Thanks in large part to the trusty Michelin guide, the three days in Venice saw good and very good meals with just one exception. It wasn’t recommended in Michelin, of course. The restaurant that I hoped to visit that evening was, but mobility issues in our group precluded a walk there – or water taxi. The restaurant we ended up was close by and had a menu filled with Venetian specialties. It was seemingly as untouristy as a restaurant might be near the Accademia in Venice.
Taverna San Travaso might have been, but our meal was pretty lousy. It was a bad meal and the worst of my two weeks in Italy last month. I definitely felt like a ripped-off tourist afterwards; the restaurant was not trying at all.
A harbinger of the mediocrity, and worse, was the pitcher of prosecco we ordered to start. A pitcher of prosecco was quite appropriate with the hot weather, and a cool way to start, especially since we don’t often see sparkling wine on tap and by the pitcher. It wasn’t really sparkling though. It was effervescent, if with more than enough bubbles to bring it beyond the level of still wine. It was not terribly good, either, though deservedly inexpensive. Soon after the carafes arrived were the mixed antipasti. The Caprese di Bufala, or Caprese salad, featured pale red, thick and lifeless tomatoes that were about the worst I had ever seen in nearly ten trips to Italy. Given how good tomatoes typically are in Italy, I had only once had witnessed tomatoes nearly as bad. Awful.
It got worse, though, at least for my brother. He ordered a seafood soup as his first course. It was terrible. Inedible, in fact. He asked a couple of others to try, too, to their disgust, and had to send it back. With nothing but a shrug from the waiter. I am not sure if it was even taken off the bill. My starter was not nearly as bad, but not what was advertised, and rather fraudulent. It supposed to be bigoli in a duck ragu. My bigoli, which is a type freshly made pasta from the region that is like a softer, thick spaghetti was just thin, commercially made spaghetti. The simple duck ragu was not bad, but straightforward and rather simple without much in the way anything other than thin duck meat and jus. At least my pasta was thoroughly cooked. The two orders of gnocchi at the table were vastly undercooked, often doughy and quite unpalatable.
The rest of the meal was not nearly as bad. My veal scaloppine al marsala featured veal that was far from tender, grainy and not very enjoyable by itself in a simple, sweet-than-it-should-be sauce. The dish was barely mediocre and something I might expect from a below average Ruby Tuesday. It was probably worse than that. The bland fish filet that both my father and a brother ordered might have been better but far from what you might hope for from a restaurant steps from the sea, and far from what my brother catches in Galveston Bay.
Overall, Taverna San Travaso was very disappointing visit – one that a fair amount of wine and good company could not entirely overcome – and restaurant I would highly recommend missing if in Venice.
This unappetizing gray dish was supposed to bigoli with a duck ragu. Instead, spaghetti with some dull duck meat was a better description, but there was far worse served for our dinner.