Every so often there’s a restaurant that lures you in on scent alone.
Venezia Del Nord is on the corner where Keizersgracht cuts across Rozengracht. Walking down this street on a few occasions I’ve found myself stopping and sniffing the air like a twitchy rabbit- it just smells that good. The air is heavy with the sweet scent of freshly baked dough and hints of tomato and garlic swirl around the doorway.
The signage is tacky but the third time I found myself on this corner I just had to go inside.
It’s a funny little place but pleasantly kitsch. There is a wall covered in bank notes from all over the world (and even a few dead currencies like the lira and guilder), fishing nets hang from the ceiling with plastic fish and crabs being held captive and another wall is covered with the business cards of happy patrons. I decided not to analyse it, so I got stuck into the menu instead. I’ve since heard that they have a resident cat but didn’t spot it on this trip. (So many restaurants in Amsterdam have cats that’ll sleep on a stool in the corner and upset patrons who are used to clinical dining but as my mother would say ‘rather a cat than a mouse’.)
The selection appeared to be authentic and I was pleasantly surprised to see only one pollo pizza on the menu- chicken generally dries out when used as a pizza topping and most good Italian places won’t push to have it on pizza.
I found myself struggling to pick between the calzone and the beef pizza. Fortunately Charlie was having the same dilemma so we ordered both and swapped halfway through.
The pizza base was Roman style- perfectly crisp then topped with a precise smear of sauce and plenty of ground beef, onions and peppers. With the addition of a little more pepper and a sprinkling of parmesan it was unbeatable.
The calzone was huge (and soon dubbed the Stegosaurus) but surprising, it was faultless. The dough was crisp on the outside yet had the right amount of ‘chew’. The filling was piping hot with a sweet, flavourful mix of vegetables and meat. The menu promised it would be served with a meat sauce and sure enough a simple bolognaise was served alongside in a glazed terracotta pot. It was completely unnecessary but incredibly delicious.
This food isn’t going to win awards but I’ll be going back again and again because it does exactly what any good Italian bistro should- classics that are perfectly executed. This is another one of those places that I can’t resist because it’s authentic. It’s not trying to be a novelty or claiming to be haute cuisine and that’s fine because you can go there and believe that a kind mama has made your meal with love.
If you find yourself nearby on a cold winter’s night call in; it’s the place to warm you belly and your heart.
Rozengracht 1, 1016 LP Amsterdam, Netherlands
020 624 7896