I have a great story of researching and finding a very local restaurant, where many of the gondoliers go for lunch. No formality at all in this place.
Cucina da Mario is a typical ‘Venetian osteria,’ which means that all of the food is extremely fresh. No day-old bread here. The food is 100% fresh every day, so they don’t even bother having a freezer on the premises, and it’s been under the same management for over 60 years. It’s a nice experience, the gondolieri ensuring a unique ambiance – and without the usual ‘prezzi salati’ (hefty prices) one has to fork out for a gondola trip. Oversized wine bottles occupy nearly all of the tables, probably contributing to the good spirits of these guests, clad in red-and-white or blue-and-white shirts.
I walked in the door, the waitress looked at me for one second, then she poked her finger in the direction of a chair across the room, at a table where people were already sitting. “SIT THERE.” So I joined the table and made some friends.
The three staff in the restaurant (including the cook in the kitchen), run their tails off to get everyone fed.
The place is so familiar with a lot of the patrons that many of them just get up and go behind the bar and get their own drinks. One of my favorite moments in Venice so far, and the 2-course meal with 1/2 carafe of wine was 15 Euro. The pasta with piles of crushed tomatoes was my favorite, but the black linguine also looked delicious.
After my visit, I went online and did some more research on this restaurant and found it quite funny that many so-called ‘restaurant critics’ wrote bad reviews because the service wasn’t great and the place was in a constant state of chaos. So sad for them that they couldn’t appreciate that they just had a truly local experience.
Live music every Friday night.
Don’t think that the gondolieri choose these shirts by sheer coincidence – the clothing of this profession, like many things in Venice, is regulated. Article 23 of the “Regolamneto Comunale per il Servizio Publico de Gondola” (the municipal decree for occupations on public service of the gondolas), stipulates the requirement for these uniforms. The gondolieri have to dress following the protocol of their profession.
In the winter season, this means long navy or black trousers without side pockets, paired with dark blue or black sailor tops. Wearing a cap with or without a tassel or a bobble hot of the same color is permitted. In case of cold weather, the men are also allowed to wear a black or dark-blue coat; and when it rains they can don a ‘cerata in tinta’ (wet weather jacket).
In the summer season, the gondoliere also has to wear long trousers in dark-blue, or black, a white linen shirt, sailor-style, or a ‘maglietta’ (t-shirt) with horizontal red or blue stripes 2 to 2.5 centimeters wide, and a straw hat with a ribbon and lining in the same colour as the shirt. Regulation footwear is closed-toe black shoes.
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