Welcome to the first in a series of features where I review restaurants, cafés and eateries both at home and abroad. Finding good vegan food isn’t always easy, especially when you’re far from home. In this series I hope to hunt out those vegan gems and make life a bit easier for those in need of a good meal. First stop – Venice!
Restaurant Ristorante da Mario alla Fava
Location Calle Dei Stagneri, 5242 – Calle Galiazzo 5265, 30124 Venice
I admit it; I like to be prepared when I go abroad and often get myself into a state of over-organisation. What can I say – I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. My recent trip to Venice started with a detailed search into where two vegans could possibly eat; the Venetians do love their seafood after all. I searched the internet, I read reviews, I even made maps to where I could snuffle out some vegan grub. If you’re anything like me, eating delicious food whilst on holiday is of paramount importance – vegan or not!
With the exception of one or two small places, it was beginning to look as though I would have to use my perfectly awful Italian to get us a decent meal. Then I stumbled upon a single review for Ristorante da Mario alla Fava, a traditional trattoria in the heart of Venice; just a short distance from the Rialto Bridge and only a hop, skip and a jump from San Marco. Mario alla Fava, having just celebrated its 55th anniversary, had released a completely vegan menu to celebrate the occasion! Their website also states that this is gluten free and that they would be happy to cater for food allergies and intolerances. Already far too excited, I emailed them immediately and booked a table for my sister’s 30th birthday meal.
Having since returned from Venice, and having eaten at Mario alla Fava three times, I can confirm that the food is absolutely incredible. Every dish was seasoned to perfection, every vegetable was fresh, the presentation was impeccable and yes! They even provided vegan desserts. Drool… And not only was the food delicious, the waiters could not have been more friendly and welcoming, even giving us a discount on our final visit. It was such an enjoyable experience we felt we couldn’t go just the once!
So let’s get down to the details. Sadly some dishes lack photographs due to my inability to not gobble up the course before remembering to get my camera out. Oops!
Ahhh tomato based heaven. My starter of small ‘pappa al pomodoro’ pie with artichoke julienne was absolutely divine (and yes it has been partially eaten). I could honestly live off the stuff. Based on the classic Tuscan soup made from tomatoes and bread, the ‘pie’ was a reasonably soft mixture formed into the bowl of the dish. It was filling and fresh, the tomatoes were rich and the artichokes cool and soft. I couldn’t just have it once either, and both my sister and I had it as our starter on our next visit.
The fried vegetables with rucola sauce and ginger, a large dish of tempura style vegetables with a delicious dipping sauce made from rocket (arugula) and ginger, became a firm favourite of my sister. I of course assisted with the sampling of this dish and can confirm it was very tasty indeed!
The zucchine carpaccio with tomatoes tartare, basil and almonds, which I sadly didn’t photograph, was the final starter I tried. Having never eaten raw courgette (zucchini) before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Oh. My. It was absolutely delicious. Thin slices of courgette were drizzled in fresh tomatoes, olive oil, basil and almonds and seasoned to absolute perfection. I am a convert! This was an incredibly refreshing dish.
If you thought we were full after those glorious starters… well you’d be right! But who can resist having a delicious main? Certainly not me. The first main that we sampled was the orecchiette with aubergine, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives, yet another dish doomed to be consumed before being photographed. Tangy and fresh with juicy sun-dried tomatoes and handmade pasta, it was the perfect dish for relaxing in the sea air (or – ok! lagoon… but I really couldn’t smell any difference).
Our second visit had us sampling the 100% Italian farro linguine with pesto and peppers sauce. I think I enjoyed this even more than the orecchiette. The pasta itself had a wonderful texture and taste to it and was kept from being too heavy by the pesto and pepper sauce, which was similar to that in the tempura veg starter but without the added ginger kick.
My favourite main of all though was enjoyed on our final visit, which happened to be a rather ridiculously hot day. In need of something to cool us both down, we both had the Stringoli ‘Bella Estate’: cold pasta with fresh tomato, rucola and almonds. I’ve always enjoyed cold meals, but there’s something about sitting outside, shaded from the scorching sun, having a cool drink and eating a plate of cold pasta. I had the stringoli following the zucchini carpaccio, two dishes which paired together beautifully.
And at last! We finally come to the desserts. I sampled the almonds small cake with coconut sauce on our first visit; a dense but flavoursome cake which didn’t survive long enough for a picture. However the ultimate favourite was the soup of strawberry with plain chocolate ice-cream; a scoop of rich dark chocolate ice cream topped off with a strawberry, in a bowl of puréed strawberry sauce with cake crumbled over the top. Too good! I think I’ll be dreaming of pappa al pomodoro and soups of strawberry for weeks to come!
So having sampled 2/3 of the vegan menu, I really couldn’t recommend this restaurant more. My only regret is that I couldn’t sample the whole thing! It isn’t cheap, but costs no more than a good restaurant in the UK and is perfect for special occasions. And if you hadn’t gathered as much already – it really is worth it just for the food.
Disclaimer: This review was not endorsed and all opinions given are those of the author.