I’d been hearing good things about Anice Stellato and although it doesn’t look anything much from the outside – in fact it didn’t even look very open – on a chilly April day, wandering in the Northern reaches of Cannaregio near Sant’ Alvise, we decided to check it out.
Inside is small (no more than a dozen tables divided between three rooms), modern and clean – simple wooden tables, tiling, some interesting paintings on white walls with flashes of red, ochre and terracotta.
Home-made bread is the first sign that food is taken very seriously here: it’s absolutely delicious, with a just-perceptible spiced flavour – possibly cumin, but it changes each day – that give the clue as to the theme in the kitchen. Anice stellato is of course star anise, and classic Venetian dishes are given the most delicate of twists with the addition of subtle spicing.
A young husband and wife team operate from a central bar area and advise on a short menu that changes weekly, relying on what’s in season. We took their advice and started with themisto di cichetti di pesce (€7 / €12). Ultra fresh and definitely interesting, it was the next sign that we were on to a good thing, as each portion – eel marinated in two ways, tinysarde, monkfish – was cooked in a different way, with herbs and spices imparting the most delicate flavours.
For secondi we went for mormora - a fish like sea bass but fatter, cooked to perfection with herby potatoes (€15) – and the old classic, fegato alla veneziana (€12). Except that this liver was the best I have ever tasted. It was sweet, succulent, delicate and literally melted in the mouth. That dish alone demands a return visit…
It gets worse though, because someone in the kitchen also has a wicked way with dolci(€3.50 – €5.50), and I don’t mean an extra spoonful of booze in the tiramisu. It sounded complicated, but the bavarese alla cannella con salsa di prugne al vino rosso was actually a triumph of simplicity – a creamy cinnamon-flavoured bavarese with a delicious, thoroughly adult sauce. Even that was overshadowed by the semi-freddo, though - zabaione (sic) with cream. Spectacular.
House red is a more than drinkable raboso but there are classier bottles if you are so inclined. My feeling is that if their taste in food is this good, I certainly trust their judgement about the wine.
Definitely one for a return visit: this is imaginative and high-class cooking at a very reasonable price.