Thanks to Chowhound and various other resources, our recent trip to Venice was full of amazing meals. We had been previously in '04, and had good meals at places like La Zucca and Da Ignazio, but the level of consistency and quality for our meals this trip was outstanding. Anyone who trashes Venice as a food city has just not eaten at the right places. We’ve traveled throughout Italy since '02, and based on our recent experience, Venice ranks right up there as a food destination.
Here’s a list of our recommendations.
-Osteria di Santa Marina: based mainly on Mark Bittman’s article in the NYT, we went here as our “splurge” meal for my wife’s 40th birthday. We had the 75 euro, 7 course seafood tasting menu (wine not included). Amazing. Highlights include the black ravioli with sea bass, grilled octopus and mashed potatoes with ink, and the scallops in pureed peas. The only downside was that the meal was a bit drawn-out, but when you consider that we had 7 courses (and an amuse bouche), it is understandable.
-Osteria alle Testiere: I called at 6:00 on a Friday for a 9:00 reservation and was surprisingly told “va bene.” I am so glad that I took that chance; it was the perfect farewell meal for our trip. Like Osteria Di Santa Marina, it was an updated take on Venetian classics. Highlights include the scallops with fennel, the gnochetti with clams, and the ricotta and basil ravioli with shrimp broth.
-Anice Stellato: one of only three restaurants in the historic section of Venice that are listed in Osterie & Locande D’Italia, a Slow Food publication. A fantastic dining experience. Run by a very friendly family, the service is professional but not stuffy. We enjoyed the mixed antipasti, but the spaghetti con moeche (soft crab) was one of the highlights of the trip. Also, the deconstructed branzino was the perfect secondo.
-La Bitta: also listed in Osterie & Locande D’Italia, their business card says “No Fish,” so it’s the perfect place to go on a Monday (when the fish market is closed) or when you don’t feel like seafood. But it is cash only! We learned the hard way, and had to walk out on our first night before returning two days later. Like Anice Stellato, it is run by a friendly family, and the service is professional without being stuffy. Highlights include the porchetta trevisiana, roasted duck with butter and sage, and the filet of beef (the best I’ve ever tasted).
As an aside, get porchetta as much as you can in Venice; I had an incredible porchetta sandwich from a bar on the Giudecca (right next to the Redentore) for 1.50 euro.
-Bentigodi Osteria da Francesca: this has gotten some mixed reviews in the past, but we had a wonderful lunch here. In particular, my black tagliolini with zucchini, shrimp, and tomato was fantastic. Very friendly service.
-Al Vecio Forner: we had lunch at this nice corner restaurant near the Guggenheim. Highlights include the risotto with shrimp and celery and black tagliolini with shrimp.
-Osteria al Mascaron: Old-school all the way. Therefore, they only take cash and show you your bill on a piece of scrap paper, which you do not get to keep. But they serve high-quality and large portions of traditional Venetian dishes. My serving of spaghetti with cuttlefish in ink had to weigh close to a pound. The mixed antipasti was also very good.
-Trattoria Storica: I knew the name, but we found this by accident one day when we were looking for a place for lunch. Very local and informal (and good). We had their Menu di Giorno, which consisted of a fantastic risotto with speck and mushrooms. The fried cod was also excellent.
-Centrale: having gone there on our first trip and finding it a good value (while also being very modern and chic), we went there for a late dinner after going to the opera. The prices have definitely escalated, but it stands out for being one of the few places in Venice that offers high-end, late-night dining. We were lucky enough to get one of the tables on the small canal, which somehow justified the price. The octopus carpaccio was perfect, and the black spaghetti with spider crab and the pasta with mushrooms and prawns were very, very good.
-Trattoria Dona Onesta: not too far from Campo San Barnaba, we discovered this by accident (after leaving La Bitta because we had no cash), and on a whim (out of desperation, really) decided to give it a try. The service was exceptionally friendly, the clientele was all Italian (except for us), and the food was very good. As far as I can remember, I haven’t heard anyone mention this place on Chowhound, but I hope others decide to give it a try. The baby shrimp with polenta was superb, and the fritto misto very good. At 35 euro a person for two antipasti, a primo, a secondo, wine, and water, it was the bargain of the trip.
-Il Nuovo Galeon: went there based on the fact that it’s a member of the Venice restaurant association (link to site), and we happened to be in Castello around lunch time. We had their Menu di Giorno, which consisted of a good linguine with clams, salt cod with polenta, and a very good fried calamari.
-Osteria al Baccareto: a solid lunch option. It was close to our apartment (San Samuele), and it seemed to be popular with locals. We had tagliolini with squid and prawns, and spaghetti with clams.
-Trattoria Nono Resorto: another solid lunch option in a pleasant courtyard. In particular, the fritto misto was very good.
To ensure you get to eat dinner where you want, I recommend that you make a reservation the day before or the day on which you want to eat. Either stopping by during the day or making a quick phone call worked for us every time, and we were very concerned since we were there during high season and the Festa del Redentore.
Soon I will post my food report from Atrani, where we spent our second week, and a link to my wife’s complete trip report on Trip Advisor.