The restaurant scene in Venice
Walks & Seminars
• Rialto Market Walk
• Padua Market Walk(daytrip)
• Annotated Dinner: an Evening of Venetian Cusine
• Annotated Lunch: Cuisine of the Veneto
• Venice Gondola Ride and Serenade with Dinner
• Wine Tasting: Wines of Venice and the Veneto
• Veneto Small-Group Wine Tasting Tour (daytrip)
• Italian Gastronomy and Wine Small Group Day Trip from Venice (daytrip)
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» THE VENICE BOOKSHELF
Canalside dining: An over-priced lunch with a million-dollar view.Great Venetian dining experiences
• Cicchetti (Venetian tapas) at Cantina Do Mori
• A Renaissance dish at Bistrot de Venise
• The catch of the day at Ristorante Corte Sconta
• The five-alarm do spade sauce on bruschetta at Cantina Do SpadeA Venetian meal has many courses, and it can take a few hours to work your way through them all.
This abundance is not just a scam played on tourists; Italians actually eat such massive full meals, to be accompanied by good wine and lively conversation.
Start with an antipasto (appetizer), which in Venice means seafood.
Frutti di mare are "fruits of the sea" and include a plethora of shellfish, crustaceans, and tentacled sea critters.
Another archetypal Venetian starter is sarde in saor, sardines prepared with a sweet-and-sour sauce and often served with grilled slices of polenta (a distant, wetter, denser cousin to cornbread).
Primo (first course)
Your primo (first course) could be a soup (try the zuppa di cozze mussels soup); a rice (risotto alle seppie, stained with squid ink, is popular, but it's beat out by risi e bisi, a creamy blend of rice and fresh peas, sometimes with bacon); or a pasta—perhaps spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), or spaghetti al pomodoro (spaghetti in a plain tomato sauce) being the most common.
Secondo (main course)
Your secondo (main course) should take advantage of the setting and be fish. Most is priced by weight, grilled or otherwise simply prepared, and served on a bed of bitter red radicchio lettuce.
Other popular secondi include anguille in umido (eels stewed with tomatoes, garlic, and white wine) and the local, non-seafood staple fegato alla Veneziana (tender calf's liver cooked down with onions).
Finish with a selection of formaggi (cheeses) or a dolce (dessert)—might I suggest the ever-popular tiramisù (espresso-soaked lady fingers layered with sweetened, creamy mascarpone cheese and dusted with cocoa).
Italy is famed for its wines, and the Veneto region around Venice produces some great ones, including the white Soave, and reds Bardolino and Valpolicello. The best table wines in the region tend to be the whites.
Quick Bites in Venice
The quintessential quick bite in Venice is the cicchetti ★★★ (canapés and finger foods) at any bar or bacaro. » more
Venice also has Italy's standard great take-out venues: the tavola calda (prepared hot dishes sold by weight) and rosticceria (same thing plus roast chickens). Most bars sell tramezzini, which are like giant tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off, filled with tuna, ham and cheese, tomatoes and mozzarella, etc.
Do not get pizza slices to take away in Venice; you'll get the wrong impression of Italian pizza, which only gets good from Rome on south. You can get decent pizza at the sit-down pizzerie recommended to the left.
For picnic supplies, visit any succession of alimentari (grocery stores), forno (bakeries), and fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable stand)—the most evocative on a vegetable barge floating on the Rio San Barnaba canal in Dorsoduro.
Osteria La Campana ★★ [meal] - It just says "Osteria" in the window, and from the door you can see only the bar. The wood-paneled dining room next-door has curtains in the windows as if to keep the tourists who wash up and down the busy street just a few blocks from St. Mark's Square from discovering this budget eatery buzzing with Venetian dialect... » more
Rosticceria Teatro Goldoni [quick] - This joint behind plate glass windows near the Rialto may look modern, but it's been around since 1950, and really goes far above and beyond the call for a rosticceria (a sort of cafeteria with excellent pre-prepared dishes) with a vast array of choices and plenty of seating... » more
Rosticceria San Bartolomeo [quick] - A modern, popular, business-like tavola calda (a cafeteria-like joint) near the Rialto Bridge offering ready-made hot dishes and pizza with no cover charge right in the heart of the action... » more
Trattoria Cea [meal] - You can sit on straw-bottom chairs inside to listen to the radio and play elbow-hockey with the local workmen who pack the place at lunchtime, or snag one of the four metal tables with plastic chairs out front, ranged around an ancient marble well-head under an arbor thick with leafy vines... » more
Enoteca Cantinone Già Schiavi ★ [snack] - Enoteca Cantinone Già Schiavi offers not only a broad selection of €1 cicchetti and inexpensive glasses of vino under a beamed ceiling, but also a few dozen wines under €10 a bottle... » more
Trattoria Da Remigio ★ [meal] - Famous for its straightforward renditions of Adriatic classics, this spot bucks the current Venetian trends by continuing to offer exquisite food and excellent, genuinely friendly service at reasonable prices... » more
Trattoria Pizzeria Da Aciugheta ★ [meal] - A long block north of the chic Riva degli Schiavoni hotels lies one of Venice's best wine bars, expanded to include an elbow-to-elbow trattoria/pizzeria in back... » more
Cantina Do Spade ★★ [meal/quick] - A 600-year-old trattoria with a back room where Casanova once wined and dined his romantic conquests (it has a back door so that the famed lothario could slip out should any jealous husbands show up)... » more
Vini Da Pinto ★ [meal] - How fresh is the fish? You could lob a clam shell from your outdoor table and hit the guy who sold it to the chef that morning—the Mercato del Rialto, Venice's main fish market, sprawls under a brick-and-marble Gothic loggia a few feet away... » more
Pizzeria Da Sandro [meal] - Da Sandro is a good choice if you’re looking for an inexpensive pizza-and-beer meal (which, believe it or not, is hard to come by in Venice). The pizzas are crisp, delicious, and so large they hang over the edges of the plates... » more
- Useful Italian
table for two - tavola per due
I would like - vorrei
this - questo
fizzy water - acqua gassata
still water - acqua non gassata
red wine - vino rosso
white wine - vino bianco
beer - birra
check, please - il conto per favore
is service included? - é incluso il servizio
Venice eats early: Well, by Italian standards at at least. In much of Italy, dinner doesn't get going until 8:30 or 9pm. In Venice, most show up for the meal at 7pm or 7:30pm, and dinner is wrapping up by 10pm. Venice goes to bed early.
- Bread and Cover: There's an unavoidable charge called pane e coperto ("bread and cover") of about €1 to €5 that's added onto your bill at just about all Venetian restaurants. This is not a scam. This is standard in Italy.
- Find out if service (tip) is included: Don't double-tip by accident. If the menu has a line—usually near the bottom of the front or back—that says "servizio" with either a percentage, an amount, or the word "incluso" after it, that means the tip is automatically included in the price. (If it says "servizio non incluso," tip is, obviously, not included.)
Even if the menu doesn't say it, ask É incluso il servizio? (ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo)—"Is service included?" If not, tip accordingly (10%–15% is standard).
Don't be stingy about tipping, though. If il servizio is, indeed, already included but the service was particularly good, it's customary to round up the bill or leave €1 per person extra—just to show you noticed and that you appreciated the effort.
- Book ahead: Great Venetian restaurants are few and far between—and everybody knows about them. It pays to reserve your table, at least at dinner. I find that a corollary of Murphy's Law seems to apply. If you prudently book ahead, you are likely to show up to a half-empty restaurant and feel a bit like a fool for having worried about finding a table. If, on the other hand, you just show up at the door expecting to find a free table, the place will inevitably be packed and its bookings full for the evening. For restaurants that I am truly eager to try, I go ahead and book.
- Tourist menus: The concept of a bargain prix-fixe menu is not popular in Italy. Some restaurants do offer a menu turistico ("tourist menu") which can cost from €8 to €18 and usually entails a choice from among two or three basic first courses (read: different pasta shapes, all in plain tomato sauce), a second course of roast chicken or a veal cutlet, and some water or wine and bread. With very few exceptions, tourist menus tend to live up to their name, appearing only at the sort of tourist-pandering restaurant that the locals wisely steer clear of.
However, a menu a prezzo fisso ("fixed-price menu") is often a pretty good deal, usually offering a bit more choice than a tourist menu. Then—especially at nicer (and pricier) restaurants—there is the menu degustazione ("tasting menu"), usually far more expensive (anywhere from €25 to €110) that is a showcase of the chef's best, or regional specialties, and can make for an excellent way to sample the kitchen's top dishes.
- Useful dining phrases
- Culinary tours of Venice
- On dining in Italy - Meals, specialties, and quirks
- Saving money on dining in Italy
This material was last updated May 2013. All information was accurate at the time.
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