Schnitzel by the sea
On The Waterfront Café brings genuine Alpine flavors to the Venice boardwalk
By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)
When the temperature soars and even outdoor spaces feel stuffy, I head for beachside restaurants. Not because it’s measurably more temperate than a comparable establishment a few blocks away, but because the view of the ocean is so refreshing that it feels ten degrees cooler. On a recent balmy evening we watched the sunset from a place that had all the hallmarks of the Venice lifestyle: skaters and cyclists whizzing by street vendors who were putting away their merchandise, a gorgeous sunset silhouetting the palms, the gentle sounds of the ocean waves beneath conversations in German…
Yes, German, because we were at On The Waterfront Café, which serves Swiss and German food alongside more conventional offerings. The beachside bar offers a selection of German beers, and on the evening we were there about half the people we overheard were chatting in that language. We could tell that they weren’t all tourists, as many received hellos and hugs from our cheerful server.
We started our meal with onion rings, which aren’t a particularly popular item in the Alps, and a cervelat sausage salad, which is. Cervelat is a mild sausage traditionally made with a mix of finely ground pork, bacon and beef, and it’s the national sausage of Switzerland. (This is a part of the world where countries do indeed have national sausages.) The salad combines grilled cervelat with Swiss cheese, onions and pickles in a mild dressing with a dash of mustard — there was lettuce and tomato on the side, but they were garnish. There was more meat and cheese than vegetables by volume, but it was a refreshing, cool salad with sharp flavors courtesy of the onion and pickle.
The onion rings were pretty standard by comparison, crisp and hot and served with ranch dressing. We could have stayed with the alpine theme by having a raclette fondue or giant Bavarian pretzel baked to order, but some days the craving for fresh onion rings is too powerful to resist. They did go nicely with the Bitburger lager and hard cider that we ordered, which was most important.
For main courses we selected pork schnitzel, a traditional dish, and rösti topped with chicken curry, an item popular in Switzerland but little known here. You’ve had something very much like rösti before — we call it hashed browns. The Swiss fry their shredded potatoes in butter for crispness, sometimes topping with bacon, cheese or various gravies. The potatoes in this version weren’t as crisp as many I’ve had, but the delicious curry more than made up for it. It was a Germanic curry, mild without a hint of heat, but flavorful with chunks of chicken, honeydew melon and cantaloupe. The sweet melon with chicken in mild sauce was a standout, and it’s an idea I’m going to steal for home use.
The schnitzel was true to form, tender though a little on the thick side compared to the ones I’ve had in Europe that are pounded thin for tenderness. The fries that came with it were standard, obviously freezer to fryer fare —next time I’d get a salad, which was the other option. Whichever you get, pair with a mug of Köstritzer, a fine food beer with toasty and berry flavors.
The final item we tried, and the best of the meal, was homemade apple strudel with vanilla sauce — the latter on the side out of concern it might be too sweet. It wasn’t, but that was still a good move, because we could dip strudel in the sauce without destroying the delicate crispness of the pastry. This strudel was the real thing — the apples not overcooked, raisins rather than sugar adding some sweetness. Even if I eat elsewhere while in this neighborhood, I’m likely to come back here for dessert.
Beachfront property isn’t cheap, and neither is On The Waterfront: Appetizers and dinner for two with two beers and two ciders ran $90. It will be worth it for many people, though. Where else can you enjoy Alpine food while barely above sea level?
On The Waterfront is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. Beer and wine only, with no outside wine allowed. Wheelchair access good to most areas. Some vegetarian options. Park in the rear, on the street or in a nearby lot. Menu online.
On The Waterfront Café , 205 Ocean Front Walk, Venice (310) 392-0322, waterfrontcafe.com