Holiday Gift Guide
Paradiso Perduto chef

After spending five months in Venice and frequenting countless wine bars and restaurants, Paradiso Perduto was the one I kept going back to. A neighborhood establishment that's good for a drink, a snack, a meal, or an all day bender. A place where you felt like the bartenders would recognize you with a wink and a nod the next time you turned up (though often they didn’t).

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The last Sunday I was in Venice, I decided to go for one final meal there. At sunset, a Venetian band covering American Blues music set up their stage up on a docked boat outside of the restaurant. The bassist wore a Reverend Horton Heat t-shirt, which was random and awesome, though that didn’t seem to influence on the song selection and people were dancing and singing along to familiar music.

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Dinner is served at the tables inside or you can get a plate local of cicchetti (Venetian style tapas) along the bar.

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The impressive spread here includes baccala montecato (whipped cod fish), roasted peppers, sardines with onions, anchovies, gamberini and polenta (small local shrimps), steamed mussels and garlic, roasted vegetables, and octopus and celery salad.

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The octopus has a big presence at the bar.

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Getting down to the brass tax: the drinks, the only one you need to order is the Spritz, which is a traditional Venetian cocktail of Aperol (orange liqueur and Prosecco). It's served at Paradiso Perduto with an olive instead of the traditional slice of citrus.

Paradiso Perduto spritz

It’s a perfect drink, light and refreshing, while still boozy. Campari or Aperol-- bitter or sweet? I chose sweet, a small carafe of it, and enjoyed it with a few friends outside listening to the cover band while the lead singer forgot the chorus to Sam Cooke’s “Chemistry.” They also have cheap carafs of cask wine and a few beers on tap, but that's all pretty much an afterthought once you have the spritz.

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The chef/owner looks like a cross between a drunken Santa Claus  and the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

Paradiso Perduto chef

He spent most of his night mingling with locals, watching the band and demanding drinks from his bartenders (all young, good looking ladies) disrupting the bar service, which is usually in a state of chaos. You forgive any of his flagrant behavior because he is such an awesome host, trying to keep the Venetian experience alive, before live music disappears from Venice altogether. (The majority of the population on Venice is elderly and conservative and noise violations are taken incredibly seriously, particularly if you have a liquor license).

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The plan was to get dinner; on the menu that night was artichoke lasagna, whole grilled branzino, bigoli en salsa (an awesome dish with fresh pasta, anchovies and onions) and squid and polenta. But after we sat down, the police came to the restaurant due to some noise complaints and they shut the kitchen down. So we had to be content with the cicchetti and spritz, whether we liked it or not. And we were.

Fondamenta de la Misericordia, 2640
Venezia, Italia
+39 041 720581

Photographs by Thomas Young. THANKS!!!

*Sarah works in film production in sunny Los Angeles. After being away in Europe for five months, she is pretty much obsessed with burritos, sushi and Kogi at The Alibi Room in Culver City.
Column: The Big Feed


  • Awesome story. Couldn’t help but notice the microwaves in the photo. Maybe they use those when the cops shut down the kitchen.

    Lose the olive. Keep the twist.

    Paystyle on

  • The octopus looks yum. And so does the spritz, I’m going to try and make that with the olive. I love Venice too, it’s just too atmospheric.

    sakura on

  • LO SPRITZ!!! I remember drinking glass after glass of this during cocktail hour when I lived in Padova (20 minutes from Venice). The students would take over the town square and smoke and drink while daylight faded.

    Sigh. I love Venice. It really IS dying, isn’t it.

    Awesome post and gorgeous fotos!!! Can’t wait for the others. Welcome back, lady!

    kayoko on

  • I’m so happy you found good food in Venezia— it’s no easy feat. You def have to be an insider to know where to go. And when you find it… buonissimo.

    kayoko on

  • Re Olive: Don’t be fooled. When Sarah and Damon came to the table with a PINK drink with giant olive I winced. However I had to ask for MORE olives on my 4th spritz. It is the perfect blend of sweet and salty. Now I make these drinks at home, but can’t giant salty olives like they had in Venice. I was truly lucky to have my best friend show me the food ropes in Veneztia. For a city that is poo poo-ed for its food, it was some of the BEST food I have ever eaten. Thanks Nevada!

    tomo on

  • Leave it to Pay to notice the microondi. I’m guessing it’s a space issue— I see microwaves a lot at snack bars in Spain too.

    Yah, what’s up with the olive?

    kayoko on

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