Last summer I met Patrizia, who was working at the time as a barista at Caffe Frari. I was staying nearby and went in most days, and she always chatted with me and my friends. She’s super friendly, and we got into conversations about such things as the cats of Venice. After a few days of this, while we spoke I noticed her necklace: the Indian god Ganesh, the dancing elephant. Like a bolt, I suddenly realized that I knew Patrizia from years ago.
“I know you!” I exclaimed. “You used to own Ganesh Ji!” It’s an Indian restaurant in Venice, tucked away in a back neighborhood but well worth finding. I remembered that when she was working there during Carnevale, Patrizia served everyone while wearing a Ganesh hat.
“Yes, yes!” she replied. “But running the restaurant is too much work. I am happy to work here and make the coffee.”
Patrizia explained to my friends and me that she is the great-great-(etc.)-granddaughter of the last doge of Venice, Ludovico Manin. This is on her mother’s side, so her father’s last name doesn’t give away the secret. He was a farmer and married into a social class above his. Ludovico Manin was the 120th doge and reigned from 1789 until his abdication in 1797, when Napoleon’s forces stomped into Venice and scared the crud out of the senators and doge.
I had wanted to blog about this all year but then thought I should ask Patrizia’s permission first. So this summer I went back to Caffe Frari and saw that it was being nearly gutted and remodeled. I returned a couple times until I saw that it had reopened. Sadly, the entirely new staff didn’t know anything about Patrizia’s whereabouts. She’s always so open and effusive and unabashed and public, so I’m hoping she won’t mind that I’m sharing this (and not publishing her last name just in case).
Here’s what the caffe looks like nowadays:
Gorgeous, right? Stop in for excellent coffee and atmosphere and check out the cool cat-eating-a-rat logo, even if you don’t get to meet the granddaughter of the doge.