I discovered Domenico’s restaurant in my first week in Venice when I joined the director of La Scuola for lunch by the studio one day. From the moment I walked into the restaurant, the atmosphere was warm, welcoming, and inviting, filled with laughter and debates from with what seemed like characters plucked directly from a Fellini movie. As lunch progressed, I knew I had to interview the surrounding people for my portrait series.
After lunch, Domenico, the servers, and their friends kindly set aside their work and allowed me to photograph and interview them. I ended up staying for over two hours as their various friends stopped by and we chatted in my slowly-improving-Italian. By the time I made it back to the studio, I was mildly brillo from the flowing prosecco on tap, but had felt like I found a hidden gem here in Venice.
Domenico, the restaurant owner and chef, prides himself on keeping his restaurant authentic in terms of both food and people. Ingredients are fresh, food is home-made, and the atmosphere feels like a local neighborhood spot. Domenico’s restaurant became our go-to place for lunch, and the other resident artists and I habitually dined there every Thursday, where we indulged in their lunch special – 10 euros for a meal, prosecco, and coffee.
The servers quickly became my friends, and graciously allowed me to pester them with questions in my broken Italian. Luca, one of the head servers who was born and raised in Venice, always has a smile on face, despite the long hours he works. Sergio, a local Venetian, has been coming here weekly for 5 years, and always stops by for a chat and a prosecco.
These portraits are especially significant to me because their process drove me to find my Italian community in Venice. I developed relationships with people who I would never have even approached had I not been creating this series. When I walked down the streets of the Cannaregio sestiere (neighborhood), I recognized faces and faces recognized me.
If you ever find yourself in Venice, Domenico’s restaurant is a must.
Here are some photos of the moment I presented the finished portraits to Domenico and Luca. Emotions seemed to border between flattery and feeling mildly uncomfortable, but overall, I think they were a success. Lunch that day ensued in tasting far too many drinks for 1pm, including limoncrema, meloncello, prosecco, wine, and grappa.