by: the Admiral
Venice is an absolutely beautiful city. I stepped off the water taxi in Venezia at San Marco Square and the first thing I saw was the photo on the left. The photo on the right is from the Venetian Hotel & Casino on my last trip to Las Vegas:
I’ll have to verify which was built first, but my suspicion is that Venice, Italy has ripped off this Las Vegas landmark and built an EXACT full scale replica of the St. Mark's bell tower from the Venetian Las Vegas. I started to have flashbacks of a recent trip to Las Vegas to visit my brother playing in the WSOP when I drank way too much on the plane and my first memory in Vegas was recovering from a waking blackout 5 hours into a poker tournament at the Venetian.
Then while continuing to my hotel I saw the Hard Rock Venezia…..
…….and had a flashback to my 2005 trip to Vegas. Anyway, after having these Vegas flashbacks to swell party times in Vegas and since the rest of my party fell asleep upon arrival in Venezia I decided it was a good idea to do a Venetian Bar Crawl.
I started at the Café Molinari where I had 3 tall Heinkens while watching the Italian National Basketball team play Finland. At first it looked like normal basketball. Their coach (pictured below, left) was like the Italian Pat Riley with his animated referee arguing and greased back hair. Although I must admit, greased back hair isn’t exactly uncommon in Italy.
They also had this guy with the Italian version of the Richard Hamilton face shield.
And shame on me for not snapping the photo in time, but they had a 5’9” version of Kurt Rambis complete with Italian Rec Specs. It was like the Mini-Me Kurt Rambis. Without the photo, below is the best Italian Rambis vs. U.S. Rambis comparative depiction I can offer.
After watching for a bit I realized this was not the PG County brand of basketball. Do you remember when the Harlem Globetrotters would play the Generals? This was the Generals vs. the Generals. Apparently to make the Italian National team the only qualifications are that you be over 5’7”, slow, Italian, and be one of the 12 people in the country that prefer basketball to soccer, Formula 1, bocce or skiing. Then I thought, I’m over 5’7”, I’m Italian, and I’m slow, I should join the Italian Basketball team.
Seriously; Airballs, bricks, errant passes, etc. PG County locals will have seen better basketball between middle schoolers at UP Drexel Park. I’m pretty sure even my Tunisian Crossover would have broken some ankles. The Tunisian crossover consists of only dribbling with my right hand, going at a leisured pace directly to the basket, and at some point during the slow, prolonged journey to the hoop I raise my head up from staring at the ball and momentarily look away from the hoop to my left.
Bacaro Jazz Bar
The Bacaro Jazz Bar is a combination of bars I’ve visited in New Orleans and Coyote Ugly, complete with dozens of bras strung from the ceiling. I asked for a draft of Hoegarden Beer and when he asked if I wanted the piccolo or grande I ordered the grande (large), not realizing I’d be receiving approximately two GALLONs of beer. My very photogenic barrel of Hoegarden is pictured below.
After 3 Molinari 16oz Heinkens, and a 256oz Hoegarden I got hungry. After two weeks of prosciutto, gnocchi, salami, formaggio, and other Italian foods I needed some regular drunken eats. I went with the “Chiken Wings with Mexican Sauce”.
I was okay with the C being missing from the word chiCken on the menu, but was utterly disappointed that the wings were not served with celery. As any god fearing, upstanding hot wing eater can tell you, celery serves as a coolant and is an essential part of the chicken wing experience and you should never eat wings without coolant.
Ristortante “Al Buso”
The Ristorante Al Buso was directly under the Rialto Bridge and I thought it was the perfect place to stop for another drink on my Venetian Bar Crawl adventure. The following interaction took place in Italian (English translation in bold red).
- Me: (Walk up to bar) Scusa mi mell barista, può ha per favore un grand'abbozzo di Heineken?
- Excuse me barkeep, can I please have a large Heineken draft?
- Barkeep: Lei non può prendere appena una birra. Lei deve prendere una tavola ed ordina alcuno cibo.
- You can’t just get a beer. You have to get a table and order some food.
- Me: Non sono spaventato.
- I am not scared.
- Barkeep: ……..… Che?
- ………………… What?
- Me: Penso che lei mi abbia sentito. Non sono spaventato. Sederò a quella tavola fuori da lì sotto il ponte. Portarmi le lasagne ed un Heineken disegnano.
- I think you heard me. I am not scared. I’ll be sitting at that table out there under the bridge. Bring me lasagna and a Heineken draft.
So even though I was full of Mexican Chiken Wings and an enormous amount of Hoegarden I was not going to let this barkeep put a damper on my Venetian Bar Crawl. I had a lively discussion with the two below gentlemen from Naples sitting next to me, and because my fluency in Italian dropped as my beer count rose there was a bit of confusion. It didn’t help that Jowls McGhee (on the right) was apparently stashing a slab of veal in each cheek. I still need to check my phrase book to confirm, but I think that I either accepted a job offer as a grape stomper from Jowls McGhee or I am betrothed to the hairiest daughter of Signori Orange Shirt on the left.
After enjoying the below pictured Heineken and forcing the lasagna to pile up on the chicken wings in my stomach I stopped by the bathroom to drain the beers.
When I stepped into the bathroom I was intrigued to see they had the famous toilet from the Godfather with the raised wooden tank where Michael Corleone retrieves the gun and walks out to execute Sollozzo and McCluskey.
I could hear Sonny Corleone’s voice in my head saying, “Hey, listen, I want somebody good – and I mean very good – to plant the gun. I don’t want my brother coming out of the toilet with just his dick in his hands, alright?” I almost reached into the tank to check for a gun, but after the pleasant conversation I had with Jowls McGhee and Signori Orange Shirt I didn’t feel right about executing them and slipping off into the quiet Venetian night. Plus, Michael had to flee to Sicily after the murder, and I had just driven from Rome to Tuscany to Venice and could not afford any more liters of diesel for my Renault 5008.
I only spent about 10 minutes at the Birreria Paulaner which consisted of watching some soccer, ordering a grappa, and then getting into a heated argument with the above pictured elderly couple from Boise, Idaho about whether grappa was an aperitif or digestif. I was almost certain it was the latter and with a panini, wings, lasagna, and a barrel of alcohol in my stomach I needed a digestif and could not afford to be wrong. The lady in the black dress pictured below sitting behind the old man settled the argument confirming it was indeed a digestif; I shouted, “IN THE FAAAAAAAAAACE!”, pounded my grappa and bolted out of there.
The oooooooooooooo Bar ooooooooooooooooo is where things go a little fuzzy. I ordered a Jack & Coke after having the following conversation with the bartender. My fluency in Italian at this point was buried somewhere in my subconscious hiding, not wanting to be the brain cells that expired permanently that night, so this conversation took place in English. My mumbling and stumbling were probably just as much at fault as the language barrier, but here is how it went down.
Me: Do you have Jim Beam?
Bartender: Yam Bing?
Bartender: Gamme Bayme?
Me: Bourbon. Jim Beam! Jim Beam with Coke.
Bartender: Ah yes. Coca-Cola. One Coca-Cola.
Me: No. no. no. JIM BEAM WITH COKE. BOURBON. WHISKEY! WHISKEY!!!
Bartender: Ahhh. Whiskey. Yack Daniels with Coca-Cola.
Me: Fine. Close enough. Give me a Yack Daniels with Coca-Cola.
Since DBSF was born as a blog about Society & Sport, I will mention that ski jumping was on the TV during this exchange. You know what’s insane. Ski jumping. There are three types; normal hill, large hill, and the third is actually called SKI-FLYING!! These guys ski down the ramp at 65mph, takeoff, jump distances of about 775 feet (2 and a half football fields) while falling 300 feet. Its basically skydiving without a parachute. Enough Eurosports coverage, back to the bar crawl.
Inishark Irish Pub
This picture of the Inishark Irish Pub was taken the following afternoon because I had to make a very quick exit from this place during my bar crawl. I ordered a Jameson on the rocks and while I waited 15 minutes for them to find the rocks (since no one uses ice in Italy) I was looking around at the stuff hanging on the walls. Looking at the photo now I realize that I was overreacting, but in my drunken haze I swore that the below rabbit face (left) was a dead ringer for Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko (right).
With sober eyes I can see that it wasn’t even close, but my drunk mind started racing and all I could hear in my head was Joy Divisions “Love will Tear Us Apart” playing while Frank the Rabbit is whispering in my ear, ”28 days... 6 hours... 42 minutes... 12 seconds. That... is when the world... will end.” I downed the Jameson and suddenly felt very claustrophobic at the Inishark and in the narrow Venetian alleyways where it was located.
I booked it down the winding confusing streets, howled at the full moon,
And felt much better when I got into the less constricting wide open St. Mark’s Square.
San Marco Square
When I saw it earlier in the afternoon it was a zoo with a mass of people. Its much quieter and calm at night. The square is huge and beautiful and flanked on one side by the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Mark’s Bell Tower in another corner. In the large square they have 4 separate orchestras set up on small stages in front of café tables with musicians playing accordions, violins, and other instruments. I sat down, grabbed a menu, and was happy to see that this was the one place in all of Italy that serves Jim Beam. It was 11.50 Euro ($15), but I didn’t care. With service charge and “music charge” my bill was actually 26.50 Euro ($34.71), but was totally worth it.
It was without a doubt, the fanciest Beam & Coke I ever consumed. It was served by gentlemen in white tuxedos and came on a silver tray with
1) white linen lining
2) a highball filled halfway with Jim Beam
3) a glass coke bottle
4) a blue blown glass drink stirrer
5) a silver napkin holder with cloth napkins
6) a bowl of mixed nuts with a fancy serving spoon
7) a bowl of ice
One tuxedo clad server walked up with tongs and put individual ice cubes into my glass of Beam until I waved him off, then his partner poured the Coke until I waved him off. Then when I pulled out a cigarette to smoke before enjoying the music and my cocktail another white tuxedoed server bolted across the piazza like OJ Simpson running through the airport in a Hertz Rent-A-Car commercial and lit my cigarette and placed a bejeweled ashtray on my table.
Night Club Antico Pignolo
Sufficiently done after a bar crawl that started around 5:30 p.m. and was now approaching 1:30 a.m. I tried to orient myself and find my hotel. I starting walking ever growing spirals centered on San Marco Square. By 1:55 a.m. I hadn’t found my hotel, but I did find a mosaic tile singing a siren song, pointing me to the Night Club Antico Pignolo, which translates to the Ancient Wine Grape Discoteque.
I could just imagine or make up what happened at the Discoteque and report it to you, but the Admiral stands for honesty and integrity so I can not. This is because I have no photos or recollection of what happened after I walked forward and to the left as the red arrow directed me to, so there will be no further details about the Antico Pignolo.
The next and final memory of my epic Venetian Bar Crawl was just before sunrise when the guy (pictured below) was yelling at me to wake up and get the hell out of his gondola (also pictured below). I apologized, handed him 50 Euro which seemed to appease him, and asked him how to get to the Hotel Splendid Venice. He laughed, and pointed the bow of his gondola to the building right across the bridge at the top of the photo. He said for 20 more Euro I could hop back in and he’d ride me the 12 meters to my hotel. I declined and walk of shamed it over to the bridge and snapped his photo as he sailed beneath me.
P.S. I mean no disrespect to the Self Service Cat & Bar Banera. The only proof I have that I attended either establishment was these two photos and receipts from 7:00 and 7:15pm. I’m sure good times were had at both places, so even without any details I feel they’ve earned their inclusion into Italia Trip Report #3 – Venetian Bar Crawl.