Gathered many suggestions from the last 6 months or so and had a list WAY too long for 5 nites. We had the best weather, 60-65 and sunny every day. I can't imagine going to Italy in prime tourist time, it's bad enough in March (was in Florence then 2 years ago). Venice is a very confusing city tho and on your first day when you're jet lagged and running into a dead end at the canal, it gets a little aggravating but was more fun on subsequent days. Unfortunately, I had no memorable meals and even the universally recommended Alle Testiere didn't knock my socks off. Here's a quick run down:
Caffe Saraceno, on the canal by Rialto: My friend (Dave) was already sick of walking and wanted to eat (even tho we had early reservations at AT) so he chose this super touristy place. I just had a nice glass of prosecco w/ some bread and olive oil and soaked up the sun. He had a salad and veal that I think was fine and not terribly overpriced. Service was very professional.
Alle Testiere, Mondo Novo, Castello: We took the 7:00 seating and I think there were 2 Itlaians in there besides the help. Cute place, excellent service (he even speaks Japanese) and good enough food. But it was pricier than I expected and my gnocchi w/ scallops was kind of tasteless. The consistency was good but it really needed salt. The app of razor clams w/ polenta was fine but I prefer a firmer polenta. Dave loved the scallops app. which was kind of escargot like, very buttery and garlicky served in the shells. His tuna in balsamic sauce was fine. I tried a warm choc. cake w/ whipped cream for dessert but again, just okay. The wines are much more reasonably priced than here (as is the gelato/ice cream) and our bottle of prosecco just seemed to keep on going.
La Fonda Menta: Fond. della Misericordia, Cannaregio: I had discovered this section of town during the day and really liked that area. We started with a happy hour spritzz at the Iguana (only 1 euro) and the guy working there was very nice. Tried to go to Da Rioba but they were booked (even tho seats were open at that point). Just a few Italians eating at La FM (for once, we were the only tourists) but it was a fine reasonably priced meal. We split tasty spinach gnocchi, grilled vegetables and an anchovy and caper pizza. All of it was fine and a relative deal.
Fiaschetteria Toscana, near San. Giovanni Crisotomo church, Cann: We were at the Bacaro Jazz happy hour so I walked down to see if we could get a later reservation. After a couple bellinis and another drink at Naranzaria by the fish market with two guys from Miami who we met, we got to FT which was still quite crowded at 9:30 on a Sat. nite. A formal feel to it, fun waiter. We split the fritto misto w/ seafood and veggies and it was fine, but I don't think it holds a candle to the clam shacks north of Boston. And it seemed like not a lot of food for 25 E. We all got pasta dishes, my black fettucine w/ lobster was very good. Dave's seafood ravioli was good, didn't taste the other two dishes but one of the guys complained about gritty clams. Dave got a choc. mousse cake w/ orange flavoring that was huge and good. Some things were quite expensive but we ate pretty reasonably.
Do Spade: Calle Do Spade, San Polo: We were going to try Alle Botte but the reason it was so hard to find wsa that it was closed on Sun. As was Bancogiro which I had wandered by and REALLY wanted to try. The huge, well priced wine list looked great. A man who led us to Naranzaria the nite before told us that DS is all tourists, I'd say it was 2/3 tourists to 1/3 Italians when we were there. The waiter was fun but I think he overcharged us for our antipasto of calamari, salt cod, sardines, veggies, etc. I got polenta w/ squid, very black squid. Dave had tuna again, rare with more balsamic vinegar sauce. A huge slab for about 8E less than Al. Test. and it seemed okay. I finally had tiramisu for dessert and it was delicious and enough to feed 3. But I ate it all myself.
Ai Gondoliere: across from the Peggy Guggenheim, Dosoduro: This was the other dinner I reserved in advance. It wasn't as expensive as some people had made it sound. They immediately bring you a glass of prosecco and a huge plate of bread and cracker type things with a tasty olive oil w/ some spread in there (sorry for the lame description). I started with a parmesan crisp filled with more gnocchi and Dave's pasta was good too but I'm spacing on specifics. Filling, which was good cuz my duck was just a few slices of the breast. He got a veal dish that didn't really speak to him. One room is real tiny but the back room was quite pleasant and the service was efficient if not so personable. Entrees were about 22-29 E and more reasonably priced wine (a 1/4 liter was the perfect amount after the glass of prosecco).
Quick notes: My fave parts of town were Fond. della Misericordia and Campo Santa Margherita. I had a great slice of pizza in Campo SM at Al Volo, hung out at Il Caffe, made the wrong choice of gelato at Il Dogge (didn't realize tiramisu was all mousse-like and light). Had a good panini at a little shop on Via Garibaldi down past Arsenale and one at a little place up from Alla Rivetta where the gondoliers were eating. The gelato at Nicco was fine, as was the place next to our Hotel da Bruno (Salizzada San Lio) and La Maison de la Crepe (by Fish. Tosc) but my favorite was the first one at Gelateria di Passegio (sp) in San Polo (cone was the best quality). Good almond pastry at Rivoni in San Polo and great ones at Le Cafe Pasticceria on the walk from Academia to San Marco. Dave ate lunch at Taverna san Trovaso not far from P. Guggenheim and said it was quite good.
Very nice (expensive) bellini at Gritti Palace where they bring you a little tray of sandwiches and munchies while you sit in the splendor. Would like to try something at the Hotel Bauer too. Harry's looked as tacky as some people said, like Chili's or something so I skipped it. We liked Bacaro Jazz on Salizzada del Fondaco (the bartender's from Niagra Falls) and they have a few drinks 2 for 1 from 4-8 every day. Stopped by Paradiso Perduto on Fond. d Misc. where some salsa type music was going on, wish we'd kept walking to the Fiddler's Elbow Irish pub off Strada de Nuova who had a decent sounding band that nite. L'Olandese Volante off Salizzada San Lio was good for drinks and Inishark by Al. Test. was okay.
Okay, good trip if not the most outstanding food in the world. Thanks for the help.