Locanda Cipriani is on the island of Torcello, a short water bus ride from the main island of Venice. You enter into a tiny old looking lounge room with seating around a fireplace that is used for cooking and warmth. From there you move into a large open room surrounded by windows to the outside gardens and views of the local churches. The place backs to 1935 and is still owned by the Cipriani family. Hemingway stayed at the associated inn and brought much fame to the place who was then followed by a number of famous visitors such as Queen Elizabeth II in 1938 and in 1985 the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Diana (who came for a private lunch a year after the Queen had brought the Queen Mother there), Maria Callas in 1952 and Marc Chagall in 1948 who left behind one of his drawings. The list of famous people and acclaimed artists goes on and on throughout their 70 year history. The nice sized tables are fairly closely spaced and covered with white linens with many of the smaller tables having a draped service table adjacent.
Fresh flowers are on each table and no music is in the background. Overhead the ceiling is filled with wood beams and the walls are covered with art, copper pots and photos. Service was excellent, friendly and all spoke great English, but the good pacing at the start of the meal slowed way down toward the end. The large menu includes a couple set menus but mostly a la carte options. Much of the service is tableside with your food coming out on serving plates and the staff dividing it or otherwise preparing it for plating tableside. It was an interesting affect but my casual side would have preferred having the dish set on our table and letting us serve ourselves if the kitchen chose not to plate it.
We started with a negroni cocktail while looking over our choices. A basket of bread options came out with regular butter and a mascarpone spread. The short breadsticks were crisp and fun but otherwise the bread was unremarkable.
The capesante (scallops) was with artichoke, both of which were nicely cooked and sitting on a tasty pumpkin sauce. The artichoke heart was the base of the structure.
Fiori di Zucchina Ripien was zucchini squash blossoms that were stuffed with shrimp and set on a zucchini sauce. They were lightly coated and nicely crisp on the exterior. There was a slight spice in the filling that went well with the sauce. It was mild overall but a good starter.
The Risotto Torcellana was a vegetable risotto made with zucchini, peppers, artichokes and asparagus that I could detect with a little spice in it. It was divided tableside and remained nicely runny with a perfect al dente rice. The creamy texture was lovely. They offered additional pepper or cheese but it needed no further seasoning.
We each had pan seared “ombrina” escalope with cherry tomatoes, taggiasca olives and fresh basil. It came with a potato cake on the side. Ombrina is a large flake fish and some of the pieces were fairly thick and very moist. A slightly thickened sauce with olives and tomatoes was seasoned with rosemary. The tomatoes were very sweet and the fish was like velvet. It was a wonderful plate of food.
For dessert we split a slice of warm apple and hazelnut cake with soft cinnamon sauce. It also had a dollop of whipped cream on the side. The moist cake was topped with powdered sugar and both sauces were good with the cake. It was not overly sweet but just enough sweet with fun texture to be satsifying.
Lastly they brought out carnival treats of warm granulated sugar coated frittale and puffed dough with powdered sugar. They were both tasty and went well with coffee.