Gritti Palace Hotel, Venice, Italy

By by Louis Bignami

Author Somerset Maughn visited the Gritti Palace and wrote, "There are a few things more pleasant than to sit on the terrace of the Gritti Palace when the sun about to set patches in lovely colour the Salute which almost faces you. You see the noble building at its best and the sight adds to your satisfaction. For at the Gritti you are not merely a number, You are a friend who has been welcomed. You cannot but feel very much at home."

The Gritti shares the view of Salute with the Europa, and a history that goes back to 1521 when Doge Andrea Gritty commissioned the building. The hotel's Il Libro 'd Oro reads like a who's who, with names as varied as Sir Winston Churchill, Bert Bachrach, Mick Jagger, Rod Stieger and Clark Gable attesting to world-class service and incredible views.

The Gritti restaurant, Club del Doge, only seats 60 with al fresco terrace dining in the warmer months, but award winning Chef Celestino Giacomello offers a wonderful assortment of seasonal Italian dishes and, for those with gastronomic aspirations, a series of Monday through Friday cooking classes. We have enjoyed several scampi dishes fresh from the Adriatic and some wonderful gall game.

Main Lounge

You should probably throw yourself on the mercy of the waiters as, like most Italians they will try to stuff you. Italian dinners start with antipasto. We favor the local sardines in savor, squid, mixed plates of sausages, salami and cheese or the house selection of the day. Then it's on to soup with a variety of seafood soups or a traditional pasta type worth tasting. Then, it's pasta, our favorite selection. Squid cooked in their own ink served over "black pasta" made with squid ink, is Venice's pride and joy. Standards such as Pasta Primavera or the erotically named -- ask -- Pasta Putanesca may be all you need.

Gourmands, as opposed to gourmets, can continue to meat. We've enjoyed wonderful veal in the style of Milan and some amazing pork from piglets really too small to leave mama. Add a school of fish favorites and then there's my favorite scampi. This is the real thing. Adriatic scampi are larger, better tasting and down right superior to anything in the shrimp line we've tasted with the possible of Monterey's deepwater shrimp. A bit of butter and olive oil and it's heaven.

Then, if you can find room for a fine tiramisu or my husband's favorite espresso, it's time to take a gondola ride past the sites where Vivaldi and Mozart once lived. Embark on the embankment in from of Chiesa di Santa Maria della Pieta and enter the church where Vivaldi conducted the orchestra of La Pieta orphanage that most considered the best group of musicians in the 17th century. When we last did this we heard the I Solisti Dell'Ensemble di Venezia?s wonderful Vivaldi Sonatas and, with a short break, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. You can't get more POSH than that.