I’m not at all averse to change, yet I do find it comforting to know that some favourite things don’t necessarily shapeshift when you turn your back for a while. When I was an intern in Venice, on a poor intern’s wage, my colleagues and I had a little black book of great places to eat that were cheaper than the cost of dining in. Al Profeta was one of our favourites. I decided to risk Monsieur’s Bad Pizza Wrath by taking him there for a slice of Venetian pie.
Following the main route between the Accademia Gallery and San Barnaba, take the first calle on the left immediately on entering San Barnaba’s square. Keep walking and part-way down on the left hand side you’ll find an old fashioned lantern hanging above the entry to Al Profeta.
As we avoided the main door, heading instead down the back to the vine-covered terrace that bears witness to many fond memories of balmy evenings with now- far-flung friends, Monsieur looked dubious. “Are you sure this place does good pizza?” I wasn’t, at least, not anymore. “It’s been a long time, but they used to do the best.” We took our seats, reading the menu with intent. We’re somewhat fussy about pizza; Monsieur especially so. It must sport the best of thin crusts and be topped with fresh, top quality ingredients, or he simply won’t bother. I noted with chagrin that the three hundred and something pizza varieties that once graced Al Profeta’s menu had been whittled down somewhat, but there was still plenty of choice.
The waiter returned to take our order. It was time to take the plunge.
In our sunny, sheltered corner of a springtime Serenissima, we could only drink beer. Two large glasses of chilled König Ludwig came our way.
Next to appear at our table was a plate of fresh prosciutto crudo, topped with a segmented ball of mozzarella, fresh from its bowl of milky water. Monsieur and I shared this plate in the hope that we’d have plenty of vacant space available for inhabitation by forthcoming pizzas. We wrestled with cutlery, stabbing each other’s wrists and fingers with our forks in the attempt to win more ham. No, seriously, we’re not THAT obsessed with food. Monsieur and I played nicely, which may surprise some, considering that the prosciutto was paper-thin with a big porcine character and the mozzarella so very Italian in taste and crumbly creaminess. You could almost taste the farmyard in the best possible of ways.
Ah, now. Pizza time. Whatever would I have? In the olden days of interning, I would usually opt for a variety known affectionately as Ciribiri. My friends and I would chant this word with excitement, all the way to al Profeta. CHEEREEBEEREE CHEEREEBEEREE! It was a concoction unique to this Venetian pizzeria – tomato-smothered base topped with wilted spinach – perfectly seasoned, and generous handfuls of fresh ricotta crumbled across the top.
The Ciribiri is sadly a casualty of Father Time and menu re-writing, but with a pinch of hope flickering away in my overly-nostalgic brain, I asked the waiter for it anyway. “Ciribiri?” he repeated with quizzical face, “No, we don’t have the Ciribiri now. Ma, di mi, how is it made and we will make it for you.” I could have kissed him for his kindness. Bless his big Venetian heart.
In actuality, I amended the Ciribiri a bit, asking for tomato base, fresh spinach, mozzarella di bufala (the starter’s mozzarella had been too good and the glutton in me demanded MORE) and onions. Before it was demolished by a certain starving Kiwi lass, it looked like this:
It. Was. Superb. Between mouthfuls, I felt waves of relief. If my pizza could be so perfect with it’s incredibly parchment-like crust and ingredients so fresh they may have been run across on demand from the Tiozzos’ vege barge at San Barnaba, then my reputation as pizza provider was surely safe. Looking across at a particularly quiet Monsieur, I could see that I was right; he was so happy in the eating of his Venetian pizza (a Quattro Stagioni) that his laughing gear was fully employed in the act of contented mastication, no words possible, nor required.
And, so, to the verdict. Had Al Profeta remained the best pizzeria in Venice, after all these years? For me, undoubtably yes. We’d only be in Venice for a few days on this occasion, so we could hardly run a full comparison of all of Al Profeta’s competition in this fair city but, in my opinion, she’d be hard to beat. As for Monsieur, he’s still talking about it. “It’s the best pizza I’ve had in a long time,” he says. Repeatedly. I can tell you one thing: if we ever go back to Venice together, Monsieur won’t be there for the art or history, the vistas or the churches; he’ll be there for the pizza. Al Profeta pizza. Long may it last.
Address: Sestiere Dorsoduro 2671, 30123 Venice (to get there, follow the directions at the beginning of this post; Venetian addresses are a bit tricky)
Tel: +39 (0)415 237 466
You can find Al Profeta on Facebook – search for Pizzeria Ristorante Al Profeta.