Venice on your plate

TEXT: MARINA SPIRONETTI | PHOTOS © SEBASTIANO GASPARINI

Tucked away in the Venice backstreets, near the former shipyard’s ‘arsenal’, is the Hostaria da Franz – an address most definitely for your little black book. A favourite with actors and celebrities, this high-end restaurant has been run by the Gasparini family for over three decades.

“It’s our 35th anniversary this year,” says Maurizio, the owner. “We started with my father, Gianfranco, and my grandmother’s recipes.” The history of the place is a much older one, though. Franz, after whom the restaurant is named, was an Austrian soldier who fell in love with a Venetian and opened up an inn, some 230 years ago. “He is also regarded by some as the inventor of the Spritz,” smiles Maurizio. “We have no proof but it’s nevertheless a fascinating anecdote.”

These days, the restaurant specialises in, and a dynamic team led by chef Ross takes pride in, a modern interpretation of traditional Venetian fare. All the big classics are on the menu, from the ‘sarde in saor’ to ‘baccalà mantecato’, as well as more hard-to-find specialities like ‘risotto di gò’, typical of the island of Burano. Another speciality is ‘Gò’ – an elaborate recipe, prepared over a couple of days using gudgeon, the fish which lurk in the muddy waters of Venice’s lagoon.

“These dishes are precious and there is a lot of work involved,” explains Maurizio. “This is why dining here isn’t just about eating. We want to tell the stories behind what’s in your dish, from my daily visits to the Rialto market on the hunt for the day’s fresh catch, to our chef’s trips to the islands looking for aromatic herbs full of the salty spray of the sea. Our food means tradition and culture and we want our customers to get the full picture.”

hostariadafranz.com