From a story by Francesco Agopyan
The Carampane, as managed by our family, was born forty years ago. In March 1983, my two uncles took over this establishment – which at the time was relatively unknown and outside of all the main streets – and started working with the people of Venice. And so, slowly but surely, the restaurant began to win people’s hearts.
Our cuisine is traditional but reinterpreted and lightened, somewhat more modern. Our heart is absolutely tied to the Rialto Market. Why? Because seventy years ago, my grandfather had a fish stall at Rialto, so we have always sourced all our fresh fish and vegetables from the Rialto Market, both for convenience, as we are right next door, and to support the city economically and try to lend a hand in that sense. However, for the past two years, we have also joined a project that unites us with ten restaurants in the Buona Accoglienza Association, called Osti in Orto, meaning we have become members of a farm based in Sant’Erasmo, where we grow all the vegetables we need.
The dishes are tied to the market and the seasons but also to the classic Venetian cuisine. In fact, our menu always includes, in season, cuttlefish in black ink with polenta, fried soft-shell crabs, in spring, the purple artichoke from Sant’Erasmo, sardines, and whipped cod. Alongside these traditional recipes, we also offer some more modern dishes, like grilled octopus always served with seasonal vegetables; raw fish carpaccio – which has always been our signature because every morning I personally go to the Rialto Market to buy the fish that we then bring and work at the restaurant.
It’s a cuisine tied to seasonality and self-production. We certainly adapt to what’s available and avoid sourcing things from outside the region or out of season. For the past two years, we have introduced a vegetarian dish to our menu because with all the vegetables that come from Sant’Erasmo, we had to find something to offer people (and I still see a good response from our customers).
I think part of our role is to guide customers toward healthier eating habits for the place and times we find ourselves in. For example, we have always had meat on the menu, and I decided to completely remove it because, in my opinion, we need to rethink how we eat and how we run a restaurant.
It’s worth noting that we have a very loyal clientele. We have customers who have been coming here for thirty years, as well as customers from outside Venice, from Paris, America, and all over the world. Alongside international customers, there are always our core – loyal Venetian customers who come to us. Of course, Venetians are overwhelmed by the demands of tourists, but we try, as much as possible, to maintain a local clientele because they provide feedback: Venetians seek tradition here but also something new because they have become accustomed over time to an evolving culinary landscape; tastes have refined, and we have tried to offer something innovative.
On the wine side, we have a fairly extensive list, around 500 labels, primarily Italian wines, and for the past five years, we have had a good number of natural wines. Our restaurant is small, so I have to try to offer small producers, little gems that might not be found in many other restaurants or elsewhere… so I am gradually moving away from the big producers in terms of quantity and focusing on small artisanal producers like us. Wines with a story to tell.
We joined the Buona Accoglienza 14 years ago with the intention of being part of a group that consistently offered high-level cuisine and countered the reputation that Venice had for bad food and mistreatment of tourists. It’s partly true, and partly not. In my opinion, you can now eat well in Venice; there’s an excellent selection of restaurants to choose from, many of which are part of the Buona Accoglienza and have become not only colleagues but also great friends over time. I hope it continues to evolve and renew itself, offering innovative ideas, events that can somehow bring prestige and attention to Venice. This is our goal.