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Tales of An American Gondolier

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TEAM USA Vogalonga 2019 Day 1

TEAM USA Vogalonga 2019

Landing in Venezia at Marco Polo always feels like arriving home.  It has become my second home in my heart.  Though my stay is usually just a week, I have been doing it for more than 35 years, with some years having multiple visits.  We just landed, and the old familiar feeling encompassed my whole body.  It’s like the brain switches over to the Venetian world of water, boats, food and friends.  California has left the room and the taste buds, vision and smells go into the Laguna di Venezia mode.  This year we are a team of four for the Vogalonga and it’s a hell of a team.  The three young guys I have trained and brought this year are bright eyed and bushy tailed.  Respective of the journey, young and strong for the row and eager to suck in every ounce experience of what will be offered.  I offer a lot to a neophyte in Venezia, for my years of travel have enabled me to find the best, the oldest, the traditional, and the uniqueness that Venezia has to offer.

I stay at a different location every year so as to uncover and discover the nooks and crannies of this Water empire!  Sometimes the house is picked because of its out of bounds location, its kitchen, or its proximity to a rowing club.  This year the apartment was chosen because of its centrality to old favorite food, drink and Oars.  In our first day we tasted and talked our way through most of the places I picked our location for.  Bar Toleta- home to some of the best tramezzini in Venezia. Corner Pub- best panini with the most gracious proprietor and a couple of the best tables in the world that overlook a canal deep in the Dorsoduro district.  The table offers a view that makes you feel as though you are floating on top of the canal and has a light breeze that saunters in with a salty perfume of a 1000-year-old history that feels like home! Al Profeta- A pizzeria I have been coming to for 35 years that serves up a pizza called the Gregory Speck!  Beautiful Tyrolian Speck and Gorgonzola!  Honestly, I have tried to order something different, but to absolutely no success.  The best little oar house in Venezia, (Saverio’s oar and forcola shop.)  This is where I have bought all my Remi and Forcole for the Gondola Getaway for the past 35 years.  He has become a good friend. Each year I walk into his shop, it feels like I was there the day before.  Santa Margerita Square- An old haunt of bustling activity that oozes spritz, gelato, prosciutto and Prosecco.  We soaked in every inch of it!

We landed at noon and by 10 pm we had captured all of this in a meandering sort of way.  Holy Moly, what a half of a day.  I write this as I sit canal side in the apartment, drinking a freshly made espresso in our own kitchen.  What will this day bring?  Much more of the same, getting “drunk” on Venezia.  Not in an Alcohol sort of way, but a sensory overload way. I smell pasta, fish and Campari in our future!  Ciao for now from Dorsoduro, Venezia.

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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