Roger L. Simon

Lost in Santa Croce: Steve Jobs, call your office; Rep. Cantor, call my agent

We were stranded in the middle of the sestiere San Polo without a clue where we were. If you’ve been to Venice, you will know what I mean – fantastic, picturesque little alleyways running off in every direction, and half of them dead ends. The other half stop at canals with no way across. Still, true foodies that we are, we had to go to the right place for lunch. We couldn’t go to just any hole in the wall, knowing that Venice was the only city in Italy with a reputation for bad food if you didn’t know where you were going.

Then I remembered: Il Refolo. It was in Santa Croce – the neighboring sestiere – and it was said to have the best pizza in Venice. We had a reservation the next night, but no matter – now was the time. But how to find? Easy. I whipped out my trusty iPhone 3GS and Googled Il Refolo. Up it popped. I hit “Get Directions” and up popped the maps app with a path from our current location to the restaurant. Seven minutes by foot, it said. Of course, there would be eighteen turns in that seven minutes, but not bad. Off we went, tracing each little path of 18 meters right and 23 meters left until we went through a tunnel that ended at a tiny canal with no boat landing, no nothing, just murky water. No restaurant and nowhere to go. I retraced our steps about five times. Was this like that driving GPS problem when you end up “recalculating” and circumnavigating entire cities because there’s a road block or construction not recorded in the system’s map? But nothing has changed in Venice since 1630. Well, almost nothing. Anyway, we went to the nearest square and asked directions. Sure enough, the restaurant was about fifty meters off, just around the corner from our dead end. But, sad to say, it was closed for lunch. We rested at one of their empty outdoor tables as about a half dozen people, all in pursuit of the perfect meal from some guidebook or other, showed up at the door in dismay. Closed. Some things you just can’t get on your iPhone. (Steve Jobs, call your office.)

We did have a great lunch, however, at a place just another fifty meters off – Ristorante Ponte del Megio. Typical Venetian fair – bigoli (whole wheat) pasta with sardines and onions, tagliolini with these tiny scampi still in their shells (heaven!) and grilled Saint Peter’s fish. It was better (and cheaper) than the fancy place we had gone the previous night. After that we stumbled on the rehearsal of a modern dress La Traviata at the Teatro La Fenice – much better than the stodgy production we saw a month or two ago in Los Angeles.

Now I’m back at the hotel, waiting for dinner (don’t ask – maybe I’ll jog there). But speaking of calling one’s office, I noticed that Lionel and my Poliwood interview with Eric Cantor is now on line at PJTV. If you watch it, I think you’ll agree that, besides being one of the brightest politicians around, Cantor is an exceptionally telegenic fellow. He speaks here (it’s Poliwood) about the need for conservatives to pay attention to The Left Coast and not just use it as a whipping boy. Wise words from the whip.