Will start with an executive summary for those in a rush, then go to expanded notes and finish with some random thoughts. Thanks to all for previous recommendations on this board!
1. Executive Summary
Osteria Giorgione small, simple, divine fish. Recommended.
Vini di Gigio excellent food, pleasant (if amateurish) service. Highly recommended.
Da Ivo excellent in every way food, service, atmosphere but insanely over-priced. Not recommended for price reasons only.
Da Maria alla Fava very good food but terrible service. Not recommended.
Ai Gondolieri one of the best of many good meals on the trip. Meat in fish country. Highly recommended.
Trattoria da Remigio -- good food, good people-watching. Recommended.
2. Expanded Dining Notes
We rented an apartment in Venice, which meant that we ate out at lunch and made dinner at home, allowing us to shop in the local markets, about which more in the Random Thoughts section.
Osteria Giorgione, Cannaregio, calle dei Proverbi, tel 041 522 1725 (near but not part of hotel of same name). The mosaics on the doorstep of this small, simple establishment say that its been there since 1885. A few tables outside, a few more inside. We all had the whole grilled Mediterranean seabass (bronzino alla griglia) and it was simply superb. The contorni misti (eggplant, peppers, zucchini and artichoke hearts) were also very good. With a bottle of pinot grigio, bottle of water, 2 espressos, 89 euros (30 pp).
Vini di Gigio, Cannaregio near Ca DOro on fondamente San Felice, tel 041 5285 140. Recommended on this board and deservedly so. Full house for Sunday lunch so we were glad we had reservations. Everyone else seemed to be Italian. English menu available. Two starters: divine beef carpaccio on baby arugula with shavings of parmiggiano, and excellent thinly-sliced smoked goose breast on baby arugula. Two of us went with the bronzino alla griglia again (excellent but possibly not as good as the one at Osteria Giorgione), the third had a very good vitello alla tonnato. House wine not so good. 2 large waters, 2 espressos. Total 107 euros (36 pp). Our waitress was extremely nice but seemed very inexperienced we almost thought it was her first day and forgetful. I would hesitate to ding them for service based on that one experience, though.
Da Ivo, San Marco area, Calle dei Fusari looking out on the Rio dei Fusari. We had eaten here on other visits and loved it so we were full of anticipation about our lunch here. As it turned out, everything about our lunch was divine but the price was just insanely high more than twice the amount of any other lunch on the whole trip and we concluded, Well, Da Ivo, thanks for the memories but we wont be back. A shocking 238 euros for 2 soups (minestrone, absolutely the best Ive ever had) plus one fagioli con battarga (mixed feelings at our table but I liked it), plus one pasta (tagliatelle with truffles), one main (John Dory) and one starter as main (salad with shrimp), plus a bottle of pinot grigio, 2 bottles of water and 2 espressos. As good as everything was, there is simply no reason to pay that kind of money for a meal when you can eat just as well for much less.
Da Maria alla Fava, San Marco near the Rialto Bridge, calle dei Stagnieri o di Fava. Bustling, pretty room, good food but something like a 40 minute delay between starters and main course the waiter came by when we were already very impatient and explained that he had not liked the looks of the food and sent it back, but we had just heard a tremendous crash in the kitchen so we think it may have bit the dust. Even so, it took longer after the crash than it should have. No apology at any point, no comped coffees or anything. And to top it all off, when he delivered the check he looked us right in the eye and said that service was not included when (a) we had been firmly told by another waiter that it is ALWAYS included in Italy, and (b) it said right on the check that service was included. Thumbs down, notwithstanding the tasty food and handy location.
Ai Gondolieri, Dorsoduro, directly behind the Peggy Guggenheim museum on Fondamenta Venier. This pleasant place has huge stemmed goblets full of yummy raw veggies on each table, with olive oil dipping sauce. It was full at lunch, with about 2/3 Italians, 1/3 tourists (only one other American group). Their specialty is meat, unusual in Venice. My father had the veal tongue and thought it was one of the best things he had ever had, anywhere. My mother had a filet of beef with a beautiful selection of vegetables. I had the filet of beef with a Barolo reduction and porcini, with pureed potatoes. Everything was delicious the beef had tons of flavor even though it was filets we thought this was one of the best meals we had. Three main courses, bottle of good red wine, 2 large waters, 1 espresso: 117 euros (39 pp).
Trattoria da Remigio, Castello, near San Giorgio dei Greci, at intersection of Calle d. Madonna and Salizada dei Greci, tel 041 523 0089. Was on my own this day. Thought of trying Corte Sconto, in this same general area based on recommendations here, but a combination of the fact that it was empty when I was hungry, plus the menu is overwhelmingly shellfish to which I am allergic, pointed elsewhere. Ended up at da Remigio and was quite happy. There are two large, light rooms, one smoking and one non-smoking. The smoking room is apparently where the action is it was packed with Italians and very lively. The non-smoking room was less full and quieter but still provided some of the best people-watching in Venice, mostly Italians. I started with smoked swordfish (spada affumicata) on baby arugula very good but a tad too much balsamico drizzled on it. Next, orato ai ferri (grilled whole gilthead) the waiter presented the cooked fish for my inspection and asked if he might bone it for me, which he did, leaving the crispy skin intact completely delicious. Accompanying veggies ranged from wonderful (tiny green beans, baked tomato), to ok (beautiful but over-salted grilled treviso, pedestrian zucchini). Fairly good house white by the glass. With large water and espresso, 37 euros.
Meanwhile, my parents checked out Fiaschetteria Toscano, right around the corner from our apartment, and liked it (although they found the tuxedoed waiters odd for lunch). They had tagliolini neri astice (black ink pasta with shellfish), bronzino alla griglia, a bottle of good wine, water and caffe corretto (coffee with grappa) for 65.70 euros total. This restaurants big claim to fame appears to be their huge wine list, but I will say that I peered into their kitchen windows several times a day on my way in and out of the apartment and everything they were preparing looked good and fresh and imaginative and the kitchen itself was spotless.
3. Random Thoughts
As in Florence (see separate report) we rented an apartment and it was great! It was actually the third time Ive rented in Venice and at this point I wouldnt think of doing anything else.
The markets around the Rialto are wonderful places to shop for food each morning. I particularly liked the Casa del Parmigiano (which is in a little campo between the Rialto Bridge and the Pescharia or fish market that my map identifies as Campo di Corderia, but which has a sign that says Campo Cesare Battisti) they had beautiful cheeses and cured hams and bacons of various sorts, nice olives, a ricotta torte I was told was to die for (didnt try it) and above all, were very pleasant and patient with the Italian-challenged. There was a veggie and fruit stall in the same campo which I liked a lot. By the third day they were greeting me as a regular. I got the best raspberries there Ive ever had day after day. But there are certainly lots of other veggie and fruit stalls I would recommend avoiding the three just as you come over the Rialto and pressing on to the one I used or any of the ones closer to the fish market. Not sure if this is a seasonal treat or not, but many of the stalls had fresh artichoke bottoms floating in water (so they dont discolor) and these were really delicious, sautéed with garlic or blanched and then baked with cheese on top. There are also butchers here, a very nice pasta shop (but get there early) and of course, the fish market. And right in our own neighborhood (as in every neighborhood) there was a small shop where we could buy prosciutto, bacon, milk, eggs, etc, plus a bakery and a wineshop. My shopping triumph was buying three whole bronzino (seabass) one day at the Pescheria we had been paying roughly 20 euros each for these in restaurants, while my three cost 7.50 euros total at the market!! I sliced some potatoes in a baking dish, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and gave them a head start, then rubbed the whole fish with olive oil and put them on top of the potatoes with a few grape tomatoes and black olives yum!
Thanks to Jen Kalb, I had the Rough Map of Venice and it was an invaluable tool. Many restaurants are marked on it, as well as many of the sights youd want to see and the public restrooms (which are clean and nice and well worth the half euro they cost).
Now that Ive written this up, I can hardly wait to go back!!!
Finally, if this report and others here are useful to you, please consider buying some Good Will so we can keep this valuable resource alive!