Venice: Eating gnocchi the Italian way

By Peta McCartney

The secret to gnocchi is in the potato - and not just any potato. Photo / Thinkstock
The secret to gnocchi is in the potato - and not just any potato. Photo / Thinkstock

Venice is a wonder, even when you feel jet-lagged and more than a little hungry after three flights and a ferry ride.

Nothing can compare to the spectacular sight of the floating city from the air, nor the grandeur of timeless architecture and a thousand reflections on the lagoon as you arrive on a glorious summer afternoon.

But your body needs more than a feast for the eyes and there are plenty of eateries to choose from once you've checked in to your hotel, then begun to wander through the maze of passageways into the heart of Venice proper.

Five minutes' walk from the Hotel Londra Palace on the Grand Canal sits the quaint Aciugheta, a small unassuming restaurant on Campo San Filippo E Giacomo, serving eager patrons traditional and delicious Italian fare.

What better way to end a gruelling travel day than a meal that starts with a simple salad, margherita pizza and gnocchi with ragout sauce?

The gnocchi - feather-light and covered in a rich sauce - is absolute perfection on the tongue and becomes the subject of an impromptu lesson in the art of making these delightful potato parcels.

The secret, we are told, is in the potato.

"Not just any potato,'' waiter Tarcisio Irrelevant tells us enthusiastically.

"Holland potatoes.''

Caught in the camaraderie of that great Italian past-time of sharing food, his fellow-waiter agrees, adding the potatoes must be older, not new.

There is no hesitation when an offer is made to visit the kitchen to watch the chef preparing the next day's batch of gnocchi.

It's great to know that what you're eating today was only made the day before from scratch. As I watch, I'm already home in my kitchen, preparing gnocchi with every type of potato I can find until I get it right.

For me, there is only one kind of gnocchi now: Venice gnocchi, marshmallow-light and served with a ragout sauce with a green side salad - sitting outside in perfect weather.

Ah... La dolce vita.

IF YOU GO:

Aciugheta Restaurant, Campo San Filippo E Giacomo, Venice, Italy. The restaurant is five minutes' walk from Grand Canal (handicapped accessible, air-conditioned indoor dining, outdoor dining, child-friendly).

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