Support our mission
A whole roasted sea bass, priced by the gram, was the highlight of a recent dinner at Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice, Italy. Fresh, firm, slightly sweet, it was served with potatoes.

A whole roasted sea bass, priced by the gram, was the highlight of a recent dinner at Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice, Italy. Fresh, firm, slightly sweet, it was served with potatoes. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Years after my last trip to Venice, I arrived there again recently on a sunny January afternoon and wondered why I'd waited so long. It was cold and incomparably beautiful.

Venice, seen from the Piazza San Marco on a January evening during sunset, is beyond beautiful. A recent trip there found just the right amount of tourists and locals: enough to feel companionable but not crushed.

Venice, seen from the Piazza San Marco on a January evening during sunset, is beyond beautiful. A recent trip there found just the right amount of tourists and locals: enough to feel companionable but not crushed. (Colette Rogers)

My stepdaughter and I stepped into Pylones, the French gift shop chain whose wares have been described as "on the corner of cute, between stupid and clever," and while the sales clerk rang up our purchases, I asked for a dining recommendation.

That's how we ended up at the charmingly named Osteria ai Promessi Sposi, or tavern of the betrothed. Located in the Cannaregio district in an alley about a fifth of a mile from the Ponte di Rialto, it turned out to be a terrific choice.

After showing our CDC vaccination cards, we were led to a table in one of two cozy rooms with yellow and red walls, plain wooden chairs and paper placemats on the tables. Jazz vocals at a low, pleasant volume added to the feeling that all was well with the world, at least here.

We were the first diners of the evening but were soon joined by a couple with a toddler and then two women. Weirdly, I thought, they seated us at adjacent tables instead of spreading us out. But they all were very friendly and adored my dog.

The restaurant specializes in fish and seafood dishes, although there's also pasta with duck and veal liver with polenta on the menu. On the night we dined there, the menu also featured a special T-bone steak.

We ordered the mixed fish platter for our appetizer. The chilled sardines, shrimp, octopus and baccala were very good. Only the little bit of salmon tasted unpleasant.

The chef's choice mixed fish appetizer at Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice included sardines, squid, baccala, octopus and salmon.

The chef's choice mixed fish appetizer at Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice included sardines, squid, baccala, octopus and salmon. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

My first course was orecchiette with smoked shrimp and scallops in tomato sauce. It was a tad too smoky for my taste. My stepdaughter happily devoured her classic linguine with clams.

Among several pasta first courses at Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice is orecchiette with smoked scallops and shrimps. Orecchiette translates to "little ears."

Among several pasta first courses at Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice is orecchiette with smoked scallops and shrimps. Orecchiette translates to "little ears." (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Our second course was the star of the show: a whole roasted sea bass, head still attached, simply dressed in olive oil and served with thinly sliced potatoes. Priced by the gram, it was about 1.5 pounds of meaty, mildly sweet fish, and it was delicious.

I had a serviceable house white wine to drink. My stepdaughter was fine with water. 

We finished with a molten chocolate cake. I enjoyed a couple of bites, and my stepdaughter polished it off with gusto.

And all of that was thanks to our Pylones purchases, which netted us a delectable additional gift. It just didn’t show up on the store receipt.

Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi, or the tavern of the betrothed, is a typical Venetian fish restaurant recommended by locals in Venice, Italy. It is casual and unpretentious.

Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi, or the tavern of the betrothed, is a typical Venetian fish restaurant recommended by locals in Venice, Italy. It is casual and unpretentious. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice's Cannaregio district is located in an alley about a fifth of a mile from the Ponte di Rialto. It opens for dinner at 6:30 p.m. sharp, and early arrivers may not enter until then.

Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi in Venice's Cannaregio district is located in an alley about a fifth of a mile from the Ponte di Rialto. It opens for dinner at 6:30 p.m. sharp, and early arrivers may not enter until then. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

The ambience of Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi, a Venetian fish restaurant beloved by locals, is enhanced by a photo of a young Paul Newman. The photo appears to be from 1963, when Newman visited during the Venice Film Festival.

The ambience of Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi, a Venetian fish restaurant beloved by locals, is enhanced by a photo of a young Paul Newman. The photo appears to be from 1963, when Newman visited during the Venice Film Festival. (Nancy Montgomery/Stars and Stripes)

Address: Calle de l'Oca 4367, Venice, Italy

Information: Online: facebook.com/AiPromessiSposi; Phone: +39 041-241-2747

Prices: Moderate. Appetizers and first courses are about 15 euros; second courses are between 15 and 22 euros; desserts are 6 euros.

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; daily, 6:30-10:15 p.m.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
twitter Email

Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up