its previous splendour, the tradition of the bread with anchovy snacks continued, but morphed into a more modern version of small pizza with the delicious salt fish (pizzetta con acciughe). And though ti may seem strange at first, given you’re sitting in Venice and not Naples or Rome, pizza is actually a serious affair at Aciugheta, where they take pride in using 100% Italian stone-ground wheat that hails from eco-sustainable agriculture (in fact, most of the ingredients used at Aciugheta are organically farmed and labeled as “bio”). The goal with pizza is always to make it as easy to digest as possible and they certainly succeed in their intent at Aciugheta.
Independently of how good the pizza is, my advice for anyone lunching/dining at Aciugheta is to to stick with the pizzetta con acciughe so as to give a nod to the place’s storied past but to focus on the local Venetian specialties such as sarde in saor and the baccalà mantecato (creamed salt dried cod), all of which are excellently rendered. During my last foray at l’Aciugheta I had a very solid meal: maybe not quite as good as some other meals I had there four-five years ago, but you can do much worse in Venice, a city for which the term “tourist-trap” was probably coined (but in fact, truly knowledgeable epicures and foodie insiders know that it is one of Italy’s three or four best eating cities, provided you know where to go). On this particular day, the best dish was, by far, the peperonata, with the sarde in saor, the baccalà and the mussel stew all holding their own, but without really standing out; though I would have liked more depth and precision in the flavours, nothing was less than good and the dishes were all more or less flavorful. The quality of the ingredients and the potentially fine cooking here are no surprises, given that Aciugheta is under the same ownership as Il Ridotto, one of Venice’s ten best restaurants (opened in 2006, it’s a real must-go to dining spot for worldly sybarites but you need to reserve ahead as the number of tables is small (less than 10 or so): beware that Il Ridotto lost its Michelin star in 2021, but you shouldn’t care, because the decision is frankly hard to comprehend, especially given some of the city’s newly-starred places that should be anything but) and the Hotel Tiepolo, a simple but very well curated hotel in the city I also recommend heartily. Even better, Aciugheta has an excellent wine list, much above the average of most (but certainly not all) venetian bacari, and it’s made that much more interesting because you can ask to choose wines from the fantastic list of the Il Ridotto nearby (I suggest choosing one of the many delicious local wines, but if you must, it’s the sort of dining destination that will have for example, from time to time, Y’quem by the glass). Service at l’Aciugheta is friendly and attentive but not especially fast, but in the end you won’t mind, as the outdoor seating area right in the campo is a joy and you won’t mind passing time there (we liked it so much we actually went to the tabaccaio across the square and bought cigars to spend even more time at our table out in the open).
The day was one of fun an d relaxation, and so I limited myself to one, very good, wine. The Corte Sant’Alda 2021 Molinara Agathe Veneto is a brilliant example of what the underrated Molinara grape variety can deliver. Luminous red colour (unfortunately almost caricatural in its bringing fluorescence to mind), this is a lovely wine boasting aromas and flavours of red berries, field flowers and aromatic herbs. Fresh and juicy, its lingers nicely on the palate, with harmonious acidity working especially with anything you’ll be eating that is either fried or heavy on the fat content. The creamy-long finish repeats floral nuances. Molinara is a large-berried grape that gives very light-bodied, pink-coloured wines that are at once delicately fruity, spicy and salty, it was once a big component of Bardolino and Valpolicella wines (Amarone included) but has been mostly phased out over the last two decades by producers looking to score points with those who like to drink jam. To be crystal-clear about this, producers who have, maybe, gained some customers who like to talk about wine more than they actually do drinking it, all the while losing forever those like me who like to lunch and dine with well-balanced wines that are food-friendly. And you know something? We are not a small group. Mercifully, the same large group of wine- and food-lovers who flock to l’Aciugheta, and will continue to do so, given the simple but good food and excellent wines served. Well done.