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Tales of An American Gondolier

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At last we got in the boat for 2 days in a row.  The wind gods said no yesterday but by Friday, all had calmed down.  After a big pasta dinner on Thursday, Friday morning turned into a sausage, mozz and gorgonzola Frittata at the House.

We had some espresso on the way to the club and launched the boat.  She is 38 ft of asymmetrical beauty.  Problem is, she was rigged for racing from the week before with paioli that were rigged high and put the gunnels at shin height.  This made the Gondola very unstable, especially with Hayen, my proa man standing at 6’4!  The Casteo club is located on the back side of Venezia where we launch the boat in a small 10 x 50 protected area.  The channel out front of the club looks like a maelstrom with chop, waves and wind rolling through like a cat 5 rapid.  As we push out to cross the channel to the calm island of Vignole, the whole crew takes one stroke and crashes to the floor boards.  Its always a classic moment to watch each new crew come in with such confidence, from rowing the calm bay of Alamitos and hit huge chop and wind like this.  The average size boat steaming past is 50ft with some up to 100.  I do the standard and tell them all to sit down until we conquer the channel.   Once we get into the protected canals of the Island of Vignole, we regather and get the crew back in fighting position.  It starts to come together but we still have to work on changing the height of the paioli (floor boards.)

After some tuning and practice we roll into one of my favorite dining experiences in the world, Trattoria Vignole.  A giant outdoor seating area with picnic tables neath trellised arbors.  The buffet line is chocked full of seafood delicacies of octopus, sepia, sarde saor, scallops, branzino, etc,etc,etc.  we order an aquarium load of the stuff and put in an order for the best Seafood risotto in the entire lagoon.  Al Onde Venetian style that has a slight bit more liquid and oh so good!  After a feast of the Lagoon and a couple of liters of the local red stuff laced with sprite, the islands special spritz, We saunter back to row the boat back to the club.  Well,………we made it….nuff said.  We had a good chat with the crew of Casteo who agreed to adjust all floorboards by the next day and we headed back to the pad.

Tiziano met us there with bottles of red, Horsemeat salami and gorgonzola.  Of course he did.  We ate well while Colin stood at the window and sang opera to the people passing by below.  It was surreal.  After a bit of a wash down we headed out to a classic pizza joint canal side with gondolas passing by in droves.  Its actually a brewery and a pizzeria and we tested them on both claimed talents.  I had a bionde Venetian brew and and a salami pizza with a giant ball of Venetian ‘crack” (Buratta),) sitting proudly in the middle of the pizza. I laced it with spicy olive oil and ascended to Heaven.  On our way out we stopped at the bar downstairs to chat with the owner.  After a few rounds of Grappa shots and a long talk with the newest licensed gondolier! We stumbled next door to our home.  Ouch, awesome, tasty, full and satisfied, sunburned and sore best sums up the day!  Ciao for now!

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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