Finding an authentic Venetian restaurant is sometimes difficult; of all the cities in Italy, Venice is the only one that regularly serves bad food. In Italy, a bad restaurant doesn’t last long, because everyone knows what a traditional dish is supposed to taste like. If you can’t hack it, you’re out of business… fast. The Veneto region is the origin of many of Italy’s most iconic culinary ingredients and dishes, from Asiago cheese and Prosecco sparkling wine to risotto and tiramisu. And when you find the right restaurant, the meal can be truly great. But Venice is a complicated city, from the winding alleyways and streets to the beautiful palaces sinking in seawater. Finding a hotel that meets your needs is hard enough, but finding an authentic restaurant can be a real challenge.
I arrived in Venice with two tasks, 1) to meet my girlfriend who was flying over from Portland, Oregon and to walk her through her jet lag, and 2) to update a Venice guidebook. Both tasks would require massive amounts of eating. The weather was cool, the streets were quiet, and the restaurants advertised the day’s specials on chalkboards. We entered one restaurant advertising Spaghetti alla Buzara. After my excellent experience with buzara in Croatia, I wanted to show this dish to my girlfriend. Unfortunately, when the plates arrived they were flavorless; the prawns had been cooked so long that their legs had disintegrated into the pasta and the seafood wasn’t fresh. When I complained to the waiter, he said there was nothing he could do. Strike one. Nice service guys.
Luckily, things turned around fast. It began with olive ascolana, a dish technically from the Marche region, but which Venetians have adopted with a passion. Olive ascolana are olives stuffed with meat, breaded, then deep fried, and the result is one of the most addictive snacks I’ve ever had.
For lunch, we stopped in Ristorante Diana, located in the Cannaregio neighborhood. For once, the prices were reasonable, especially the price of the house wine. Good house white wine is a staple in Venice thanks to the Veneto region’s massive production of white wines featuring the pinot grigio, pinot bianco, and verduzzo grapes. Another way to save a buck in Venice is to frequent the vino sfuso shops that sell locally produced wines by the liter. Prices usually range between one to three euros a liter.
The first highlight of my meal at Ristorante Diana was the seafood antipasto with components that included the famous sarde in saor (sardines in a sweet and sour onion sauce) and a very tender octopus carpaccio. It was like eating the heart of Venetian cuisine. The spaghetti con vongole was nice and light (with fresh clams) and the ravioli con porcini was homemade with fresh, seasonal mushrooms.
The next night we stumbled across one of the best deals in Venice: a happening wine bar that offers wine for .60 euro a glass. Bacareto Da Lele in Campo dei Tolentini was filled—I should say surrounded—by university students. We stood by the canal with our small glasses of wine absorbing the laughter, and the massive Corinthian columns of the Church of San Nicolo dominating the piazza. Campo dei Tolentini is on the edge of the Campo Santa Margherita nightlife scene. If you’re looking for heavy-drinking revelry, just walk to Campo Santa Margherita: the whole piazza is an open bar.
After our first night, we didn’t have another negative dining experience in Venice, but not every meal was impressive. When choosing a restaurant in Venice, I recommend looking for traditional Venetian dishes such as risi e bisi, caparossoli in cassopipa, fegato alla veneziana, and baccala. I would be wary of restaurants that excessively advertise non-Venetian dishes such as spaghetti carbonara, lasagna, or cotoletta alla milanese. Also, a traditional dish such as risi e bisi shouldn’t cost more than 10€ at a regular restaurant. Anything higher than that and you’re getting gouged. As a general rule, I recommend listening for the beautiful sound of Italian voices and laughter: proof of a good meal.
Below is a list of restaurants that stood out during my visit. If you know of any great restaurants in Venice, please share. I’m sure everyone would appreciate it.
Venice Restaurant Recommendations:
Diana Ristorante – €€ The only drawback to this restaurant is that it is popular with tourists. However, the prices are low, the portions large, and the dishes are prepared by talented chefs. It provided one of the best meals I had in Venice.
Fondamenta de la Misericordia, 2519
Dalla Marisa – €€ You’ll need to make reservations for this restaurant, which only does one or two seatings for lunch and dinner. It’s very popular with the locals. The waitress will tell you the day’s menu, but you can expect two options for each course: antipasto, primo, secondo, dolce. You will find very authentic food here. It helps to speak a little Italian, but you can get by without.
On the corner of Calle de le Canne and Fondamenta di San Giobbe, 652b
Bacareto Da Lele – € Besides cheap wine, this place serves good finger food, and this is a great place to get the famous Venetian sandwich: a crust-less, white bread sandwich that can be stuffed with pretty much anything. There are no tables, so you will need to eat and drink while standing with nice views of the canal and piazza.
Campo dei Tolentini
Pizzeria Trattoria All’Anfora Venice – €
This pizzeria makes a decent pizza, the size of which is truly impressive. Hungry budget travelers go here! The 4 Seasons (Quattro Stagioni) and specialty pizzas are excellent, as are the desserts.
Lista dei Bari, 1223
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com