It is always tricky to know where to eat in Venice. While Italy has a wonderful culinary reputation, Venice is generally not known for fine restaurants. In my Venice travels, I’ve found the best strategy is to walk away from the crowds and get into out of the way neighborhoods where you will find authentic Venetian eateries. Snag a table with the locals and you will be virtually assured of finding good food, a friendly atmosphere, and an over-all positive experience that will be worth the extra effort.
Venice is so full of alleyways, bridges, and squares to explore that it can sometimes be easy to forget to eat. But then, depending on the time of day, predictable aromas will begin to fill the air. In the morning, it’s the smell of strong coffee and fresh pastries. Around lunchtime it’s fresh pizza, grilled fish, and garlic. By night, more classic Italian ingredients are thrown at the senses: tomatoes, fresh chopped parsley, simple simmering soups.
Where to eat and drink in Venice
Out of the Way Places:
I first discovered La Zucca when staying in a nearby apartment rental. Although I was cooking in most nights with fresh fish and produce from the market, every time I walked by this teeny restaurant, it would be packed full of gesticulating Italians. I tried it and couldn’t forget it. When I returned to Venice a year later, this restaurant was first on my list. Located near San Giacomo Square in the quiet Santa Croce neighborhood, this restaurant sits on a picturesque canal right next to a small bridge. During warm weather there are a handful of outdoor tables. The menu is incredibly fresh, with an emphasis on vegetables. Don’t miss the pastas and braised meats. Linger over your meal as a local Italian would and be sure to order many different courses.
While La Zucca is the kind of small, intimate place that’s perfect for a date, Paradiso Perduto is a raucous food-hall-type-restaurant where you will sit at communal tables amongst groups of boisterous – mostly young – Italians. Tucked away from any major attractions in the Cannaregio neighborhood, this restaurant is as well known for live jazz performances and affordable drinks as it is for the food. Whatever the daily special, order it. From delicious fish soups to pastas, the menu here is simple but hearty. If your Italian is rusty (or non-existant) one perk of the communal dining is the ability to point to what your neighbor is having, indicating you would like to try it too.
Fondamenta della Misericordia, 2640
I’ve heard people say that Venice lacks a nightlife; that after the daytrippers go home the streets are silent and there’s nothing to do. This simply isn’t true – there are a number of nightlife centers throughout the city that you need to seek out. One of them is Campo Santa Margarita in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. Around midnight on weekends this square will fill with mingling people roaming from bar to bar while sipping on the a local drink, such as the spritz. Orange is one of the top bars in the square – featuring a DJ, back garden, and rooftop dance party. And Orange is not alone, there are many bars with a great after-dark buzz that cater to the young and those who want to be young.
As you would expect, there are numerous gelato outlets throughout Venice, each calling hungry visitors with their enticing, bright colored, creamy textured delights. While just about any scoop of gelato will taste amazingly great on a sunny day in Venice, one of the best places to fullfill your decadent snack need is Nico. It is located in the Dorsoduro neighborhood right on the edge of the Giudecca Canal. You can grab a scoop or two of straciatella or bacio to go, or take a table overlooking the water and order up a big ice cream sundae, topped-off with a coffee. Venice after all, is all about taking things slow.
In order to avoid the hoards of tourists at the iconic Harry’s Bar, consider getting your party started early and visit Harry’s in mid-afternoon. This centrally located bar is famous for being home of the Bellini. Skip the tables and take a seat right at the bar in order to watch the bartender mix your Bellini to order. Yes, it’s a splurge, but the engaging bartenders and historic atmosphere will be worth the expense. Smile at the bartender and you might receive a complimentary ‘top up’ on your Bellini.
These restaurants and bars are spread throughout the many different neighborhoods of Venice. And while you could take the vaporetto to get there, walking will help you discover some of your own out of the way places in this stunning, but sinking, city. For another take on Venice food read Mattie’s Finding an Authentic Venetian Restaurant
Written by Jessica Colley for EuropeUpClose.com