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Alle Testiere


A_Broad
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Friday night, by the recommondation of most, we tried Alle Testiere in Venice. It did not disappoint and I have to say that it was one of the best meals I've had in Italy thus far. All of the dishes were notable (moleche - soft shells, zuppa di pesce, ravioli con zucca e gamberi, tonno in salsa fragole, triglia - red mullets), but mostly the folpeti (baby octopus) with a light coriander sauce. The cheese course was also notable, as the blue cheese made with goats milk was outstanding.

We met some brilliant people there and in good spirits were the last ones to leave. Luca and Bruno (as well as the rest of the staff) were absolutely incredible and when asked how I learned of the restaurant, I mentioned eGullet. I felt like I was a walking advertisement on how much I've learned about food, cooking and Italy itself and encouraged them to check it out.

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As I promised them, I've posted the picture and hopefully they'll come on and join the cult, as I feel as though I could learn a lot from them (wines!) and they could learn a lot here.

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Alle Testiere is an absolute gem. The reasonably priced menu changes every day and the wine list is fairly priced and quite good. This is also an enormously popular restaurant and perhaps the most difficult reservation in Venice, in part because there are only 30 seats. Curiously it is not mentioned in Michelin, Gambero Rosso, Slow Food, Veronelli or any guide book that I am aware of. It is also one of the best restaurants in Italy. If it received the press and acclaim that it deserves we would never get into it!

Edited by Joe H (log)
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Curiously it is not mentioned in Michelin, Gambero Rosso, Slow Food, Veronelli or any guide book that I am aware of.  It is also one of the best restaurants in Italy.  If it received the press and acclaim that it deserves we would never get into it!

Not entirely true. It is not mentioned by Slow Food because it's over the € 35 mark, but it is in Michelin (with a single fork and spoon, or whatever the symbol is called), and on the Gambero Rosso Guide with 77 points.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Alberto, do they have two sittings there or one? If two, what are the times?

Cy,

I think you should ask Joe or A_broad, I never ate there. I know it's in the guide since I had a look at Venetian restaurants only yesterday: my parents will be travelling to Venezia soon and asked me if I had any tips for them.

Considering the Italian customs I'd imagine one. Italians are usually not familiar with the concept of sittings. Once you have a table it is yours for the evening or as long you want to occupy it.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Curiously it is not mentioned in Michelin, Gambero Rosso, Slow Food, Veronelli or any guide book that I am aware of.  It is also one of the best restaurants in Italy.  If it received the press and acclaim that it deserves we would never get into it!

Not entirely true. It is not mentioned by Slow Food because it's over the € 35 mark, but it is in Michelin (with a single fork and spoon, or whatever the symbol is called), and on the Gambero Rosso Guide with 77 points.

My apologies. We first went about five or six years ago and I just assumed that because it was not in Michelin then that was still true.

Cy, we've gone as early as 7:30 and, when leaving at 9 or so noted several standing at the door waiting for our table.

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Alberto, do they have two sittings there or one? If two, what are the times?

Cy,

I think you should ask Joe or A_broad, I never ate there. I know it's in the guide since I had a look at Venetian restaurants only yesterday: my parents will be travelling to Venezia soon and asked me if I had any tips for them.

Considering the Italian customs I'd imagine one. Italians are usually not familiar with the concept of sittings. Once you have a table it is yours for the evening or as long you want to occupy it.

Testiere is, in truth, cramped with little elbow room. It is not a negative since it actually adds to its overall appeal. But it is not a restaurant to spend a long time in. In five or six visits I don't think my wife and I have ever stayed longer than two hours unlike many other Venetian restaurants which seem to have only one turnover. I really believe most of the tables turn over twice in part because of the demand, in part the ambience or style of the restaurant. On most of our visits when we've been seated next to someone else who was already a course or two ahead of us, when they left, someone else took their place.

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Ciao,

I want to get a better sence of their food...with a scor of 77 in GR - how does that reflect their plates?  Is it a more creative place?  Classical?  Ingredient focus? 

Ore

Ore,

the GR score is a complex of different parameters, kitchen, wine list, atmosphere and service. Alle testiere has (or rather had, I'm looking at last's year guide) a good kitchen score 46/60 , which, considering only very few restaurants in Italy get over 50, is a good score. What really brings the total down is the score they get for the wine list 15/20, not very good.

One could discuss forever if this is a fair judgement or not: at least GR is quite transparent in explaining their scores. You can agree or not, but you know where the total comes from.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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Since I was just there, I'll answer some of the questions to the best of my ability.

There are "two seatings", but not all at the same time. We had reservations for 9:30pm (I assume as the second seating of that table), and the table next to us had gotten there at 9pm. Two seatings refers to that there is a two table turnover, as Joe H mentioned.

As for the "low" score on the wine list, I'm not an expert, but I do know that Luca had already gone through sommelier school and Bruno had one month left. We didn't look at the wine list and had them recommend a bottle of wine to compliment our initial course choices and they brought out a glass for our cheese course. I found both of them wonderful, but again, I'm not an expert.

Finally, as for "traditional" food, it is not. When I was speaking with Luca and Bruno about the high number of foreign customers, they commented that it was a good thing. They feel that the use of certain ingredients (specifically the coriander and dill used in our dishes) are not only not traditional Venetian, but not Italian and some Italians do not enjoy it. Foreign palates tend to be more approving. I would say that the food itself is traditional Venetian (crabs, razor clams, sepia, etc.), but the delicate sauces are what make them so unique.

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Their wine list is not lengthy but it is quite good for its length and reasonably priced. (Dal Forno Valpolicella was E 70, Ama CC E 30 a year ago) But this is not a restaurant that you would expect to find a ten or twenty page list. My guess is that the GR rating is accurate depending on expectations. For comparison Da Fiore receives 14 from GR in their 2004 Guide, a point lower than Testiere. For service Da Fiore is two points higher (9 to 7) but this is a reflection of the style of restaurant including both the room, space, etc. As for food I think they are low-this, for me, is equal to any single starred restaurant that I've been to in Italy. Over the last 15 years I've probably been to 20, maybe 30 or more (for whatever that may mean!). Again, there is no set menu; what is served depends on the market. I probably feel that the word "personal" could be used to describe it. It's not creative in the sense of Calandre or Uliassi; nor do I ever remember a risotto. But extraordinary mussels, many different preparations of fish-both traditional for the area and untraditional. This is really a small, friendly, unique restaurant to go and trust whatever the enthusiastic, personable server suggests. There is almost a "neighborhood" type of feel to it that welcomes those who dine there.

Edited by Joe H (log)
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  • 1 month later...
as far as i am aware there are two sittings a 7pm and 9.30pm (or thereabouts).

a great place and highly recomended.

cheers

gary

Many posts about Alle Testiere, but none state whether it is open for lunch.

Anyone know?

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  • 1 month later...
  • 7 months later...

After reading so much about this restaurant, maybe my expectations were too high. But I found this restaurant to be a disappointment.

First, it is very small, and overheated. Which means you can alearly hear everything that the table next door to you is saying.

Second, it is expensive - the most expensive meal we had whilst in the city

Third, the food is OK, but really nothing special. I had a mixed seafood starter - which wasn't a patch on the ones I had the two previous nights, the pasta was OK, though too stodgy, and the main courses were largely simply grilled fish. Good quality, but again, nothing special.

Compared to Alle Testiere, I thought both Corta Sconta and Il Nuevo Galeon were far better

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After reading so much about this restaurant, maybe my expectations were too high. But I found this restaurant to be a disappointment.

First, it is very small, and overheated. Which means you can alearly hear everything that the table next door to you is saying.

Second, it is expensive - the most expensive meal we had whilst in the city

Third, the food is OK, but really nothing special. I had a mixed seafood starter - which wasn't a patch on the ones I had the two previous nights, the pasta was OK, though too stodgy, and the main courses were largely simply grilled fish. Good quality, but again, nothing special.

Compared to Alle Testiere, I thought both Corta Sconta and Il Nuevo Galeon were far better

I recently (2 weeks ago) ate there as well and had a very different experience. I thought the food was magical (yes, somewhat simple but impeccably done) and had no problems with either the temperature of the room or the prices. It is crowded and loud, but, for me, these are minor complaints. I am very grateful that eGulletteers turned me on to this place, which was by far the best place I ate in Venice.

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It must be different tastes - out of the four places I ate, it was the one I enjoyed least. I really wouldn't recommend it at all.

Hey, I HATED Le Meurice, one of eGullet's sacred cows (which led to quite an excoriation on the France board) ... so I hope you don't think I'm being critical of you or your tastes -- I'm certainly not. More likely than a difference in tastes is probably just "good night/bad night" (unless the crowdedness was a real factor for you ... because it is definitely crowded and loud)...

Or maybe another thing ... did you eat at the early seating or the late seating? For those that don't know, Alle Testiere has two seatings per night: 7:00 and 9:30 (and, yes, they flat out kick you out at 9:25 -- we wanted to stay for dessert -- no dice, but with so few seats and such high demand, this didn't really bother us). We were at 7:00. I wouldn't be surprised if this little tiny space (which was plenty cool at 7:00) might be quite hot by around 10.

Anyway, your thoughts were certainly appreciated by me ... I just had a different experience.

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The most significant difference between Alle Testiere and some other Venetian restaurants is the quality of the ingredients. If one is expecting a sophistication or the rich comforting flavors of family style meals, Alle Testiere is not a suitable place. It is tiny, cramped, loud and uncomfortable. That, along with the restaurant’s (an eatery really) being populated mostly by foreigners, is the reason the place is not regarded well by locals, who at the same time eat happily days-old fish coming from Croatia.

Luca, who handles the front of the house, is a smart manager. He realized that concentrating on local fish (primarily from the Lagoon) of good quality simply prepared is the ticket to a foreign vote, their major target, which, in this particular case is not a disadvantage. I didn’t find Bruno’s cooking exceptional, with his occasional overutilization of black pepper and other spices. Moeche (tiny soft-shell crabs), a June treat, were almost inedible: Marinated in white vinegar overnight (why?) and served in the same vinegary sauce, the breaded crabs were mushy, and the acidity in the dish was striking. This dish was much inferior to a simple version of deep-fried soft-shell crabs we had twice at Fischeterria Toscana. …Nor did I enjoy seppioline (baby cuttlefish) and gnocchi served in a rich sauce made of tomato, cinnamon, fresh basil and pepper. (Bruno uses the same sauce for zatoi (sp), a very rare fish in the cuttlefish family, but smaller with more ink, available only 15 days a year in the winter. I’d suggest asking for a simple preparation of zatoi, if one is in luck to get them.)

However, if seeking fresh local fish – species enriched by the flora of the Venetian Lagoon, which have a unique, slightly pronounced iodine taste – its gentle and subtle characteristics, Alle Testiere can provide this experience if one orders carefully, relying primarily on simply prepared dishes. Exceptional cappelunge (famous small razor clams) in oil and parsley (an interesting comparison with navajas, the razor clams from Galicia we had in Barcelona only days earlier), canestrelli (baby bay scallops) with roe attached (another indication of the quality and freshness, since roe is very perishable and is generally discarded at sea) and branzino (Luca had a 600 g. two-day old sea bass that day) simply grilled were exceptional.

One of the advantages of eating in small, rustic places in Italy and Spain that concentrate on plainly prepared fish is the opportunity to taste the sheer purity of sea gifts. It is sort of a regressing approach of deconstructing sophisticated cuisines through the ingredients’ primitivism and the elementary and spontaneous variations of the ingredients’ nature. This trains the palate to recognize different nuances of sweet, briny, bitter, etc. as offered by nature to prepare the palate for the adventures of the more intrusive/creative cuisines, not ever to be fooled by the mere wow factor (unless we encounter the Adria phenomenon), not ever to submit to mediocrity.

Edited by lxt (log)
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This jibes very well with my own reporting of Alle Testiere. I had 2 meals there and looking forward to the next one I hope.

I thought the post hit all the key points and is very instructive and captures all essentials. It is interesting that my description of moeche will be similar but I liked the dish. Yes, it is mushy but it was very juicy and I thought that the intelligent use of orange flavor and peel balanced the acidity. It is also possible that I have more tolerance for acidity(Troisgros cishes are as acidic) as I drink wine with meals and Luca is a very good sommelier and knows how to pair wine with individual dishes. If this dish is tasted without drinking though, it may come across as unbalanced. I also had Moeche in March and probably they are even better in March. I also like F. Toscana which I recommended in egullet under Venice thread but, to tell the truth, the best Moeche dish (and one of the best seafood dishes on earth) is served in Da Fiore.

So many restaurateurs praised the ZATOI and I don't want to die before having them. At the same time I understand that they are so good that the fishermen swallow it all during that 15 days and they never reach the local market!

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Unfortunately, I didn't have access to post for over two weeks after my return from Italy and thus the freshness of my response is lost. Alle Testiere was our first real meal of the trip as we flew directly into Venice. Some paninni or a piadina in bar earlier in the day, weren't memorable and don't count. The meal was good, very good in some ways and an excellent informal start to the trip. It was no more informal that I expected, but the last two posts do a god job of explaining or describing the disappointing aspect of the meal. A "sophistication or the rich comforting flavors of family style meals" were really not all that was lacking. I like the latter, but can do well without the former. What I missed here was the precision of cooking and I think that fault comes through in Lana and Vedat's posts. While there's little a chef can do to improve less than pristine seafood, there's ample opportunity to bring pristine seafood to the table in less than the most favorable condition. Oddly enough, it was the simplest dishes that suffered. The squid with black linguini was excellent ad so was the swordfish. The mantis shrimp, the red shrimp and the above mentioned soft shell crab satisfied us less. Still it was a good meal and we were not displeased, but I sense the word of mouth is a bit over rated. The staff seems to speak English and Spanish fluently and they are both helpful and friendly. That too makes it no surprise that the restaurant was almost full of English speaking diners when we arrived just before our eight o'clock reservation. The couple next to us was American and Alle Testiere had been recommended to them by friends. There were two sittings and it appeared that the second wave of diners was more local.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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