Weak with hunger, I was misguided by an evil Venetian local that pointed me towards Trattoria Al Gazzettino in Venice, Italy. The shop keeper assured me that Gazzettino had the best risotto in town. I bet she secretly reveled at how many desperate tourists she’s herded into the San Marco trap.
It was tucked away in a dimly-lit side-street and there wasn’t a guy standing outside waving people in. It looked busy. There weren’t translated menus plastered on the door.
It wasn’t until I was well into my first glass of wine before I saw the red flags. They have honed their craft of trapping tourists and getting thanked for it. Some of their not-so-discrete tricks were:
- quickly bringing wine to the table and opening it up before we had a chance to soak in our surroundings. We were theirs for the night.
- making risotto table-side. It was somewhat cute to see the servers roll out a massive bowl of piping hot rice to the table and put on a show for the diners. Too bad the flare added nothing to the dish itself. Undiscerning diners probably thought that’s how they do it in Venice.
- giving hungry diners samples of risotto, then pressuring them to order it. We weren’t entirely convinced by the asparagus sample so they followed up with a seafood one. At that point, I was too hungry (and shy) to turn down their “signature dish”.
- appealing to our emotions with photos of and drawings by the owner’s young son pasted on every wall. I did bump into the lil’ guy outside the bathroom. He was playing alone with a ball.
- showing off their thick guestbook, penned by overjoyed diners that had the time of their lives there. If a million people from all over the world loved this restaurant, I suppose I should too, right? The chef and owner even came by and insisted to take a photo with me while pushing me to hold the guest book. I’m too embarrassed to post it, in fear that it’ll be used against me, out of context one day.
- delivering dessert to the table unprompted. North Americans might read it as a generous “on the house” gesture. Unless if you have the heart to ask them to remove it, it’s going on the bill.
In reality, the food really wasn’t so bad. It would’ve been considered a descent risotto back home but it was definitely over priced, even for Venice standards . The whole experience was underwhelming, the preparation showed zero passion, the staff was pushy, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of being deceived. I’m not terribly disgruntled because I expected situations like these in such a tourist-saturated destination. I just kick myself for falling for it. Stupid stupid.
Oh well, I still made the best of it and tried not to dwell on my first-world problems. From a business perspective, this place has nailed it.
So why am I posting this, you may ask. Despite the tepid conditions, I still managed to crank out a few appetizing photos. Who knows, you might dig this sort of thing. I’m also not too proud to admit to a #foodfail.
Share YOUR tourist trap horror stories below.
Trattoria Al Gazzettino
Sottoportego delle Acque San Marco, 4997, 30124 Venice, Italy