Eating with kids in Italy was a bit more complicated than we had anticipated. We sold our girls on promises of spaghetti and pizza like they’d never had before… and that was exactly the problem. Even the plainest pizza on the menu is “not like pizza at home.” And though our girls are not picky eaters generally, they do have preconceived notions of what spaghetti with meat sauce is, and in their minds this should never, ever, involve donkey meat. But that is exactly what we came across in our first dinner out in Italy. In our efforts to eat like locals, we followed the advice of the proprietors at our B&B and ended up at a charming place by the water in Verona, where there was absolutely nothing my children thought they could eat. It all ended up just fine, but it did make us pay a little more attention to our restaurant choices for the remaining leg of our trip in Venice.
There is a lot of walking in Venice. A lot. And, if you’re like us, a lot of getting lost and retracing the many steps you’ve just taken. For us grownups, that was the part we had looked forward to the most: just walking and walking and getting lost and finding interesting nooks and alleys and, ideally, a perfect little locals-only spot for wine and cichetti – Venetian bar snacks. However, for the kids, a walk with no end destination was simply torture. We quickly learned that every walk must be measured in terms of how many bridges we would cross and how many scoops of gelato would be the reward.
With the help of a truly wonderful iPad app with the awkward name of Tap Venice Eating, we were able to pinpoint destinations based on location, days open, type of meal (lunch, snack, take away, etc.) and whether children are tolerated (!). However, even the very good detailed information in the app could not keep up with the fact that many places, including the famed Alaska gelateria that we had described to our girls in dolcissimo detail, and that we crossed the Grand Canal three times (twice due to navigation errors) to find, were closed for vacation when we were there in late January. Though the adults could be satisfied with a few cichetti, the girls were not always fond of the unidentified food objects before them. We were getting desperate.
“Avoid the restaurants with tourist menus.” Good advice, generally. Almost goes without saying in experiential travel. But… in Italy, where even a truck stop meal can satisfy on many levels, would it be so bad to go in search of spaghetti bolognese off a tourist menu if that’s what the kids want? After some heated debate, a flurry of emails (did you know Venice has citywide wi-fi?), and numerous moans of impending starvation from the girls, we ended up in the very same restaurant in Dorsoduro where my sister and I had a divine awakening of sorts with our first taste of profiteroles – those cream-filled, chocolate-sauced pastries we all love – many years ago. Yes, there was an English-language menu. Yes, there was spaghetti bolognese on that menu. No, it was not the best meal I’ve ever had. And, most regrettably, no, there were no profiteroles on the menu. However. We ate. We ate it all. And we were happy.