I had never been so surprised as when my family and I stumbled upon this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant right off of the Grand Canal called Alla Madonna. We almost missed it to, there is just a little yellow sign directing people down this long dark alley. Yes, some may think that it would not be in someone's best interest to venture down strange dark places however without any adventure there will never be any surprises and let me tell you this is one fantastic restaurant that you will never want to miss.
Just walking through the door there is this overwhelming sense of happiness from everyone that works there. The staff is entirely made up of male servers that all have a wonderful sense of humor. I swear there is even one guy there that looks like a slightly chubby version of Kramer from Seinfeld. I have to say, I liked him the best.
Now getting to the best part, the food is beyond belief. If you only eat at one restaurant while you stay at Venice, this should definitely be the one that will make you want to come back again. My family and I always ask locals where they would go if they wanted to have a good dinner, we do not like going to touristy spots, we would rather eat authentic food from the places we go to. Alla Madonna was just that! There is an amazing assortment of authentic food, the restaurant does not cater to the 'what tourists expect' phenomenon that seems to be all the restaurants along the Grand Canal think about.
The soft shell crab is one of the best I have ever had and they are not skimpy at all with the serving amounts. Every course seems like an entire meal and they do not mind you spending hours relaxing over a glass of wine and their amazing food, in fact they more than encourage it. The fragioli (noodles and beans) is the best I have ever had in Italy too! They really do have a knack for making the flavors come out in their food without having to use a great deal of spices. Better yet they are situated within a couple blocks of the fish and produce market (opened daily except on Mondays) so you know that you are only getting fresh ingredients.
On our last trip we even discovered a drink that the waiters at the restaurant encouraged us to try (and gave to us for free). It was an alcoholic drink made up of a dash of vodka mixed in with lemon sorbet. They called the drink a Scorpini and I have never been able to find it anywhere else in my travels through Italy. It seems all well and simple to make but after years of making the drink they must have perfected it because I have not been able to duplicate the exact flavor yet.
All-in-all this is definitely a can't miss restaurant in my book and I would strongly recommend checking it out if you are ever in Venice.