La Cantina di Venezia: Enjoying Lunch on Francesco Time

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You may remember that I was a contributor to the Dream of Venice book of photography many years ago. You may not know that the book was a labor-of-love by JoAnn Locktov. She first contacted me about the beautiful book several years ago.

JoAnn is a frequent visitor in Italy and especially Venice. She offered to send me some original pieces that she had written about her recent trips to the canal city, for publication here. This is the second installment. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


Thank you JoAnn Locktov, for sharing your wonderful experience with Italy Explained!

La Cantina for Lunch

JoAnn Locktov

photo by Nan McElroy, used with permission, all rights reserved

It is good to be hungry.

When your stomach is empty, anticipation is more intense. Today, I ran an errand at Strada Nuova. This is also where La Cantina was located. It was impossible to get past the front door. The place was packed with people. Many were simply drinking wine. Are they just waiting for their meal or unaware of all the culinary possibilities?

My heart dropped; there wasn’t a single empty table. I was attracted to the lovely waitress.

She said, “For you,” “We have a spot.”

photo by Nan McElroy, used with permission, all rights reserved

She led me to the back table, which was the most comfortable seat in the house. Francesco’s magic was visible from that table. Panini press, hot plate, meat slicer, perfectly stacked plates. This tiny space was used to saute, slice, chop, and bark orders.

Francesco is a one man culinary ballet.

He asked me what I would like to eat. Of course, fish. Crudo or cotto? Today, a misto. This is because I was frozen and cooked fish would warm my body. Red wine would also be a good choice. The 2009 Grumello was recommended by him because it was an elegant wine that paired well with fish. He took my place, gave me a glass of wine, then went on to his work.

La Cantina allows you to live in Francesco time. He will cook your meal whenever and wherever he wants. This is the place to go if you consider eating his food more important than any other thing you may be doing.

photo by Nan McElroy, used with permission, all rights reserved

He took a branzino out of a bucket and it fell one more time before he placed it in a pan. Many crustaceans were served in the lagoon’s fresh, raw state. (It is not a sin to heat ruin some fish.)

I drank the wine, and then watched.

It was finally my turn. Francesco wanted to see how hungry I was. Francesco wanted to know how hungry I was. He said no, a big plate of fish. It is easy to become a glutton when you live in Venice. You can’t get enough patina to satisfy your cravings for beauty.

photo by Nan McElroy, used with permission, all rights reserved

photo by Nan McElroy, used with permission, all rights reserved

I am not a food writer. I don’t know how to describe the food I eat. I do know what I felt. This man prepared this fish for me in a city I love. My lunch was satisfying, delicious, and nurturing.


This my Venice.

La Cantina on Facebook

Cannaregio 3689, Campo San Felice, 30121 Venezia, Italy

Reservations recommended: +39 411 522 8258

JoAnn Locktov founded Bella Figura Publications. This independent imprint publishes a series of photography books, including Dream of Venice as well as Dream of Venice Architectural. These books are about Venice as a modern living city.

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4 Responses to “La Cantina, Venice: Having Lunch at Francesco Time”

  • This is me, sitting in an airport waiting to board a plane. My bag contains an orange, pretzels, and a small chocolate bar. Now, I am hungry and there isn’t anything in the airport that will satisfy me after reading your post. Francesco came to my table to place my order. I was impressed by the personal touch.

    • Jess has the following:

      Francesco was very kind to bring JoAnn out of his kitchen and serve him directly. Every time I read this article, I feel hungry.

  • JoAnn, I am there with you in spirit.