This is a repeat visit to Al Covo and what a wonderful visit we had! It was even better than I remembered. It is a medium-sized place of 2 rooms with lovely linens on the nicely spaced tables, lowered lighting supplemented by candlelight and some background music. The owners just finished a re-do of the front facade and as you can see it looks perfectly inviting. Speaking of the owners, wife Diane Rankin is a transplanted Texas and gives you a Texas sized greeting – you couldn’t feel more welcome. She also fills the role of pastry chef and front end manager. Husband Cesare Benelli is a native Italian and does a splendid job as chef and welcoming host. Together they have run Al Covo since 1987 and it is a must visit if you are in Venice. They offer a tasting menu as well as a la carte, that changes with the season.
Each table receives a basket of breads, from crunchy to doughy, something for every taste and a necessity to get the last bits of Chef Benelli’s fine cuisine.
An amuse bouche of buffalo ricotta cheese was plated with celery leaf and radicchio. It was seasoned with dill and was a delicate and nice way to get the meal started.
We split a plate of Fried baby artichokes from Sant’Erasmo. Finally a real solid taste of artichoke. They come out piping hot and perfectly seasoned. Coated with a tempura like batter they are amazingly delicate. Underneath you’ll find a treasure of super small sticks made from the stems that are equally delicious. This is a real taste treat, just divine – I could have eaten my own plate but then there wouldn’t have been room for more.
We had the “Risi, bisi e fragole” which is a traditional and seasonal rice and pea soup. It is topped with a quail egg and strawberries. The perfectly al dente rice was nicely complemented with the sweet strawberry and richness of the egg. For my tastes it was a bit too thick but the sweetness of the fresh peas came though.
For main course we had the “special meat dish of the day” which was braised lamb with asparagus and potatoes. The lamb was fall off the bone tender and complemented by a bowl of sauce with a bit of sweetness. It perfectly enhanced the flavor of the dish. The asparagus had a wonderful strong taste of asparagus that made the dish sing of spring. A spectacular plate with great portioning. Chef employed thyme to be a subtle yet strong seasoning and the sauce of honey, vinegar and mead catapulted this dish from good to exceptional.
For dessert I was still thinking about the liquorice sauce I’d had earlier and so ordered the vanilla gelato with liquorice sauce. Diane was nice enough to even bring me an extra bowl of it. The sauce had the terrific sweet/bitter dynamic of liquorice and was lovely with the excellent gelato. The texture of the ice cream was smooth and perfect with the flavor being a divine vanilla. It was paired with crisp, buttery cookies, both thick and thin. What’s not to like? A perfect end to fabulous dining experience.