Just back from five days in Venice, and can report on Osteria da Fiore, Alle Testiere, and Fiaschetteria Toscana.
Da Fiore - our second time there. The first time (two years ago) we had a wonderful meal, but after reading some of the hot and cold reviews of the retaurant, we almost decided not to go back. I'm glad we did. We reserved an early table (for Venetians) at 7:30 and were the first ones there. We were seated, and ordered the following:
salad of shaved artichoke, asparagus, and parmegiano reggiano with citrus (grapefruit)
fritta verduri (fried vegetable appetizer)
shared a risotto of shrimp and peas
fritta moeche (soft shell crabs) with baby greens
tuna, quickly seared on both sides, with a citrus reduction
molton chocolate cake with coffee crema
lemon sorbet with liquorice dust
Across the board, our best meal in Venice. Again, I simply do not understand about the complaints I read regarding either indifferent service or unremarkable food. The dishes both times have been extremely well prepared, delicious, and reasonable in terms of the portion size. The sevice is very accomodating, with many nice small details such as the waiter (unasked) bringing an extra chair for my wife's purse, or when we purchased a cookbook to take home the owner writing a lovely inscription inside (again, unasked).
Da Fiore is one of our favorite restaurants in the world. About 250 Euro.
Alle Testiere - We went based on reviews on the chowhound website. They have two seatings, 7:00 and 9:30. We arrived at 7:00. A total of 25 seats in the entire restaurant. The waiter/owner read off a long and wonderful group of Antipasti, Pasta, and Fish dishes for us. We ordered:
fritta moeche (a different preparation than Da Fiore, with a vinegar undertone)
artichoke and parmesan with raspberry
scallop ravioli with small shrimp in a citrus (orange) dressing
tagliolini with baby cuttlefish and ink
john dory in a light butter reduction with mountain fruit
tuna loin in a thick balsamic reduction with baby strawberries
On the whole, we were very impressed with the chef. The service was lovely. We would definitely go back, but Da Fiore is #1 compared to Alle Testiere in our opinion. Around 135 Euro.
Fiaschetteria Toscana - another favorite of ours. Always ask for a table downstairs or in the garden. Arrived at 7:30. The service has always been charming. We ordered:
spider crab in shell
mixed green salad
there is only one thing to order - the tagliolini neri al ragù di astice (thin spaghetti served with squid ink and mixed with a delicate lobster sauce). Seriously, I could eat six orders of this, no problem. It has to be one of my all-time favorite dishes on any menu at any restaurant in the world. If they ever stop offering this dish, I'll cry like a baby......
fritta "seranissima" of vegetables and fish
vegetarian plate of vegetable ragu and spinach with olive oil and garlic
This is a great casual restaurant, and a Venetian classic. Dinner 120 Euro.
All in all, three times at bat, and three hits, I strongly recommend all three, especially as Venice can deliver some bad, touristy, overpriced eating experiences.