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Tales of An American Gondolier

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Standard 3 espresso start this morning in the house.  Raided the Fridge and a made a frittata from the scraps from last night’s dinner.  Sausage, pasta, tomato, gorgonzola and mozzarella.

Got the crew together to head to the boat yard to rig our Gondola for racing.  Easy Vaporetto to far side of Venezia to the San Elena stop.  Popped into the café in this little corner of Venezia for a tramezzini and birra piccolo.  The Casteo rowing club has been my home for quite a few years rowing many of their boats from Caorlina’s to Sandolo’s and even a Puparin!  We meet the grand president of the Rowing club on the way in.  Penzo is a great guy, with a gentle way about him that makes me always feel like a long time club member.  I actually am but only here for 7 days a year.  The standard Venetian club president kiss on each cheek and we are mounting forcola and remi on our beautiful red and blue Gondola.  It will match our flag nicely.  She’s a beauty and we are chomping at the bit to get out rowing, but a real hoot of a wind has popped up and the club shuts down.  Well, the boat is ready for a row tomorrow, so I give the boys a tour of the “other’ side of the Island on our way to the annual lunch at sweetheart of a Trattoria, “alla Rampa!”  I have been dining at this joint now for 35 years.  When I first walked in 35 years ago, Dad was the greeter/bartender and Mom was the cook.  There some rug rats running around aged about 10 or so.  The kids….. Well, those kids are now Fabio, the bartender and his Wife and sister the cooks.  A Generational change while nothing changes in the Trat.  Hugs and kisses like I have come home to my long-lost family.  Nothing like it!!!

Tonno e piselli, Fegato Veneziano and Frutti di mare.  A couple of liters of local red, a tiramisu and a grappa laced espresso.  One of my team members, an accomplished opera singer, gave a performance for the staff and customers that brought the 500-year-old house down so to speak.  Fabio the owner begged for the allowance to post on La Rampa’s Facebook page.  It made quite an impact in this little blue-collar joint.  On the way back down Via Garibaldi, we popped into the always entertaining Lucio at Giorgione’s where there was a private party going on with the man himself still singing.  I first wandered into his restaurant 35 years ago where he was up to the same antic.  He invited us in and we danced with the party, had a grappa and ran for our lives!

I stopped by the market and picked up some Seppia, polpo, Sarde Saor, and bread.  We filled up on our jug of wine from the local vender and came back to our canal side pad and ate, drank and watched the sunset over Venezia from our wide-open windows.  A balmy 75 degrees by the way.  Buona Notte!

The American Gondolier

Michael OToole – Founder

Michael OToole – Founder

Tales of an American Gondolier

My name is Michael O’Toole, founder of The 37 year-old business “The Gondola Getaway.”  It started as College project at U.S.C. and has turned into lifelong business and passion.  The business has taken me to Venezia, Italia over 45 times now.  I have had the opportunity to live, eat, drink and row in the Laguna di Venezia being guided by the most local of Venetians.  I have rowed and sailed over 1,000 miles through the lagoon on almost every type of Venetian boat, stayed or visited almost every Island in the lagoon, eaten and learned to cook every classic dish and made the closest of friends. I have been able to bring so much of my experiences back here to Naples Islands, Long Beach and be shared with all the Gondola Getaway customers and locals of Naples Islands and Alamitos bay.

This blog will share tales from my experiences from the Venetian lagoon and how they have shaped my life.  You will find recipes, traveling tips, techniques, comparisons, funny stories, sad stories.  All the stories will be a reflection of my life that has, is and will be a blend of Venezia and home here in Long Beach and Southern California.  This will be my own unique blend of cultures that I hope you will enjoy!  I sure have!!

Michelangelo Otolini

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