Vanessa’s Venetian Restaurant Guide
Worth the Splurge:
Harry’s Bar — at the end of Calle Vallaresso, where the San Marco vaporetto stop is. Always a scene and the bellinis are worth every euro, or try their perfect martinis* and get the house wine over dinner – tuna tartare is sublime and risotto excellent. The food is good, but you are paying for the scene & service. Or go just for drinks (pre- 7pm you can even get a table) – their grilled cheese sandwich bar snack is scrumptious.
Da Fiore — on the obscure Calle Bernardo at the far end of Campo San Polo, definitely the most elegant restaurant in Venice. Delicate, delicious and inventive. Must reserve! 041 721 308.
Al’Covo — great food introduced by a Texan but created by her Venetian husband; a nice blend of Venetian specialties and their own creations. Walk down the Riva dei Schiavoni from the Danieli (eastwards along the Bacino) until just before the first big bridge (it crosses the Arsenale canal), jog semi-diagonally backwards to a widening and the restaurant is on your left (Castello 3948). Reservations: 041 522 3812.
Corte Sconta — not far from Al’Covo but impossible to find (Calle del Pestrin, Castello 3886), this is an amazing fish place. There is like a nine course tasting menu, all fish. I’ve been only once years ago but still think about it… finding the place is the problem. Only when not looking for it on the way from the Arsenal it seems… it doesn’t have a website but is on the site “www.veneziaristoranti.it” a collection of Venetian gastronomy restaurants, which looks like a good guide itself.
Antiche Carampane — San Polo 1911. This is where the local fancy people go and I had resisted it for years but then we were taken for John’s birthday and its really great. Traditional dishes superbly rendered with just that twist… the paper wrapped fried shrimp snacks are worth it alone. The name is after the state run brothel that was located here for centuries. (Impossible to find: the website is www.antichecarampane.com.) Closed Sunday and Monday. Reservation are a must: 041 542 0165.
Delicious and Reasonably Priced:
Harry’s Dolce — at the west (far) end of the Giudecca (take the 82 vaporetto from San Zaccaria) the same food as Harry’s at 2/3 the price and outdoors – a beautiful evening and nice place for lunch too.
Il Refòlo — run by the owners of Da Fiore, in Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio (Sta. Croce), around “back,” at the church entrance, towards the train station. Tasty & inventive pizzas like lardo & artichoke – a really yummy, reasonably priced lunch option.
Acqua Pazza — Campo Sant’Angelo (San Marco). Excellent pizza [the late Marcella Hazan’s favorite in town] in a pretty, central campo for lunch; its full menu is great for dinner too. It will seem like a good idea at the time, but a second glass of their homemade limoncello makes for a foggy morning, believe me.
La Zucca — just before Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio (Sta. Croce) along the route that follows the curve of the Grand Canal from the Rialto towards Ferrovia — great for a lunch of vegetarian pastas and meat entrees (just in case you are sick of fish). A little hippyish, but a favorite even with the snootiest of Milanese visitors.
Alle Testiere — Calle Mondo Nuovo (Castello). I have never been able to get a table at this tiny, much raved about, simple fish restaurant – try it and tell me about it.
La Cantina — Strada Nova (Cannaregio), past the Ca d’Oro vaporetto stop & Billa supermarket (walking from Rialto, on your left. My favorite restaurant in Venice! Extensive, well priced wines are the supposed draw here, but let Francesco whip up whatever he’s got for you on his panini press – it could be anything: tuna, scampi, buffalo, chianina steaks… also lots of cheese, meats and sometimes oysters. Open late! There is no menu: they just ask you if you want fish or meat, raw or cooked.
Vini da Gigio —Fondamenta San Felice (Cannaregio), sort of “in” from La Cantina along the canal (Canneregio 3628). Lovely, traditional Venetian restaurant, specialties like sarde in saor and other fish dishes are quite exceptional here.
Cheap & Fun:
Mascaron — on Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa (the street leading eastwards from Campo Santa Maria Formosa (Castello) underneath the clock) – a delicious local place with a fun vibe. Go for the mixed fish/shellfish starter and then a shellfish pasta like bussola (tomato & shrimp) or vongole (clams); their meat ragù is great too and the carafes of wine are quite drinkable. They have a nice wine bar, Mascareta, down the street with an extensive selection by the glass or bottle. You can also eat there – either cheese & sliced meats or from the restaurant. It is open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Ae’Oche — the best pizza in Italy! If you have found Da Fiore and La Zucca, its on the route between them. Otherwise walk from San Polo towards San Giacomo dell’Orio and it will be on your left. Don’t be scared off by its “southern country club” decor (their words, not mine: think ‘30s bayou sports shack) and order any combination of anything you can think of but especially good with a pesto base. Mangiafuoco really is. They have great entrée sized salads and a mean scroppino [a lemon sherbet vodka dessert drink].
Al Portego — near Campo Sta. Marina, coming from Rialto/Campo San Lio, cross the Ponte delle Paste and you will run right into it. Cicchetti are Venetian snacks, sort of like tapas. You can have a light lunch or a quick late afternoon pick me up here for less than 8 euro, with a tiny glass or two of local wine (Tocai or Pinot Grigio are safe bet whites) Cheeses, salamis, bacalà (actually really good although translated as “salted cod paste” sounds less than appealing), beans…all set out under a glass counter, so you can just point — a really tasty place!
There are numerous new cicchetti bars behind the Rialto Market buildings along the water, and the ancient all’Arco a little farther into San Polo near the Rialto (when you see the telephone bank, take the street opposite and poke your head in on your right until you see a ceiling lined with copper pots: that’s it, San Polo 436). At any, go for sliced salamis, cheeses, octopus… whatever they are proffering. In Dorsoduro there is a great wine store/bar/cichetti shop between the Academia and San Trovaso along the Fondamenta Nani (near the gondola makers) called Cantinone (gia Schiavi). You can stop for a glass of wine and slice of cheese and then buy a whole bottle to take with you.
Da Carla — just behind Piazza San Marco (west end) – perfect for a cheap, quick lunch after touring the basilica & palazzo. [Go under the Correr end of the Piazza, turn right at Damiani jewelry onto a street called the Frezzaria, continue to the first sottoportego (past a couple barking tourist restaurant maitre d’s); you’ll see an open door and menu at the end of the short Calle Seconda della Contarina]. In front get excellent toasted sandwiches while standing up; in the rear you can sit down for pasta (the kitchen keeps bring out different ones), great steamed vegetables and other prepared foods. This has gone more upscale recently but its still great and affordable (we had 2 lunches out of 4 there on our last visit).
Also good for a quick lunch is Nomboli near the Frari and Museo Goldoni (San Polo) — order one of a hundred named panini made before you (or dream up a combination of your own) and if you are lucky there will be a free table outside by the time it is ready. Another afternoon snack option are the ubiquitous tremezzini – triangular bar sandwiches made of crustless white bread, a lot of mayonnaise and infinite kinds of fillings. Although they look and sound scary, they are actually really good. Tiziano on the Salizzada San Giovanni Crisostomo (Cannaregio) has particularly varied and yummy ones.
Breakfast coffee is generally drunk standing up at a bar (don’t mind the pensioners drinking their first spritzes next to you) with a pasta (pastry). My personal favorite is Bonifacio, on the Calle degli Albanesi (it runs between the Danieli and the prisons and is also a great way to avoid the tourist crowd on the other streets to the Riva); it has the best croissants in town and super friendly service but it is closed on Thursdays. Other good morning coffee places are: Didovitch on Campo Santa Marina (Castello); the aptly named Ponte delle Paste (Cannaregio) on the bridge of the same name (between Santa Marina & San Lio); Targa on the route from the Rialto to the Frari (San Polo) has super good pastries and is very local in clientele despite its location; Ai’Frari, at the foot of the bridge to the Frari, has a congenial atmosphere at any time of day, although they don’t make their own pastries; Rosa Salva in Campo SS. Giovanni & Paolo also has a great outdoor area with views of the Colleoni: plan your day over coffee and great pastries in the morning, or watch the sunset over campari sodas in the evening — lovely! Rosa Salva’s sibling on the Calle Fiubera (behind the Piazza) and Ponte delle Paste’s Marchini siblings on the Merceria and Salizzada San Giovanni Crisostomo are great for afternoon coffee stops. Also nice at that time, or for ice cream and drinks at sunset, is Paolin at the corner of Calle delle Botteghe in Campo Santo Stefano (San Marco) — watch Venetians at their passeggiata best.
* Speaking of drinks
For the very best martini in town, and in general a splurgy drink without the splurge, go to the back indoor bar at Florian (on the south side of the Piazza (the north side cafes are where the Austrians hung out: you decide) [NB: late at night the café on the Piazzetta (the small part directly across from the palace) has okay jazz (v. renditions of Cats and Celine Dion on the Piazza)]), sit at one of Florian’s few seats and, going for a fraction of the cost outside, get the best martini going, or make up a drink and see if the bartenders deem it worthy of entry in their book. Late night, the kids are all at Campo Santa Margherita (Dorsoduro): go to Marguerite du Champs (on the corner), Bar Rosso (mid campo hipsters) or Bar Franco (veteran at the south end). The wine bar at Mascareta (see above) is good for a more grown-up time, as is my new favorite, La Cantina, on the Strada Nova, also above. There are a bunch of new bars around at the backside of the Rialto. Bancogiro (Campo San Giacometto, San Polo 122) is particularly convivial. Haig’s (near the Gritti in sestiere of San Marco) used to be the latest open bar in town. I bet its all Russians now though.
As far as food shopping goes — explore the morning markets and various shops at the Rialto. Campo Santa Maria Formosa also has good produce; the bread store on Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa has the best bread in the city. Billa, with locations on the Strada Nova and at the west end of the Zattere (Dorsoduro), is a supermarket that is open all day (orario continuato), every day.