Response to Erla: Finding Venice Everywhere
Recently, Erla Zwingle, whose blog I read, posted about people in various places around the world naming establishments after Venice. We’ve got a few in the Bay Area, including a Venice Pizza, a Cafe Venice in the Mission District, and if you want to push it, the San Marco coffee shop in Calistoga (complete with lions, which I took a picture of for my school, which is also named for the same saint and has the same mascot, too). But by far, the winner for the area should be Caffé Venezia in Berkeley. It should because it includes underwear and pigeons.
The restauraunt is on University Avenue and has been there for 30 years. The front corner provides a caffé atmosphere with little tables and plush chairs to relax/wait for a table/drink wine/drink coffee at. The rest of the restaurant, however, recreates a small paved campo, as though we are at a posh restaurante and are eating al fresco on our little metal chairs, and may pay extra just to sit there for the musicians who will inevitably perform.
Apparently this isn’t far from the truth as they have a prix fixe menu for Opera Nights when, guess who, opera singers come to perform.
The owners and artists clearly had too much fun with trompe l’oeil and saw fit to include some food shops in the rear corner.
If the trompe l’oeil wasn’t enough, the restaurant could make do with the large fountain in the middle of the dining area. We thought it should have been a water well, not remembering many actual fountains in Venice, but it was quite pleasant nonetheless.
Seeking to add a little more realism, the restauranteurs saw fit to include a lovely line of laundry strung from one balcony to another. Apparently it was a delicates wash day – the laundry is mostly shirts and ladies underwear, including a lace teddy.
To seek yet more of an effect, there are also pigeons who have come to roost. Thankfully, they are fake pigeons and are too adorable to ever be real. There were a lot of them scattered across the restaurant. However, they did include a pigeon roost so we can all be satisfied on where the darn birds live.
To add some sense of place to the mise en scene, one corner has a little glimpse of the Campanile di San Marco, which one diner thought was the UC Berkeley Campanile, Sather Tower. Uh… no. Sorry. Doesn’t even look similar. Other than it being a bell tower, of course. Cute idea though!
The ladies’ room was equally appointed. No fun with trompe l’oeil in the privvies, but pretty illustrations of Commedia dell’Arte characters abounded, including this lovely Arlechinna/Columbina. It reminded me of senior year drama in high school with our drama teacher who was obsessed with commedia. I liked but never got to play Columbina. I always got cast as one of the lovers, the Innamorati.
Strangely, though, there was a map on the wall outside the restrooms that was not of Venice but of Genoa. My fiancé, whose mother is Genovese-American, called it “interesting” in a way that said “but of course!”
But, to top it all off, there was a poster that was just for Erla: Venetian boats. Unfortunately with my iPhone in the narrow hallway I couldn’t get it all in. It was massive and had many boats from caorline to disdotone.
Oh, and the food was good too. Okay, really good. A little pricey, but super delicious and well worth the visit. I guess it’s the price for having clean underwear above your head and pigeons that won’t land on your table as soon as you get up.