“We don’t make coffee here, we are very serious…. We have grappa!”
December 4, 2018
Walking to dinner at Alle Testiere, a sign in an archway caught my eye – “I Rusteghi”. I recognised the name from Russell Norman’s directory of bars, in his book Venice, Four Seasons of Home Cooking.
Through the arch in a tiny courtyard was a well, covered with empty champagne bottles. Round the corner is the bar, and we decided to return to investigate when we had more time.
Finding ourselves in the vicinity at lunchtime a couple of days later, it was the perfect opportunity for a light lunch on the way to see the Tintoretto paintings at Scuola Grande di San Marco.
The bar seats about 18 inside. There’s more seating outside for the summer months. Every available surface is devoted to bottles and wine-related paraphernalia. They’re serious about wine here, and there’s a blackboard over the bar which declares “No Spriss!!”
Giovanni, the charismatic owner, took charge. He only serves tap water, “it comes from the same spring as San Benedetto” he declares, “invest your money in wine, not in water”.
His own Prosecco is a lovely example, soft and aromatic, Prosecco as it should be. Above the bar hang little ceramic mugs that his parents used for serving wine when they opened in 1990. Giovanni referenced their shape when he designed his wine glasses; “you can’t have a present or a future if you don’t have a past”.
Giovanni is a purist. He spent a dozen years working for “a very good place” in Switzerland before returning to take over the family business. “All the restaurants in Venice offered the same thing; it was boring, and I wanted to do something different”. He chooses the very best products he can find from Italy, and it shows.
Cicchetti are served “Rusteghi style”: a plate each of fish, meat, and cheese, served with good bread. The anchovy fillets are firm, meaty and not over-salty, served with tomato ‘cream’; wafer-thin cooked ham comes with ‘rafano’, a dollop of tangy horseradish sauce; cheese is a rich, cave-aged Taleggio Rubino.
After a generous mound of fragrant prosciutto crudo with excellent Taggiasca olives, a request for coffee elicited this response: “We don’t make coffee here, we are very serious” (he fixes you with an intense stare…) “We have grappa!” Then he explains he doesn’t have space for a machine, and in any case the smell would interfere with the wine….
The name “I Rusteghi” is the title of a play by Carlo Goldoni, which translates as “The Boors”, or “The Cantankerous Men”. Goldoni is best known in the UK for the English adaptation of his play “Servant of Two Masters” as “One Man, Two Guvnors”.
Playlist: Late Dylan; Blues & Jazz.
It would be a good place for an aperitivo on the way to dinner at Alle Testiere, which is five minutes away.
I Rusteghi, Corte del Tentor, 5513, 30124 San Marco, Venezia.
Open daily. https://www.airusteghi.com/ 0039 338 760 6034
DIRECTIONS: Leave the Rialto bridge heading towards San Marco (Salizzada Pio X) into Campo San Bartolomeo, with its statue of Goldoni, and turn left. Leave the square along the right hand side of the Luisa Spagnoli store, and turn right into Calle Bissa. Look out for an archway on your left, Sotoportego del Tintor.