Should a day come that is
my last full day of my last-ever trip to Europe, I want to enjoy my last lunch
and my parting dinner (as well as my final
cocktail) nowhere else but at Harry's Bar in Venice. Although I own
Internaire, the holding company of
American Farm to Table Restaurant Guide, there is no eating and drinking establishment in the
world I more thoroughly enjoy than Harry's Bar.
On the back cover of The Harry's Bar Cookbook,
there's a quotation of the answer to a rather basic question put to the late
Baron Philippe de Rothschild by Harper's Bazaar Magazine. When asked to
name what he considered the best restaurant in the world, he humbly replied, "I cannot say, for the simple reason that I haven't had the chance
to try them all. I can tell you one thing, though. There is one
restaurant in the world where I always feel at home: Harry's Bar in Venice."
While I do not have the finesse and sophistication of this man, Baron Philippe expressed my exact sentiments—and certainly the sentiments of many other
Harry's Bar devotees as well.
Venice is the one city in the world where I know
where I'll always be for dinner—and likely lunch as well: Harry's Bar. After
purchasing a plane ticket (fortunately for New Yorkers, Delta still flies
nonstop from JFK to Venice), the next task on my trip "to do" list is to secure
dinner reservations at Harry's Bar for every
evening I'll be there. As for lunch I have yet to make a reservation for
the simple reason that I always go very early (between 12 noon and never any
later than 12:30) and always eat more simply: usually just a
Bellini or Vodka
Roger and one of their fabulous sandwiches, either the chicken sandwich or the
grilled club. Because the main lunch crowd hasn't yet arrived, I have
always been able to have my lunch downstairs, which for me is the best place to
far more flavorful than any scampi I've had in the USA.
I also urge you not to pass up the roast chicken "Cipriani" if it's on the menu.
You'll be amazed how much more delicious a good European chicken
is than the vast majority of chicken served in America.
For dinner, I usually arrive sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. wearing a jacket and tie
(but if it's hot, I don't hesitate to dispense with the tie).
On occasion I'll order a drink at the bar counter before being seated, or I'll allow the staff to seat me
first. Once at my table, I must decide just how hungry I am. If I'm
very hungry, I'll order an appetizer, a half plate of pasta, a main course and
a dessert. If I'm moderately hungry, I'll skip the pasta.
As for what to order for the main course, I have always recommended the scampi dishes – especially
the Scampi Amoricaine – because the scampi at Harry's Bar are of the very highest quality
For dessert, you can't go wrong with one of the excellent cakes. My two
favorites are the vanilla meringue and the chocolate cake. And since the
various cakes and tarts are brought tableside for you to examine, you'll have ample time to decide for
After leaving Harry's Bar (I'll sometimes order coffee, but never have an after-dinner cocktail) I like to go
for a long brisk walk. And no matter where I go, I always end up at
the same destination: Harry's Bar! No more food this time,
just drink! The second evening visit is often the most fun of all, for no other reason than the
downstairs bar is undoubtedly
one of the world's best people-watching and people-meeting venues anywhere on
earth. And not just Americans gather there. People from
all over the world come to Harry's Bar.
But all the fun must stop sometime, which is usually not long after the bar
closes at 11:00 p.m. When walking home, I (and no doubt others who've been
drinking) again appreciate the fact that Venice has no cars, so no one
ever gets a DUI in this city. Because both of the hotels where I like
to stay (the Europa & Regina and the Danieli) are nearby, I have no fears about
making it back safely.
I must close by commenting on a widely-reported fact about Harry's Bar: the high
prices...and yes, at times the astronomically high prices. I'm sure that
one reason they're kept so high is because they provide a much-needed barrier
between those who truly appreciate Harry's Bar and those who simply wander in
because they read about the place in some tourist guidebook. If the prices weren't
very high, the place would no doubt be constantly overrun by hoards of thoughtless tourists. That said, please
be assured that what the price levels are not intended to be is a barrier between the
rich and those of more modest means. If your budget is tight and you want
to eat at Harry's Bar, go during lunch and just order a drink and a sandwich.
As for me, I have always returned from Venice happy. And any regrets I may
harbor about the significant damage done to my American Express card at Harry's
Bar are overshadowed by my
deep desire to return soon – very soon – to Venice and to Harry's Bar.
Maurice Graham Henry