Where do the artists and writers and lovers of life meet to share a glass of wine, eat fine food and exchange a word or two? In Venice, it is at the Bistrot de Venise, so christened to reflect the feel and philosophy of the bistros that were born in Paris a century ago. The flavor here is totally Venetian. Sergio Fragiacomo, the owner, is energetic and passionate about his bistro offering incontri, weekly encounters, lectures, poetry readings, music, art exhibitions and opportunities for cultural exchange.
My daughter and I had the pleasure of attending an evening lecture on some of the historical recipes collected by a few women during the early part of the past century. The presentation was both didactical and at times humorous, explanations of how these recipes came about, most often out of wartime scarcity. Following the evening’s program, we were invited to partake of the Bistrot’s Cena Storica – a multi-course meal celebrating dishes, the recipes for which date back as early as the 13th century.
Le Bistrot is located near the Rialto Bridge on the Calle dei Fabbri, the street of the blacksmiths. The building has housed a trattoria since the 40’s, but the structure dates back to the early 16th century. When Sergio began its renovation in the early 90’s, remnants of the original blacksmith ovens were found in the debris. In 1993 Sergio opened its doors and began to welcome artists and writers, food and wine lovers and life adventurers, both Venetians and visitors to this city on the lagoon.
“It was risky business for me,” he recalls, “offering dinners that were not traditional in the popular sense, but plates that explored the cuisine of an older Venice, using recipes lost over the centuries. “Foreigners are far more adventurous and interested in what I am offering, but Venetians with discerning tastes who share his passion for reintroducing Veneto’s past through its cuisine and its history don’t hesitate to reserve a table at the Bistrot. With a growing clientele, Sergio has made changes to accomodate his diners.
Sergio and his chefs are constantly researching and preparing new “historical” dishes, giving Venetians and visitors alike reason to come back again and again. Like a blacksmith himself, Sergio is forging ahead, welding culinary traditions and Venetian culture into an enduring work of art.