In this post I will share some considerations and advice about eating and drinking in Venice. The idea arose because often people ask me for recommendations on where they should go and, honestly, I find it difficult to answer straight away because it depends on way too many factors like budget, personal taste, preferences, number of people and location, just to name a few.
I'll begin by saying that the contemporary Venice food scene has really improved a lot and, although the biggest focus concerns gourmet experiences, it is not necessary to be rich to enjoy a nice meal. On average, a meal in a restaurant ranges from 25 to 40 euros per person and it is generally cheaper to eat in Venice than on the islands (sounds strange? well, it's true). Those who panic the most are the day trippers in the Saint Mark's area around lunch time (in the evening Piazza San Marco is empty) who often, not knowing where to stop and fearing being ripped off, end up eating a sad pasta from a paper box in the street or on a bridge, so I'll begin by advising those people to consider other options.
Saint Mark's at lunchtime for day trippers
I understand that the budget is low, most people want to spend around 10 euros and I have to tell you that there aren't any good restaurants at that price, so what you could do is plan ahead, have a big breakfast and replace lunch with a quick sweet or savoury snack. For example, I often have a tramezzino manzo senape (beef and mustard sandwich) at Birreria Forst in Calle delle Rasse, or a pizzetta (standing) at the tiny pastry shop Bonifacio in Calle deli Albanesi. If you are wrecked and need to sit down consider L'Ombra del Leone for a sandwich or a salad; I come here mostly for the location and have never eaten at the restaurant which is quite pricey, but for a salad or a snack and a beer you'll spend around 15 euros and I think that the view alone is worth a stop, while if you just have coffee and a sweet treat you will spend even less! I sometimes also go to Rosa Salva in Calle Fiubera, a pastry shop with no table service where from 11:30 to about 2 pm it's possible to have a hot meal like a rice salad, a pasta, veg, etc. (which range from 6 to 8 euros) or snacks like tramezzini and pizzette.
Venice for those who have time...
For those who, instead, have more time to explore the city or live here, these are some of the places I usually go to. Please consider that I tend to spend less and prefer lighter options for lunch and to commit pure sin at dinner time.
For a light lunch my favourite eateries (not restaurants) on the left side of the Grand Canal (thus San Polo, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce) are definitely Adriatico Mar and Cantina Arnaldi, which by the way are separated only by the Vinanti bridge. In both places it's possible to enjoy a glass of good quality wine with a nibble, a salad, cheese and cold cuts and, on average, for one dish and a glass of wine you spend around 15 euros. I'm also quite fond of Caco Nero, where I go either for a warm dish or simply for a cup of tea and a piece of homemade cake and Ca' Fujiyama, a lovely tea house and eatery with a wide selection of teas and lunch options for vegetarians and vegans. Another great place is Al Prosecco in campo San Giacomo dell' Orio, the owners of which go around the Veneto on their motorbike to provide their clients with the tastiest regional cheese and cured meats ever! Here too, the value for money is excellent. In the same area I also like La Rivetta, a real old style family run place where I usually have a small plate of Parma ham with a half boiled egg and an ombra or a salad.
While when I go to the so-called triangle of museums I usually stop at Ai Cugnai, a more traditional restaurant with simple and fresh local food and a very friendly atmosphere.
On the right side of the Grand Canal (Cannaregio, Castello, San Marco) I like the Ai Crociferi cafeteria, hosted inside an ex convent in Campo dei Gesuiti, perfect for a toasted sandwich, a salad (the vegan one with grilled aubergines is delicious) or teas and coffees with a sweet treat. I am a big fan of the bacaro (not the restaurant, just the bar) of Fiore Piccolo in Calle delle Botteghe in Campo Santo Stefano, where it's possible to savour an array of cicchetti like grilled squid, fritters, baccalà and so on. In Castello I recommend Caffé La Serra for toasted sandwiches and tea, a beautiful greenhouse with a garden, perfect to relax.
I'll admit that Venice lacks in pastry shops where you can sit down, in fact in most places people drink their espresso and enjoy a quick treat standing and, maybe because of my Irish origins and my passion for cafeterias and afternoon tea, I suffer a bit for this. Anyway, I have managed to find my way around and, in addition to the above mentioned Ca Fujiyama, Caco Nero and La Serra, I often go to the Ca' Pesaro museum cafeteria, where you can enter without paying the exhibition ticket (don't worry) and is perfect for a coffee with a view (it overlooks the Grand Canal); sometimes I also go to Caffé del Doge in a side calle of Ruga Rialto or to Caffè Vergnano in Erbaria, a really fantastic location, both in summer when you can sit outside in the terrace that faces the Grand Canal and in winter, in the stunning upstair room with a red brick wall and a vaulted ceiling.
Dinner opens a never ending list of possibilities, so I'll begin by saying that I don't mind spending more if the food is worth it. Still, I can't always afford a fancy Michelin star dinner, so when I'm on a budget I go to Africa Experience in Calle Lunga San Barnaba, which -as the name suggests- is an ethnic restaurant, or for a pizza at Ai Tosi Piccoli in deep Castello, a new favourite this year is La Tecia Vegana, vegan restaurant located in Santa Marta, thus not anywhere close to the centre, extremely easy going, let's say that one doesn't go there for the furniture...but the food is damn good and the prices dirt cheap!
When I'm ready to spend a bit more still without going bankrupt, with regard to fish my top 6 are definitely Trattoria da Bepi già 54, traditional old style restaurant, Osteria Alla Frasca, with a cosy and warm location, a wonderful owner and an amazingly talented young Sicilian chef, Trattoria da Jonny in Campo delle Gatte in Castello, a family friendly restaurant with a well selected list of wines and dishes that are at the same time beautiful, generous and delicious, Osteria Trefanti, a tiny restaurant in Rio Marin, with two passionate managers, one totally focused on food while the other knowledgeable about wine, Anice Stellato, a wonderful and refined restaurant in Cannaregio where every dish is carefully thought by the chef, and al Co Vino, a small and very intimate slow food bistrot totally focused on ingredients and wine.
When there is a really special occasion and, yes, I am ready to wash the dishes after my dinner, for a traditional meal I love Alle Testiere and Le Antiche Carampane, while if I want something more contemporary I would recommend Al Ridotto, Riviera and Il Local.
Some people are really into sweets and, although Venice is not particularly famous for its desserts, there are some quintessential (not necessarily traditional, but still delicious!) experiences one must have and these are: the salty pistachio and dark chocolate ice-cream at Da Suso in Sotoportico della Bissa; the croissants with pistachio at Pasticceria Pitteri; a slice of any cake at Vizi e Virtù (my favourite, the Tenerina, a super soft chocolate cake originally from Ferrara); and the pastries both at Pasticceria Dal Mas (do try their tiramisù!), close to the train station, and Pasticceria Rizzardini, in Campiello dei Meloni in San Polo. If you want to bring home something sweet from Venice, a good idea is to buy a tinned can of Baicoli (super dry biscuit typically used to dip mascarpone and mustard) or Buranei biscuits (the s-shaped buttery biscuits from the island of Burano).
For obvious reasons of space and time, the above suggestion cannot include all the places I love, but I hope it can be considered a good starting point and that it can be of some help!
Talk to you soon!
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