Fine Dining

Venissa, Michelin Star on An Island of 300 Inhabitants: High Ethical Cuisine in The Lagoon

Marco Colognese
copertina venissa

A cuisine you'll only find in Mazzorbo and nowhere else, such is the level of research and originality it stems from: in the lagoon microcosm of the island, chefs Chiara Pavan and Francesco Brutto plate nature with a deep consciousness, beyond slogans and beyond ego.

The restaurant 

You embark from Quarto d’Altino, and whether it's your first time or you've been before, the sensation is one of a kind of freedom. It's known to be temporary, it's known to last the time it takes to project into a different world before returning to the trauma of urban and suburban (in)civility. The short journey in the lagoon glues the eyes to a landscape we're not accustomed to, rich in forms of life of every kind.


It's to that life - contributing to their serenity - that Chiara Pavan and Francesco Brutto are dedicating themselves with a natural, spontaneous, contagious enthusiasm. Because they know how to love the Venetian lagoon, narrating its changes - even painful ones - caused by an evolution that is sometimes catastrophic. And they are capable of raising public awareness through a profession that can carry a profound consciousness, beyond slogans and beyond ego. They can do this without forgetting that the core of their work is to welcome people and make them feel good.

chiara pavan e francesco brutto 2

All of this on a beautiful island in native Venice, light-years away from that wonderful city assaulted by mass tourism that we are now too accustomed to seeing mistreated. The in-house production of vegetables from rediscovered seeds, the complete elimination of disposable plastic, the non-use of meat (although something may change if in harmony with their thinking), focusing their efforts on the study and use of invasive and alien marine species. So, if you want to get an idea of what it means to consistently pursue an idea of sustainability not just proclaimed but practiced, you need to go to Venissa. The place itself has a magical atmosphere, from the restaurant to the tavern, to the rooms (both those on-site and those in Burano, but just cross a bridge from here to Mazzorbo to get there).

230720 Erbe Alofite 9

In the direction of another fundamental pillar of sustainability, highly strategic in these times, goes the staff recruitment system that Chiara and Francesco have invented. Brutto himself explained it in front of some dishes at the tavern, where the quality is the same as the restaurant - very high - but the offering is much simpler: "2022 was a year of testing for our staff selection, very complicated but very satisfying." Here's how it happens: "The resume arrives, I delete all the data, including gender, and pass it to Chiara who reads it. If we agree, we move on to a phone interview where I ask general questions. Why they are leaving where they are, why they want to change, what they didn't like about the old place, and other questions about their habits and tastes. The next step is when they come here for a trial, which includes written tests, which I prepare, of general gastronomic culture."

francesco brutto

It should be mentioned that Francesco has almost graduated in psychology and continues to explain how the test changes for the dining area, kitchen, and pastry: "The kitchen involves a precision test, a replication test, a creativity test, and a cooking test." And he continues: "We have found it works very well: as a rule, we always choose 50% men and 50% women, and fortunately, we have a good flow of resumes to be able to do that." But it doesn't end here, because theirs is a path designed to achieve maximum harmony and interaction, crucial when in a context like that of an island. In fact: "After this, when we go to arrange the staff housing, having obtained a broad social profile of the person we hire, we mix extroverted people with introverted ones. An introverted person who closes themselves at home to read comics, doesn't talk to anyone, and only comes out to go to work, after a while, explodes."

ristorante venissa 3
ristorante venissa 4

Also, in terms of kitchen organization, the situation is interesting: "The brigade doesn't exist, both as a term and organizationally. The moment someone speaks out against a colleague, they are addressed. Moreover, anything related to a gendered connotation has been eliminated." Francesco continues: "We are on an island; we all have to stick together a bit: we don't have a cinema or a library. Therefore, when we do something, we must fill it with meaning. It can't all stop at the plate: good, sour, bitter, crunchy. Many of us cook well, many even better than us, but here we have the moral obligation to make it clear to those who come that the kitchen is not a military thing made of 'yes, chef.'


Let's also say that we don't have sections, or rather they are divided in random disorder, there's rotation, roles are exchanged, and people don't get bored. The push to do something new and try to do it well is crucial. How do we have control over this? We periodically rotate two people per shift, during the menu change one person stays in one specific role as they excel in that particular task, another person arrives and teaches them, and the next time it will be him (or her) to move. Everyone is equal, but there will always be someone with more experience. Everyone has done everything and knows how every detail should be. And it's beautiful because if they're not sure, they taste things among themselves. Technically, Chiara and I could even be away as much as we want; there's control and counter-control."

Chiara Pavan Francesco Brutto 680x712 1

Chatting with Francesco, there is a clear perception that many people in the industry should visit Venissa to grasp the characteristics of a unique model from which to draw inspiration. Another example is the issue of service: "There's no adrenaline, what's the point of being stressed? Then, when the guys are done, they go home, what's the use of late-night debriefings? What kind of life would it be otherwise?". And finally, the matter of setting a good example: "We are in the process of formulating behavioral guidelines, without imposing but explaining the reason for what we do. Every year we hire people who use keywords like attention and care instead of creativity and experience. And it works. Just as if they have a good general culture about food, are open, curious, and have eaten a lot around: generally, with more taste experience, you cook better."

ristorante venissa 2

The kitchen 

And here comes the beauty because the kitchen at Venissa is one you don't forget. But above all, you find it only in Mazzorbo and nowhere else, such is the level of research and originality that derives from it. One could spend hours listening to Chiara and Francesco talk about invasive species, halophyte plants that have moved due to salt wedges (the infiltration of saltwater into rivers due to drought), callinectes sapidus, which is nothing other than the infamous blue crab, native to the western Atlantic and arrived in the Adriatic Sea transported in the ballast water of merchant ships, now widespread without control.

chiara pavan 2

It's truly a complex world, but what the two chefs do is, on one hand, communicate it, and on the other, translate it into gastronomic joy in dishes that are hard to forget. Garden salad, mayonnaise with lettuce juice, and rosemary oil, to start. Sunflower seed tartlet made with maltodextrin, cream of wild beetroot, and aromatic halophyte herbs (salsola soda, salsola Kali, salicornia, marine fennel), oyster mushrooms cultivated on compost, blanched, refrigerated, and fried, all accompanied by soy mayonnaise and mushroom oil; Parmigiano Reggiano to finish. Noteworthy are the empanadas with mussel ragout (mussel cream and mussel tartare with garlic, chili, and celery) and Adriatic oyster cream. The taste impact of anadara inaequivalvis, caulerpa, and red cabbage kimchi is wonderful, as well as fennel, cabbage, and pumpkin seeds.

venissa amuse bouche
venissa Chawanmushi di finocchio semi di zucca foglie di cavolo

The serra fish with fermented bell pepper and vineyard garlic, corn, smoked almonds, and smoked egg yolk is also delicious: at its base is a focaccia made from bluefish fat mixed with corn flour, fermented peppers, and chilies; the fish tartare is seasoned with fermented wine, garlic, and pelargonium (geranium), fermented yellow pepper cream, leaves of artiplex and samphire, smoked almonds, and marinated and grated egg yolk. The blue crab pancake with chili crab, served with the raw contents of a crustacean claw, is a pure delight. Now comes the moment of bread, made from sourdough with Piave wheat flour, amazing whipped butter, and noble milk curd.

venissa piatto 1
venissa pancake di granchio blu 2
venissa piatto 3

The turnips gnocchi with beetroot cream and reduced pomegranate juice, homemade goat ricotta, and dill are delicate. The remarkable chicory ravioli with artichoke stems, mushroom water, dog rose, and fish garum are intense. The tone remains high with celeriac and seaweed: marinated in Dorona grape and jujube miso, alternating with high-pressure cooked seaweed, glazed with seaweed juice, coffee kombucha, and fig vinegar. A taste masterpiece is the venous whelk with lagoon curry: a sea snail cooked inside its shell for about four hours and served on a skewer alternated with layers of mushroom and chicken heart.

venissa Rapana curry di laguna 1

It is then grilled and glazed with a sauce made from black walnuts, jujube miso, smoked oil, and a shoyu made with bread scraps inoculated instead of soy. It is accompanied by a parsley sauce and a highly reduced whelk and mushroom jus. A delicious laminated bread that rises directly inside the empty shell is served on the side. The taste is unusual, savory-earthy, transitioning from crispy to chewy; beautiful notes of umami and the refreshing, almost spicy sensation of parsley.

venissa Rapana curry di laguna 2

Another excellent dish is the tempeh pithivier with mushrooms, seaweed, and fermented turnip: a layered cake with chickpea tempeh cooked in mushroom broth; on the outside, encasing everything, there is soy milk skin (yuba), then mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, and a paste of black garlic and lentil miso. Roasted, it is served with black cabbage leaves, fermented red turnip, black cabbage juice, and vegetable waste jus. It ends, happily, with quince, preserved linden, and spices. An experience that deserves to be lived.

venissa piatto 2
venissa flan di mele cotogne


Venissa Restaurant 

Fondamenta di Santa Caterina, 3, 30142 Venice VE

Phone: 041 527 2281


Latest news

show all

We respect your Privacy.
We use cookies to ensure you an accurate experience and in line with your preferences.
With your consent, we use technical and third-party cookies that allow us to process some data, such as which pages are visited on our website.
To find out more about how we use this data, read the full disclosure.
By clicking the ‘Accept’ button, you consent to the use of cookies, or configure the different types.

Configure cookies Reject