Osteria Orto dei Mori (VE)
The small restaurant is located in Cannaregio, in a still truly authentic area of Venice, inside what in the 16th century was the workshop of Giovanni Battista Robusti. A fabric painter, he was the father of the great painter Tintoretto who was born here and died, in 1594, a little further down the street at number 3399.
L’Orto dei Mori takes its name from the homonymous Campo (“campo” means square in Venetian dialect) as in the Middle Ages this area was home to many vegetable gardens. A few steps away there is, in fact, the Church of the Madonna dell’Orto, famous for containing ten paintings by Tintoretto (buried here with his son Domenico) and a stone statue of the Virgin who is said to be miraculous.
L’Orto dei Mori was born in 2009 from the dream of two friends – Lorenzo Cipolla, a Sicilian chef with experience at Harry Cipriani in NY, and Micael Nordio – who decided to restore the property, that was vacant for over 25 years, “coloring” it with good vibes and good food. The walls of the room, a tribute to the “illustrious” past of the place, are in fact painted with original shades of colors that would be dear to Tintoretto, from gold to ocher, recreating the sensation of a warm painter’s palette.
The suggestive interiors are dominated by black furniture highlighted by original lamps created by the artist Alessandro Salvadori, founder of the atelier Materialmente, with old Murano glasses.
The restaurant’s logo is also beautiful: taken from an illustration by the Austrian artist Lisbeth Zwerger, it embellishes the original wine bottles turned candle holders of the mise en place.
The cuisine is Venetian, with Sicilian influences, and offers yummy dishes, prepared with simple yet high quality ingredients. Just to make some examples, among the first courses, we can mention the taglierini with pesto sauce and scallops with toasted pine nuts or the spinach tagliolini with cuttlefish ink; or, among the fish main courses, liver “Venetian style” with polenta or sole fillets with Madras curry and black Venus rice. The menu also includes various proposals for meat lovers, vegetarians, and celiacs. Everything is freshly cooked daily, including bread and desserts.
In summer, you can eat al fresco in the beautiful Campo dei Mori, just opposite the restaurant.
At L’Orto dei Mori you can easily meet celebrities: Monica Bellucci, the Queen of Holland, the American actor Wallace Shawn, son of the historic publisher of the New Yorker who is having dinner here just as we write, are among the latest guests of the restaurant.
A few steps away, we also recommend visiting Bottega del Tintoretto, opened in 1986 by a group of artists; a fascinating art printing workshop that uses machinery recovered from ancient Venetian printing houses.
There are many legends that revolve around this magical area of Venice. The curious statues of Moors with turban that protrude from the walls of the restaurant building were part of the garden of the pre-existing fifteenth-century palace of the Mastelli family. They were traders coming from the Venetian Peloponnese area that was called Morea in the Middle Ages, hence the name Mori. Among them, there is “Sior Rioba” (Mr. Rioba), as we read in the basket it carries, a very famous statue because, like Pasquino in Rome, it was used to hang on him satirical phrases and texts against the politicians of the time. When at the end of the 19th century he lost his nose, it was immediately restored with an improvised piece of iron. Today the legend says that rubbing it brings luck. In 2010 Sior Rioba was mysteriously beheaded but, luckily, the head was found in Calle della Racchetta and the statue restored.