Venice and lunch with Harry

I expect that most people who have travelled in Europe and certainly those that have visited Venice will have heard of Harry’s Bar. It’s on Calle Vallaresso very near Piazza San Marco and is a well-known if staggeringly expensive waterside retreat that famously serves its clientele Bellinis. In fact, it is rumoured that the cocktail – a combination of peach puree and prosecco – was invented in the bar and there appear to be no other claims to its origins.

Harry’s Bar was founded by Guiseppe Cipriani in1931 on money received in return for a loan he’d made to an acquaintance – called Harry – who had suffered financial losses in the Depression. The bar was renown not only for its Bellinis but also for martinis. It is also claimed that the serving of carpaccio was invented there but I’m not entirely convinced by that particular claim to fame. But famous it is; in 2001 the Italian Ministry for Cultural Affairs declared it a national landmark. Guiseppe clearly had a reputation as well as what we today would call a network as the bar quickly became fashionable and was famously frequented by Ernest Hemingway. The list of famous names is extensive but patrons, aside from yours truly, have included Humphrey Bogart, Sinclair Lewis, Orson Welles, Arturo Toscanini, Marconi, Chaplin, Hitchcock, Aristotle Onassis, Barbara Hutton and Peggy Guggenheim.

The Cipriani name is now incorporated in a privately owned company that is still run by family members and which owns luxury restaurants, bars, residences and resorts in several countries. Harry’s Dolci on Giudecca is no exception but a little more off the beaten track than some of the others and we simply love it. The view from the terrace at the front, which is directly on the water, is north across to the city and all the movement is marine, not tourist. The restaurant has no pressure to offer a menu turistico as its customers have arrived by ferry to what is now an exclusive residential area and not having chanced upon a place to eat on their circuit back to the boat.

Lunch was, as always, exquisite; after prosecco we drank locally-produced Soave Classico with scampi e cannellini [scampi with white beans] dressed with vinaigrette containing a hint of oranges, tonno scottato con finocchi brasati [seared tuna with braised fennel] and filetto di San Pietro alla carlina [grilled John Dory with rice pillaf]. The restaurant is known for its desserts – dolci – so it goes without further comment that the mousse di cioccolato fredda and torte limone were sumptuous.

Venice is a city where you can walk so after that long, enjoyable lunch we walked. Back to the main island by vaporetto, then to San Polo, Rialto and back to Academia – such evocative names. And such an evocative city even if it is gradually turning into a living museum seemingly populated by map-wielding transients.

The ferry back to Fusina headed into a pink sunset and we left the tourists hiking across the bus station to their boat. We were more certain of the route back so we abandoned the Contessa’s directions and meandered through a rural tranquillity that we thought was just a little more direct – but it still took over an hour.


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