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Running the Venice Marathon

One of the many twists and turns of the Venetian maze.

My friends and I ran the Venice Marathon last week. Well, our friend Caroline ran; Heather and I ran along, ate, drank and cheered. “Marathon” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks “Venice” – I think romance, gondola, Vivaldi –  but this was the event’s 25th anniversary. There even was a couple who’d run all 25. That’s romantic!

My job was food and hotel. I did my research and did quite well. We found a lovely, conveniently located boutique hotel called Novecento. They couldn’t have been kinder and more supportive of Caroline. I am normally the complicated eater of a group, but our  marathoning friend was eating clean and vegan until after race day. This was, surprisingly, a blessed relief of attention on me. The evening before race day we went to a small restaurant called Enoteca Ai Artisti. Heather and I deferred to the charming waiter’s choice of wine and toasted Caro. The waiter looked sullen and was confused about why she was not participating in the toast. He thought it was the wine!  After an explanation in our cryptic Italian, he got excited. As fate would have it, he was a seven-time Venice marathoner and iron man runner. We listened intently as he happily offered Caro valuable advice on the race. He repeated some words I think we’ll all take with us. “It’s all in the mind.” Caro ran the race in 3:47, her best time ever. So, Mr. Iron Man, it is all in the mind. Mille grazie!

Even Vegetables are on a boat!

A race in a town like Venice resembles the ones in Manhattan or London. For the locals, it’s just something happening. So it was up to us, with a bit of guesswork, to figure out where to go and what to do. After a short night’s rest we woke at the crack of dawn to walk Caro 45 minutes to a bus so she could get to the starting line. Once we dropped Caro off, we hustled along the canals, over bridges, under barricades, laughing and flirting with police who were sort of waiting for the runners, but looked more like they were waiting for an espresso. There were very few spectators so our loud American screams of “bravi bravi” when the runners passed by were greatly appreciated. The Italian men clearly were the most grateful; they were the ones who actually blew kisses back to us!

Grilled veggies that rivaled my own. Superb.

After the race and another scavenger hunt through the streets of Venice – over 15 bridges, 13 canals, around 10 piazzas and after getting lost approximately six times – we made it to a tiny corner of Venice for our Post-Marathon lunch. The chef at Boccadoro greeted us with his big smile and “Welcome Marathoner,” as his pregnant wife led us to our table. Venice has a reputation of overly touristy restaurants with mediocre, overpriced food – laminated menus translated into four languages, coupled with rough service. Bocodoro is none of this – a genuine Italian culinary treasure.  They were happy to welcome a

The Chefs favorite, ‘Squid Ink Fetuccini with St. Jaques, zucchini & peppers”. Delightful…

Marathoner and ready to prepare her anything she desired, on or off the menu. I’ll cut to the chase here: After a plate of the best grilled vegetables I’ve ever had (and I am a self proclaimed vegetable goddess) – crisp radicchio, roasted fennel, cippolini onions, peppers, artichokes, all on a bed of fresh arugula and lightly dressed with champagne vinegar and pure raw olive oil – we decided to trust the chef about everything! I am not a pasta eater but on his recommendation ordered the gnocchi. MON DIEU! They were tender, potatoy, light and tossed with crisp vegetables he’d chosen that morning. Heather had black squid ink fettuccini with St Jaques, zucchini and fennel – the chef’s

Spectacular Venetian wine the chef recommended.

favorite. Heather’s words were “divine.” It was. This was a dining experience I can relate only to a great meditation. You’re in the moment so deeply. You can’t really explain it but you want to stay and savor it. His wife suggested a local Venetian wine that effortlessly finished 2 bottles of – one of those perfect, drinkable wines you want a case of at all times at home. Chef joked that he would have offered us a magnum but never would have guessed that three such pristine, petite girls could have finished that at lunch. Ha!

Oh that Chocolate Mousse! Novembers project – recreate recipe!

Boccadoro’s famous desert is a chocolate mousse with five types of chocolate – drizzled in a mocha sauce, sprinkled with dark shavings and caramelized bits.  Words escape me but if sex had a flavor.… Note to self.  November project; recreate recipe.

After a four hour lunch, we slowly and happily walked out of Boccadoro back into the maze that is Venice.  It was a memorable restaurant experience. Both these restaurants were, for very different reasons – one filled with advice; one filled with gluttonous pleasure. I am still full from that weekend but it was worth every bite!