Hotel Wildner

Did I need a cultural justification for a trip to Venice? There was a Louise Bourgeois exhibit at the Fondazione Vedova. But it was just an excuse to check out the Pensione Wildner, a reasonably priced hotel, something that's not easy to find in Venezia. I had met Luca Fullin (his family runs the hotel) at the Castello di Ama-Villa Bucci wine tasting and at the VinoVinoVino wine fair and had promised to visit. He runs the hotel's restaurant, so I was sure the wine list would be fantastic. Cesare Benelli, chef-owner of Al Covo (my favorite restaurant in the city), told me he eats at the Wildner on his day off, a very good sign.

The Pensione Wildner (the original owner was from Austria, hence the name) is on the Riva degli Schiavoni, a few steps from the San Zaccharia vaporetto stop. I checked into my room—up a flight of stairs (they'll help with the luggage if you need it), with a fantastic view of the lagoon and San Giorgio Island, interrupted by souvenir stands that disappear, along with most tourists, in the evening. My friend Romina Savi from Padova met me for dinner. Luca explained that fish was from the Adriatic, produce from the islands in the Venetian lagoon, and that he used Slow Food Ark of Taste products.

We began with a selection of raw, super-sweet langoustines, raw artichoke salad topped with a Milanese-style (breaded and sautéed) scallop, sautéed Venetian wild clams, grilled razor shell clams with the thinnest of shells, and perfectly prepared risotto with goby, a traditional but hard-to-find dish, made with Vialone Nano rice from Riseria delle Abbadesse. I'll have to return to sample the main course options. Classic Italian desserts like tiramisu, panna cotta, fruit tarts, and bavarians are made by Donatella, Luca's mother. The wine list was, as expected, fantastic and well-priced. We drank Prosecco, Vitovscka, and Pinot Grigio.

Hotel clients get a 10-percent discount. I can't wait to go back.

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