Too Bad I Don’t Smoke


I spotted it from five feet away. It was sitting on a low table, alongside a plastic Christmas mug and some costume jewelry.

“Oh my gosh, I found my treasure!” I crowed to my sister-in-law. She had just been wondering aloud who would find the best treasure that day at the flea market.

“Sssshhh!” she warned me. Oh yeah, if the seller knew how badly I wanted this ashtray, she might jack up the price.

“How much?” I asked the widely smiling woman as she looked up at me.

“One dollar.” IMG_0204

You bet I pulled out my bag of quarters as quickly as I could before she could change her mind or before some other Venetophile saw this vintage Harry’s Bar ashtray and swooped in to rip it from my hands!

I looked it up on the interwebs later and discovered a number of different versions of this ashtray on Pinterest–monochromatic, pale yellow, rose-colored, deep green, or aqua blue. I didn’t see another one quite like mine and am guessing that these ashtrays might have been individually hand-painted. I saw a few on eBay priced at 399 euros, around $477.

Apparently this ashtray was designed by Tarcisio Tosin, a ceramicist born in 1904 who studied at the Institute of Nouveau Art. His family moved to Verona in 1914, and Tarcisio worked in his father’s Cassandrini Ceramics Factory. He moved to Vicenza in 1928, designing at Fratelli Brotto, later named La Freccia. In 1950 he became President of the Artisan Association of Vicenza and worked until 1985, dying in 1999. If you know more about this ashtray, please write in and share your knowledge.


The painter’s signature, I presume. I saw this same one on other ashtrays posted on Pinterest and eBay.

I definitely scored the treasure of the day! But regardless of its value on eBay or elsewhere, I’m simply excited to have a vintage Harry’s Bar ashtray. Vintage Venetian ashtrays are a certain kind of collectible. My friends Bob and Norma have seven or eight of them from various traditional Venetian restaurants, which they received as gifts after their many trips to Venice. Few restaurants still make them, and fewer still will part with them. Back in the 90s I hung around a lot at Ai Promessi Sposi, the trattoria near Campo Santi Apostoli. I became friends with the owner and the chef, and they gifted me their ashtray. The restaurant has changed hands since then, so I have no idea if they still have any of their ashtrays.


Former owner Emiliano croons for me at Ai Promessi Sposi



About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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5 Responses to Too Bad I Don’t Smoke

  1. What a great find. It’s a great feeling getting something you really want (and so unique) so cheap.
    I picked up a vintage Harry’s Bar ABC of cocktails with an address book style index. Very cool – even more so for 39p which is what the inside cover reminds me I paid for it. A treasure trove of sophisticated ways to get drunk but, sadly no recipe for Dali’s Casanova cocktail from his Les Diners de Gala. For those readers obsessed with all things Casanova here’s the recipe in Dali’s own words.

    “The juice of 1 orange
    1 tablespoon bitters (Campari)
    1 teaspoon ginger
    4 tablespoons brandy
    2 tablespoons old brandy (Vielle Cure)
    1 pinch Cayenne pepper

    This is quite appropriate when circumstances such as exhaustion, overwork or simply excess of sobriety are calling for a pick-me-up.
    Here is a well-tested recipe to fit the bill.
    Let us stress another advantage of this particular pep-up concoction is that one doesn’t have to make the sour face that usually accompanies the absorption of a remedy.
    At the bottom of a glass, combine pepper and ginger. Pour the bitters on top, then brandy and “Vielle Cure.” Refrigerate or even put in the freezer.
    Thirty minutes later, remove from the freezer and stir the juice of the orange into the chilled glass.
    Drink… and wait for the effect.
    It is rather speedy.”

    The ashtray, btw, could maybe make a stylish olive dish to accompany the cocktail?

  2. Aha! Olives instead of cigarette butts! Brilliant fix. And now we have something to drink with our olives. Mr. Seductive Venice likes mixing up new concoctions, so I’ll put him to this task.
    Btw, Florian caffee has a Casanova hot chocolate that has mint in it. C never mentions adding mint to his chocolate…

    • Flavoring hot chocolate with liquors was fashionable when Casanova visited Caffé Florian. They still use menta =mint liquor to flavor their hot drinks in summer. It was fashionable in Venice in the 18th century to use lots of herbs, spices and blossoms to prepare drinks of all kinds. They also used rose liquor to flavor cioccolata year long, and in winter, cardamom and cinnamon and even turmeric ❤.

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