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Al Covo, Venice

3968 Castello
Campiello della Pescaria
Italy 30122
Tel: 39 041 5223812's insider take:

A recent visit confirmed that the civilized gourmet refuge of Cesare Benelli and his American wife, Diane, is a foodie treat to rival the better-known Da Fiore. In a quiet backstreet behind the lagoon-side esplanade of Riva degli Schiavoni, Al Covo has only a few outside tables—but in summer it's better in any case to take refuge from the sticky Venetian heat in the two intimate, air-conditioned inner rooms. Cesare's cooking has been Slow Food since before the movement was founded, relying on recherchéé ingredients like Bianca Piemontese beef or candied Ligurian chinotto (the bitter orange that gives Campari its flavor). Antipasti and primi piatti (for example, the tasty paccheri with a pesto of pistachio, eggplant, and marinated mussels) veer toward seafood, while main courses are equally divided between fish and meat. It's not exactly great value for money (count on burning around $100 a head in the evening), but Al Covo does offer one of the few truly fine meals in the lagoon city. And if you come at lunch—when the sometimes tense service tends to be more relaxed—you can save by opting for the four-course $55 tasting menu.

Open Fridays through Tuesdays 12:45 to 2:15 pm and 7:30 to 10 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.