Visit The National Gallery of Art‘s exhibition, Venice: Canaletto and his Rivals (February 20-May 30, 2011) for the splendid, immense collection of cityscapes showing Venice in all its glory – you can almost feel the excitement the painters experienced watching the revelers during Carnival or Molo from the Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day. The paintings date from the 18th century, and include 20 masterworks by Canaletto and more than 30 by his rivals, including Guardi, Bellotto, and Marieschi.). Facing you as you enter the first gallery is the amazing Canaletto: The Piazza San Marco looking East (about 1723) showing a market set up along one end of the piazza. This is a painting for chefs – it will beckon you to travel to Venice, to taste its fine food and breath in its history.
Hungry after all that travel – try the Garden Café with a menu created by Fabio Trabocchi – himself born and raised in the Marche, a region just south of the Venetto. He is back in Washington DC after a sojourn in New York, getting ready to open his new restaurant, Fiola. The best bet is to stick to the simple buffet set beside a fountain gurgling with water. There’s proscuitto, salami, and a huge Parmigiano-Reggiano cut into chunks. Super Chef enjoyed both the crispy, flat crackers and a light focaccia along with the Brodetto di pesce alla Veneta, a flavorful Venetian seafood soup with saffron and green tomatoes. There is also a more substantial Melanzane alla Parmigiana with good flavor.
Perk up with a cup of good espresso and a lemon sorbet and head back to see the magnificent gondola at the entrance of the exhibit. It is one of the oldest gondolas in existence, dating from the mid-19th century and was once owned by American painter Thomas Moran (1837–1926).