Da Romano

Via Baldassarre Galuppi, 221

30142 Burano (VE)

Tel. +39 041 730030


The Food:

Boiled spider crab meat with salad; boiled mantis shrimp with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon; and octopus with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon (Grancevola al vapore in letto di insalata; canocchie al vapore, olio e limone; e polipi, olio e limone)

Sardines and scampi in saor (Sardine e scampi in saor con polenta bianca)

Romano’s fish risotto (Risotto di pesce alla Romano)

Esse and bussolai cookies

The Wines:

2012 Col Sandago Wildbacher Metodo Classico 92
2016 Orto di Venezia Bianco Orto di Venezia
2010 Bosco del Merlo Verduzzo Passito Soandre            90
NV Zanovelli/Ca’ Lustra Moscato Naturale di Raetia 90

Welcome to Da Romano

It’s four generations and counting at Da Romano, where members of the Barbaro family have been serving hungry diners since the 1800s. Actually, in the beginning, the Barbaros ran an emporium that sold a variety of different items but also cooked simple dishes for the locals and fishermen who traveled to and from Burano daily. It was only in 1920 that Romano Barbaro took over the place from his father and turned it into a full-fledged trattoria, moving it a few times before finally settling on the restaurant’s present-day location in 1947.

The beautiful, multi-colored island of Burano

Burano is one of Italy’s prettiest islands, characterized by its many striking colored houses. It’s unclear why the locals decided to light up the façades of their small homes with such bright colors (Burano is a rainbow of vivid yellows, oranges, blues, greens, reds and more), but theories abound, ranging from the desire of fishermen returning home from long trips to see their homes from afar, to (more likely) an attempt to ward off the plague by cleaning up the walls and painting them anew; at some point in time, different colors began to be mixed into the paint. Da Romano is one of those places that you just can’t help but like, with its authentic Venetian cuisine, friendly service and a pretty if cluttered interior. (There’s more breathing room and less noise in the relatively spacious eating area outside.) Inside, everywhere you look there are photographs, framed letters, posters, artwork and memorabilia attesting to the restaurant’s many years of faithful service to both new and returning customers. The place is a truly special one, and it has had its fair share of famous clients. Romano Barbaro in particular loved to hang out with artists, as is demonstrated by the more than 450 paintings adorning the restaurant’s walls, by the likes of Beppe Ciardi, Lucio Fontana and Ardengo Soffici, among others, all well-known Italian artists. Over the years, international diners have included Stanley Kubrick, Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Brian De Palma, Philippe Starck, Keith Richards (who apparently always asks to finish off his meal by going upstairs to have a smoke and play the piano), Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and Joan Miró (one of the many artists who over the years have gifted Da Romano with artworks – in Miró’s case, a small drawing created on the occasion of the 1948 Venice Biennale art exhibition).

Boiled spider crab meat with salad, boiled mantis shrimp with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon, and octopus with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon

The restaurant is decidedly old-fashioned, with uniformed, mostly elderly and charming waiters who take their job seriously and with pride. The food is also totally classic, featuring traditional Venetian recipes and first-rate ingredients. Clearly, as the island of Burano has a long fishing history, it is fish, crustaceans and shellfish that play the biggest role on the menu. You’ll never go wrong by ordering Venetian classics such as the scampi or sardines in saor, the grancevola (spider crab) or the canocchie (mantis shrimp). Be aware that cannocchie are heavenly-tasting critters, but as it’s particularly hard to separate the meat from their exoskeletons, I suggest you ask to have them cleaned for you so that you don’t end up wasting half the sweet, moist, flaky and very flavorful flesh.

Sardines and scampi in saor with grilled white polenta

Call me predictable, but I always have these three dishes to start when I go to Romano, and I am never disappointed. However, the restaurant’s most famous dish is the namesake risotto, made with the go’ fish (ghiotto di laguna in Italian), a small-finned creature that is abundant in the Venetian lagoon but hard to come by nowadays due to the lack of fishermen. (I’ve written about this fish and the specific risotto dish that it characterizes in a previous Vinous Table; see Ristorante Quadri, May 2015.) Desserts are also good, but I personally love to finish my meal here with a few of the excellent homemade hard cookies typical of Venice, the esse and the bussolai. The bussolai, also known as buranelli, are made with egg yolks, flour, sugar and almost criminal amounts of butter; they are the oldest of these two traditional Venetian cookies. The origin of the bussolai, which are rather chunky round cookies, dates back to at least six or seven centuries ago, when the wives of the local fishermen would hand their husbands bags of these cookies (which keep extremely well) when they left on long fishing trips. Then, only a few centuries ago, a local restaurateur asked a baker if he could come up with a different shape for the bussolai; I’m sure the true gourmets realize, as did the clever restaurateur, that a big, thick cookie is not especially easy to dip in caffè latte or in a passito. And thus was born the other famous Venetian cookie, the esse (plural essi). Other than the shape, there is little difference between the two cookies, though perhaps the essi are a little more flaky and less stiffly textured than the bussolai. In the ultimate analysis, the best shape is really a matter of individual preference, and anyway, both are heavenly.

Tableside portioning of the go'risotto is an art form at Da Romano

As always at Da Romano, I drank simply but well. The 2012 Col Sandago Wildbacher Metodo Classico is a real beauty, a flavorful, juicy and precise pink bubbly made with a little-known traditional grape of Veneto. Simply put, it’s an absolutely delicious sparkler, packing in lots of strawberry and floral flavors. Much better known and with quite a cult following is the Orto di Venezia, a white wine blend made on the Venetian island of Sant’Erasmo from varying percentages of mostly Malvasia Istriana and Vermentino, with a little Fiano. The 2016 Bianco Orto di Venezia struck me as a little riper and more savory than usual, but it’s still an outstanding wine. I finished off my relaxed meal with two lovely sweet wines. The NV Zanovelli/Ca’ Lustra Moscato Naturale di Raetia is a blend of mostly Moscato Giallo with a little Moscato Bianco; though it smells rich and opulent, it proves surprisingly lifted and fresh on the palate and has a lovely aromatic charge that is nicely persistent. Much richer and thicker is the 2010 Bosco del Merlo Verduzzo Passito Soandre, which offers Verduzzo’s typically tannic palate and opulent, caramelly, candied mouthfeel. The latter makes a perfect accompaniment to the essi and the bussolai. And no, I did not dip the cookies in the wine glass, which was not the case with virtually everyone else around me in the restaurant. Actually, in thinking it over, I may well have been the one who missed out on having even more fun than I already had.