As others have pointed out, Alle Testiere is a very small restaurant which opens right off the Calle del Mondo Novo not far from Santa Maria Formosa. After plenty of on-line research, we had booked several weeks ahead of our trip to Venice - a very wise move, as it turned out, since when we arrived promptly at 7.00 for the start of service the restaurant was already half full and a line of optimistic would-be diners was forming. No table is especially good but given the choice I would not recommend ours in the corner which left me facing a blank wall with a scattering of pictures and occasionally getting nudged in the back by people passing through to the toilet.
Given the opening rush, there was an inevitable delay of about 20 minutes before anything reached our table but once we had our first drinks and a generous basket of bread and breadsticks our antipasti followed quickly afterwards. The front of house, Luca, spoke excellent English (and, as we heard, excellent French and German too) and was supported by a couple of excellent but more taciturn waiters. As well as a faithful local clientele, it was very clear that many foreigners return here year after year and are remembered.
Alle Testiere changes its menu daily, according to what is fresh and available in the market. (It is essentially a fish restaurant and we saw one couple who had not done their research leave as soon as this dawned on them.) There were very few dishes listed that I would not happily have eaten and making a choice was really quite difficult. We noticed that several dishes not on the menu appeared on neighbouring tables so it might be worth asking if there is something in season that you particularly want to try.
Intending to eat a full menu Italian-style, we restricted ourselves to a shared starter - a superb version of baccala mantecato, perhaps the best we had in Venice, served with slices of grilled white polenta. Our primi were both superlative plates of pasta: my gnocchetti with spider crab and a few baby tomatoes was exquisite; my wife's pumpkin ravioli with prawns even better.
Although we had ordered a large plate of grilled fish and crustaceans as our main course we had noticed capelonghe or razor clams on the menu and asked if one might be included. We were thinking of the large ones we find in Norfolk, which are not to everyone's taste, but received a whole plateful of their tiny infant relatives, cooked in butter: fabulous. Other things on our platter included excellent small squid, mantis prawns, a tiny John Dory, a piece of monkfish and a slightly over-cooked sea bass. At about 46 euros for the dish this would have been a generous meal in its own right.
Absolutely stuffed, we still found room to share a fresh peach tart (fatto in casa like all the desserts) with peach ice-cream before 2 excellent espressos with cantucci. After a good Campari spritz and a prosecco, accompanying wines by the glass were left to Luca and included a cataratto, a verdicchio and a light red, all good matches for the food and all reasonably priced. Our total bill of 159 euros was far from unreasonable for the quality and quantity of what we ate and my only regret is that a brief stay in Venice only allowed us one meal here.
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