Local Flavor: Two Tastes of Venice at Da Flora

Meredith Brody
Hunters' special: duck livers alla veneziana.
Da Flora (701 Columbus at Filbert) has one of the coziest, most charming dining rooms in the city: deep-red walls with interesting art, big windows topped with old ship models, lighting from a Murano glass chandelier and hanging Fortuny lanterns. It's a fantasy of a Venetian ostaria.

Owner Flora Gaspar and executive chef Jen McMahon have perfected two must-order dishes that are just as charming: sweet potato gnocchi in sherry cream with bacon ($12.50) and duck livers alla veneziana ($24), described on the menu as "seared till rosy with onions, sage, and pancetta, over crisp polenta."

Meredith Brody
The gnocchi: Fat, bacon-kissed pillows.
 Both are fantasies on classic Venetian dishes. "The sweet potatoes are a substitute for zucca, Italian pumpkin, much more dense than American pumpkin, which is too watery," Gaspar told us. "In the fall, in Venice, they sell patate Americana, pale yellow yams, which gave me the idea. And in Venice, of course, they make fegato alla veneziana with veal liver. But there are paintings where you see gentlemen hunting ducks in the lagoon, in the marshy part, with bows and arrows -- there's one example in the top panel of a Carpaccio painting. And so of course they must have eaten the livers!"

The gnocchi are fat little pillows that absorb a touch of bacon-infused cream. The duck livers are suave, slightly gamey, cloaked in sweet onions, their yielding texture nicely contrasted by the crisp edges of the polenta and bits of smoky pancetta. If only pictures did them justice.

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