Al Gatto Nero (The Black Cat) Restaurant in Burano, Italy

In a recent discussion, Eugene asked everyone what new things they would like to see here at theMET. Kevin Chung responded that he would like to see trip reports, travel adventures, and recommendations of things to see and places to eat. So I thought I would tell you all about a fabulous restaurant my wife and I ate at recently.

Burano is a little island in the Venetian lagoon. It is about 45 minutes from Venice by vaporetto (motorboat taxi). They have been making beautiful lace on this island since the 16th century. During the day it is all hustle and bustle as the tourists crowd the only square buying the lace from the many small shops. If, however, you stay a little bit later, you will see a whole different side of life there. Around 5:30 the tourists begin to leave and the shops begin to close up. The people of Burano come out of their houses to meet each other in the square.


Italians eat later than most Americans. The restaurant doesn't open until 7:30p and doesn't really get rolling until at least 8p. So sit down at one of the sidewalk bars, order yourself a Campari, and just “il dolce far niente” (an Italian phrase that means the joy of doing nothing). You will see the fishermen coming in from their days work, the boys and girls with their soccer balls and dolls, the old women with their shopping bags, the old men arguing over politics - in short, the normal life of the people. Let it wash over you and become a part of it. You'll be glad you did.

To find the restaurant, you have to "go down the alley, work your way though the neighborhood until you see the old fish market, cross the bridge over the canal, turn right and walk a block or so until you see it". These directions seem dubious but I assure they got us there! Once at the restaurant, you will be glad you made the trek.


Jamie Oliver, the British TV chef, considers this restaurant one of his favorites in the whole world. The owner and chef Signor Ruggero is considered "the risotto king". He makes risotto the old fashioned way, by hand in a large skillet. He uses a broth made with fish taken from the Venetian lagoon. The dish is sublime. If you go there you owe it to yourself to order it.

(Signor Ruggero is third from the right)
The main course we had was sea bass. The fish was caught that very afternoon in the lagoon by a friend of our waiter Maximillian (Signor Ruggero's son). It was cooked to perfection and glazed with a few drops of 30 year old balsamic vinegar. It was probably the best fish I have ever eaten.

For dessert we had tiramisu and lots more wine, including a wonderful dessert wine with strong flavors of strawberry. I can't remember the name of the wine since by that time I was felling pretty good! We were celebrating my birthday so, of course, the dessert had a candle and everyone sang to me.

We spent three wonderful hours there and finally took the last boat of the night back to Venice and our hotel. It was a fantastic evening and a memorable meal. I highly recommend to anyone who travels to Venice to take some time out of your busy schedule and enjoy this fabulous restaurant.

Dinner for two with lots of wine and dessert - 120 euros.
Restaurant website - here

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Tags: Italy, Venice, food, restaurant

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Comment by lauralove on October 22, 2010 at 3:32pm
Wow, Mark. That looks like quite the birthday dinner. I need to make my way over to Burano, stat! Love the beautiful colors of the buildings, too..
Comment by Marica on October 22, 2010 at 2:05pm
oh yes of couse, you talk about FRAGOLINO. It is a type of grape, which gets its name from the Italian for strawberry – fragola.
Comment by Mark Huckabee on October 22, 2010 at 1:29pm
Marica - do you know the name of the strawberry flavored dessert wine? They serve it with little cookies that you dip into it.

Eugene - another place with great risotto is Osteria Del Porcellino near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. The risotto I had there was flavored with pumpkin flowers and shrimp. Delicious!
Comment by Marica on October 22, 2010 at 12:14pm
Oh Mark!! What a wonderful post!! Now i'm hungry, my favourite dish at Gatto Nero is risotto with scampi!! Wow
Comment by sAm on October 22, 2010 at 10:50am
Mark, this post totally made my day. I love to read about personal experiences on trips. Great pics and of course, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! What a great way to celebrate. Wish we were there with you!
Comment by Eugene on October 22, 2010 at 9:35am
I have to take my girlfriend her, rIssoto is her favorite dish. The food sounds amazing, along with the lax Italian atmosphere.
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