Films, food and fun from the Lido in Venice

Come hun­gry: A Venice film fes­ti­val vet­eran’s di­ary from the Lido, a charm­ing sand­bar with culi­nary de­lights ev­ery­where you look

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - By CHRIS VOGNAR Staff Writer cvog­nar@dal­las­ Twit­ter: @chrisvog­nar

Cul­ture writer Chris Vognar finds Venice hard to beat.

VENICE, Italy — Ar­riv­ing in Venice isn’t that dif­fer­ent from land­ing in most big cities: You leave the air­port, and chances are you grab a cab. Ex­cept in Venice, the cabs are speed­boats, and the high­way is the Adri­atic Sea. The spray hits your face as you gaze upon an­cient is­lands and the open water, await­ing your des­ti­na­tion.

The sen­sa­tion never gets old. I’ve been at­tend­ing the Venice In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (which just wrapped its 75th edition) for four years now, each time as a pan­elist dis­cussing the films of the Bi­en­nale Col­lege (a fes­ti­val pro­gram that fi­nances and ex­hibits mi­cro-bud­get films).

The fes­ti­val takes place on the Lido, a long sand­bar that was des­ig­nated as a sea­side re­sort in the 19th cen­tury. It’s a charm­ing town in which ev­ery­one seems to ride a bi­cy­cle or have a small, adorable dog (some of which are perched in bi­cy­cle bas­kets).

I spend most of my Venice time on the Lido, and much of that time within the sprawl­ing fes­ti­val vil­lage. I try to ven­ture out­ward, onto the rest of the Lido or other is­lands if I have a free day. But for now, we’re fo­cus­ing on the Lido, par­tic­u­larly where and what you need to eat when you get there. This isn’t a com­pre­hen­sive guide to a Venice va­ca­tion. It’s my sub­jec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of a city I have quickly grown to love.

I’m a crea­ture of habit, so it’s a good thing I’m fond of the ho­tel I stay in ev­ery year. The Grande Al­bergo Au­so­nia & Hun­garia has been around since 1907, and the or­nate mo­saic façade dates to 1913. It al­ways re­minds me of some­thing out of Wes An­der­son’s Grand

Bu­dapest Ho­tel, full of Old World charm but also mod­ern ameni­ties. (Last year, I sprung for a mas­sage in the fancy spa and wasn’t dis­ap­pointed.)

The break­fast buf­fet is loaded, and the gar­den pa­tio is the kind of place where you could sit all day and read in tran­quil­ity. Un­til, that is, you get hun­gry again.

There’s no short­age of eat­ing op­tions on the Lido, but my fa­vorite spot is Ris­torante Pizze­ria Ai Do Mati. The pizza is just about per­fect: thin crust, light sauce, cheese that tastes like it was made in the kitchen.

My fa­vorite is the Caprice, which comes with just a hint of basil and toma­toes that ex­plode with fla­vor. It’s rea­son­ably priced, and the pa­tio is cozy. Dine on the night of a big soc­cer match, and you’ll find pleas­antly rowdy revelry sur­round­ing the TV.

Af­ter that pizza, you’ll need some dessert. Gelato is ev­ery­where on the Lido, scoops of abun­dance spring­ing out from seem­ingly ev­ery store­front.

At some point in the past few years, a co­hort made up of my girl­friend and critic col­leagues de­ter­mined that the best op­tion is Gelido Lato, a small, unas­sum­ing lit­tle space that usu­ally has a line. The fla­vors aren’t as ag­gres­sively sweet as they are at the com­pet­ing joints. Ev­ery­thing tastes fresh. Plus, they have the hap­pi­est nap­kins you’ll ever use.

For your day­time sweet tooth, walk a lit­tle ways off the main drag and look for a lit­tle shop with a long line. The line is help­ful, be­cause Pas­tic­ce­ria Mag­gion doesn’t even have a sign. It doesn’t need one. This is the kind of place that draws in tourists and lo­cals alike.

No cof­fee, no ta­bles, just suc­cu­lent pas­try and fo­cac­cia pizza that will make you bow down to the olive oil gods. Fam­ily-owned and -op­er­ated since 1958, it’s a hid­den trea­sure. (It’s also lo­cated just a block or so from the fes­ti­val vil­lage, which makes it a film­goer honey trap).

As you might have guessed, I don’t lose any weight when I’m in Venice. I sug­gest you don’t, ei­ther. Man­gia, and en­joy your jour­ney.

Marco Sec­chi/Getty Images

Carlo Pis­tac­chi of Ge­la­te­ria Alaska in the Santa Croce area of Venice has been mak­ing ice cream us­ing fresh in­gre­di­ents for more than 25 years. You can also find the frozen treat in abun­dance on the Lido.

Tourists and res­i­dents board a water bus bound for Venice fron­ice from the ferry ter­mi­nal at the Lido, a long sand­bar that has been a sea­side re­sort for Vene­tians since the 19th cen­tury.

Chris Vognar/Staff

The Grande Al­bergo Au­so­nia & Hun­garia ho­tel pro­vides Old World charm with mod­ern ameni­ties.

Chris Vognar/Staff

The sign­less Pas­tic­ce­ria Mag­gion serves up sweet and sa­vory pas­try and pizza to big af­ter­noon crowds.

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