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Venice Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


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#1 circeplum

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Posted 08 May 2002 - 04:16 AM

i'm just back from a week in venice - which i absolutely loved.  however, i thought the restaurants - by and large - were disgraceful: a panoply of fleece-the-punters 'menu turisticos', slapdash, take-it-or-leave-it service and downright cynicism.  the only one i visited with any integrity was the hard to find, almost no-choice menu, conte scorto.

any suggestions for further trips?  i'm not keen on grand hotel dining (don't like the atmosphere).

#2 mogsob

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Posted 09 May 2002 - 06:05 AM

Venice is one city that really rewards advance planning and research.  La Rivetta, Sandro's, L'Incontro are all examples of very good, reasonable food in Venice.  There is also a great restaurant (lunch only) on the main canal in Murano that is fantastic (but I forget the name).

#3 robert brown

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Posted 09 May 2002 - 08:09 AM

Circeplum, I assume you mean further trips to Venice. I haven't been there in a very long time,  but your general impression of restaurants is pretty much true. Nonetheless, I would try to find a back-issue of "The Art of Eating" that had a section on Venetian cuisine, including several restaurant recommendations. This was about two or three years ago. Let me know if you need any help. I can try to put my hands on my copy.

#4 Charlene Leonard

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Posted 09 May 2002 - 09:23 AM

Article in last Saturday's Financial Times The Business magazine (04/05) on where Venice's best restaurants are hidden.  I work there so can send you a copy in the post if you want one... At a glance it mentions Alle Testiere, Vecio Fritolin, Do Mori and Pisani Hotel

#5 circeplum

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Posted 09 May 2002 - 09:43 AM

robert - thank you.  that would be really interesting.

charlene - i saw that article (after i posted this) on jancis roberston's website.  the writer is her husband.  the pisani is well out of my budget but the others look really interesting.  i did manage to track down do mori myself - and it was a genuinely brilliant find.  but it's really more of a drinking than eating place.  (not that i'm by any means averse to that ...)

mogsob - any more info on your recommendations?

#6 Jim Dixon

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Posted 09 May 2002 - 12:32 PM

A few years ago Judith and I rode back on the train from Venice to Florence and sat with a womon from Rome who worked as a conference organizer. She said she hated doing them in Venice because the restaurants were so overpriced and not very good.

A lot of this has to do with the huge crush of tourist traffic and the market response...but we found that by wandering around the outer sestiere, the neighborhoods away from San Marco, we could find great little neighborhood places. We would usually eat a big meal in one of these in the afternoon, then later in the evening eat cicheti (Venetian 'tapas' sold in the wine bars called bacari).

It's a little old, so the prices are outdated, but I have a short description of our favorites on my site:

Venice restaurants

Jim

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#7 Thomas Secor

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Posted 17 September 2002 - 07:49 AM

I am planning a brief visit to Venice with my wife and her parents in October. I have taken into account the above recommendations and saved the FT article from when it was first published. However, I was wondering whether anyone had additional thoughts. In particular, we are interested in laid back, friendly environments with good traditional food. My wife's father was brought up in Venice so he has very high standards to go along with his very fond memories. However, his fond memories do not include the names of any of the places he went to as a child (other than one place, maybe Giardineto's?, which I have been to and is very good, I will post on that and others when we return).

Your thoughts would be much appreciated.
Thomas Secor

#8 cmvnapa

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Posted 23 September 2002 - 01:56 PM

There was an article in yesterday's "San Francisco Chronicle" Travel section on dining in Venice. Here's the link:

http://www.sfgate.co.../22/TR14291.DTL

I'll be in Venice in late October for a few days and hope to head to one or more of the bacari.

#9 Jim Dixon

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Posted 26 September 2002 - 04:20 PM

I'd skip Do Mori...it's been written up so often that it's gotten a bit toursity and expensive, at least compared to the other bacari.

Jim
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#10 Zeb A

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Posted 27 September 2002 - 04:12 PM

My wife and I went to Italy this spring. We kept a journal in which we described, among other things, the food we ate. We spent about one and a half weeks in Italy--2 nights in Venice. We were fortunate because we have friends (A and D) who live outside Milan and who have family in Venice. A's mother is Venetian as is D. They joined us on Saturday and took us to a wonderful restaurant that we would never have found on our own. Afterwards, we spent hours walking the streets, drinking wine and eating ciccheti (sp?) in the bacaro.

Below is a selection from our journal. Please keep in mind that the journal's intended audience was our family (non-travellers), not egulleteers.




"Our hotel was right on St. Mark’s square, which is the large square in front of St. Mark’s cathedral and a popular spot. The first room they showed us at our hotel had twin beds and overlooked the McDonald’s (not kidding - A later told us there were over 300 in Italy). When we took the bellman up on his suggestion that we might want a double bed, we ended up with a big room overlooking the square. Much better. We spent a few minutes settling in and then headed out to explore. It was so nice outside and there were so many people to watch, we decided to stop at Gran Caffe Lavena, right on the square, and have a beer. Next, we meandered down the narrow, crowded streets and found Osteria Antico Dola, a very small restaurant/bar playing Irish music. We asked the bartender to pick us a red wine, as we decided on some food - fried olives, bruschetta with tomatoes and meatballs. Yummy! Zeb agreed to taste “a very typical Venetian dish,” which was of the consistency of calamari and served with onions. A and D later explained that it was indeed a typical dish and that it was not fish at all, but nervati - nerves (of what animal, we still don’t know).

We grabbed some breadsticks at a bakery across the street and ate them as we walked to Harry’s, a famous bar near the water, and one they say Hemingway frequented. There, we drank expensive, but good, Bellinis (prosecco and peach puree) and watched a group of Germans run through a few Bellinis each and then pay a $235 Euro bar tab (Bellinis are good, but not that good). Finally, we stopped by Osteria Enoteca San Marco for red wine, ham, cheese and bread.

Back at the room, we had the problem of having a 9:00 dinner reservation and having absolutely no idea what time it was. We took this opportunity to call A back in Milan, who not only filled us in on the time, but answered some questions about getting about in Italy, including when it was or was not appropriate to tip (basically, you don’t tip unless it is a special meal or special service).

Zeb made dinner reservations at Osteria Da Fiore a month ago. It is known as not only one of the best restaurants in Venice, but also one of the best in Italy. Da Fiore serves only seafood, no meat at all. We got a bottle of Pinot Grigio Reserva. Zeb got a huge pile of crabmeat for the first course and I had scallops cooked in olive oil and garlic and served in their shell. We then split risotto with prawns (gamberetti). Zeb got a plate of frito misto - fried fish, shrimp, small soft-shell spider crabs (granseola), calamari and vegetables. I had a turbot with a potato crust. Zeb got cheese for dessert and I had a warm chocolate cake. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Moscacieka, a funky little late-night pub, for a beer.

April 6, 2002

. . .

We were supposed to meet J (A’s father) at the Rialto bridge at 12:30. We got dressed and headed out down the labyrinth streets toward the bridge. Along the way, we grabbed some cookies at a bakery and a couple of sodas (they get more expensive the closer you are to St. Mark’s or Rialto). We met Jim on top of the bridge and continued north toward the Cannareggio district. Along the way, we stopped at the Rialto market. There were probably 100 stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, and an amazing array of seafood, much of which can be found only in the Adriatic Sea. At the edge of the market, we bumped into A and D, who had driven over from Milan (1.5 hours), and their friend F, who also lives in Milan. We were then off to Carampane, a restaurant off the beaten path that is run by F’s mother.

As you enter Carampane, you see several signs in Italian that say things such as: “We serve no pizza or lasagna and we have no menu turistico” and “Information or directions cost 50 Euros.” In other words, this was a very local place, not catering to tourists, and specializing in typical Venetian cuisine. It began as a bacero (a wine bar that serves small snacks called cichetti) and then grew into a full-fledged restaurant. F’s mother buys her seafood daily from the market at the Rialto. . . .

There were probably only five or six tables in the restaurant and Jim had previously made reservations for our party. After we were seated, E (A’s mother) showed up (she had been teaching that morning on Lido, a nearby island where she and J live). Pitchers of Prosecco were poured for all (we had many pitchers), and the feast began. We had seafood antipasti to start: salmon, anchovy, a skinny crustaceon that looked like a long skinny shrimp and had the consistency of lobster (yum), shrimp with chopped tomato, some spider crab (granseola) meat, and cuttlefish (a small dark squid). All were excellent. As I turned my attention to the cuttlefish, I dove into the head, thinking it would be the meatiest part. As I placed it in my mouth, I heard J say to E, “Do you want my cuttlefish head, I can’t eat all those brains and stuff.” Of course, by that time, there was no going back. The head was ok, but probably not my favorite item.

Then came the primi. We had a seafood lasagne. Very creamy and very good. . . .

For our secondi, we had a fritto misto - fried fish, crabs, and calamari. Again, it was outstanding. This fried seafood was very delicate and not at all greasy. The fried soft-shell spider crab was outstanding. Finally, for dessert, we had pear cake and a wonderful ice cream drink called Scroppino. This drink is a very typical Venetian drink, often served in summer. It is a blend of lemon ice cream, milk, Prosecco, and Vodka. Finally, to finish, we had grappa. I learned that soft grappa is for wussies and hard grappa is for real men. We had an excellent time, and this was a great feast. By now, we were quite buzzed, stuffed to the gills, and ready to walk. J and E went home, and A and D led us on a walking tour of Venice.

Basically, we saw Venice via the bacaro. It was nice to have A and D with us and able to speak the language. At almost every bacaro we went, D saw someone he knew. We drank mostly small glasses of red wine and ate of few snacks at several places (fried calamari, fried cauliflower, potato fritters, meatballs, fried olives, mussels, etc.). Later in the night we stopped at a little sandwich place and had soft white bread sandwiches chocked full of mayonnaise, egg, ham or crab. Good at the time, but I couldn’t think about them by the end of the night without getting queasy. The names of the bacaro we went to with A and D were:

· Cantine del Vino Gia Schiani
· Alla Botte
· Do Mori
· Antica Ostaria Ruga Rialto
· Bar Brigola
· Trattoria Ca’ D’or - Osteria Dalla Vedova
· Lost Paradise (an interesting place filled with hippy backpacker Italians)

After saying goodnight to A and D, who drove back to Milan, Zeb and I went to Vino Vino and then back to Moscacieka for a Corona.

April 7, 2002

J and E were nice enough to invite us for Sunday lunch, so we checked out of our hotel and took a boat to The Lido, a small island near Venice. Jim picked us up at the boat station and showed us around the island before taking us home for lunch. E is a great cook and we had a nice lunch of ham, olives, baccala (salt cod spread), mushroom risotto, chicken, pigeon, zucchini, cheese, strawberries and cookies. "



I tried to edit out most of the non-food stuff.


Left out of the journal so as not to shock our family was the cost of Da Fiore. I can't remember what it was, but it was more than any meal I have ever eaten (and I have spent some money). But, it was excellent, and, it is a place that Venetians themselves go for special occassions (e.g. J and E on their anniversary).


I would definitely try to find Carampane. I could not begin to tell you where it was. Way off the beatten path. Across the Rialto from San Marco, past the market, and around a corner or 2. I'll see if I can get better directions. One caveat. I have no idea if Deanna and I would have been able to order there if we did not have Venetian, or at least Italian, guides. No menus. Probably no English. But excellent, typical cuisine.

Hope there is some useful information in here. Have fun!

#11 John Whiting

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Posted 27 September 2002 - 10:57 PM

Anyone planning even a single trip to Italy should get hold of the latest edition of _Osterie d'Italia_, published in association with Slow Food. Even if you don't read Italian (although there's supposed to be an English edition coming or already here). It's worth its weight in Alba truffles.
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#12 ngatti

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Posted 27 September 2002 - 11:23 PM

Ahh Venice.

Italy's very own "Disney World" :smile:

Nick

#13 John Whiting

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Posted 27 September 2002 - 11:59 PM

Italy's very own "Disney World"  

Yes, but . . .

Let me share my method of having Venice all to yourself. Go on a weekend in the height of summer. Get up at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning. By the time you're walking about the sun will be out but the streets/canals will still be empty. Stroll about in total possession of your magnificent private world. (I've wide-angle photographs of the Piazza San Marco in broad daylight, not a soul in sight.) Plan to end up around seven outside the Fenice when the coffee stalls open.

It has to be Sunday; any other day, shopkeepers and their suppliers are already on the move.
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#14 anil

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Posted 28 September 2002 - 07:29 PM

Ahh Venice.  

Italy's very own "Disney World"   :smile:

Nick

Have you looked at Times Sq. lately ? There is even a Disney store by 67th & Columbus ? Not exactly tourist heavy place - Only an ABC News Hq. ?

Seriously, I can easily blank out any distractions like tourists - I worked for over a decade on 42nd St. a block from Times Sq. :wink: I ignored,tuned them out every day of the year :raz:
anil

#15 robert brown

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Posted 28 September 2002 - 09:02 PM

Da Marisa is the lead restaurant described in Issue # 50 of the Art of Eating. The problem is that, according to the publication's owner and just about sole writer Edward Behr, you have to reserve seven weeks in advance. There are lots of restaurants described. The best is to go to the Art of Eating website and order it. At the same time buy a subscription if you care about learning about food in its purest form and primary habitat.

#16 ngatti

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Posted 28 September 2002 - 11:07 PM

I was there during a late january. May go this year in Feb. (not carnivale). The place is relatively empty. Only some Brazilian tourists, some brits,...Oh, and the odd gringo from NJ. :smile: A little chilly, but quite manageable if you're from NY/NJ. Besides, I don't go there (Venice) to soak up the sun.

My nutshell take on it was a vast Italian theme park, replete with touristas, overpriced food, and a superb 'marketing' vibe cast over the entire town. I'm being a bit flip, of course. There is much that impresses. It's a beautiful place.

Nick :smile:

#17 Jim Dixon

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Posted 29 September 2002 - 04:43 PM

Zeb,

Thanks for sharing your journal entries, especially the tip for Carampane. I'm not sure when we'll get back to Venice, but I'll defintiely try to find it.

One of my favorite experiences was wandering through the Rialto market as the sun was coming up. i had jet lag and couldn't sleep. so I took the camera and spent a few hours watching the vendors set up and drinking espresso with them in a little bar next to the market.

Jim
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#18 peterpumkino

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Posted 30 September 2002 - 01:50 AM

Anyone planning even a single trip to Italy should get hold of the latest edition of _Osterie d'Italia_, published in association with Slow Food.

I second this idea. I aways maintain that you can go anywhere in Italy and get a great meal regardless until my friends came back bitching about Firenze, Venice and Rome. Problem is, of course, there are two Italian cuisines. One for Italians and one for everybody else and the Italian's do believe (and they are usually right!) that 'everybody else' knows nothing about Italian food (except for Spaghetti and Meat Balls!) therefore it doesn't matter what slop is served. I don't really think it's a rip-off as such, I honestly feel that the Italians just do not consider 'anybody else' as knowledgable and therefore important.

So moral of the tail? Do not take any recommendations from anyone but Italians talking to Italians (and certainly not US magazines, no matter how glossy). Ergo John's suggestion, that way you are sure to go where Italians eat and you will get Italian food. Be warned though that Italian food is regional and bears little resemblance to what is called 'Italian food' in New York or London.

Peter

PS If the menu is in English prepare to run a mile, it it's in Japanese as well then do the four-minute mile!

#19 Zeb A

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Posted 30 September 2002 - 07:34 AM

Thanks for sharing your journal entries, especially the tip for Carampane.

My pleasure. Actually, I need to thank you for a recommendation that you gave us. Prior to our trip, I happened across your website and sent you an email asking if you had any recommendations in Florence. You suggested Osteria Santo Spirito, and we had a wonderful lunch there. In fact, we had quite a few excellent meals in Florence.

#20 Zeb A

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Posted 01 October 2002 - 11:04 AM

My friend sent me an email with some additional information about the location of Carampane.

"It's in the "Carampane" district of Venice - the
hotel should definitely know.
Near "ponte delle tette"."

Not much more detail, but hopefully that will work if you try to find it.

#21 Kikujiro

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Posted 04 October 2002 - 11:02 AM

Someone should get JJS to post on this topic, but in the meantime: Alle Testiere, Harry's Dolci, Corte Sconta, Fiaschetteria Toscana, Osteria Santa Marina, Al Mascaron. Testiere above all. Luckily there are often Americans in there so not much chance of running into Peter :raz:

None of the above are fantastically expensive; Al Mascaron very far from it; go for an unglamorous but good lunch.

#22 peterpumkino

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Posted 06 October 2002 - 11:02 AM

Luckily there are often Americans in there so not much chance of running into Peter :raz:

Go ahead and mock the afflicted!

Truth is I very rarely eat in restaurants where there are Americans or for that matter any non-Italians, simply because I go to areas that tourists do not go (that soiunds pretensious doesn't it? It's not intentional it just works out that way).

#23 Thomas Secor

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 05:52 AM

Thanks for the suggestions. I have reservations for Alle Testiere and Carampane (unfortunately for the same evening, so something is going to have to give).

Kikujiro, thanks for the list. You have hit many of the ones that I have repeatedly seen recommended. However, I would give al Mascaron a miss. I have been there twice in the last year and a half and both times found it to be disappointing, particularly with respect to the amount of hype its received. I must disclose that the last time I went, my mood was probably heavily soured by the fact that we went by during the day, were told we needed reservations, and therefore made reservations for the evening (the only available reservations being for 9pm). We arrived promptly at 9pm and then waited for over an hour for our table, along with all the people who hadnt made reservations.

Peter, do you have any concrete suggestions regarding Venice, I didnt notice any above. I would love to take recommendations only from italians, but that is not always an option, and in this case the two italians who might be helpful, i.e. my wife and her father, are the ones whose lack of information prompted my original request.
Thomas Secor

#24 Kikujiro

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Posted 07 October 2002 - 08:25 AM

Thomas,

Sorry to hear about Al Mascaron. I ate there most recently a few times earlier this year (around Easter) and have usually found them to be friendly, and the food good (although hardly sophisticated), so I'm sad to hear you had a less than helpful experience. I generally preferred it as a lunchtime option. Maybe they're getting too popular and slipping; it does seem to happen.

Re. Peter's comments -- Most of the restaurants on the list were introduced to us by Venetians. A couple came from Gambero Rosso. But none are frequented exclusively by Venetians. Hardly a city in which that's likely in good restaurants. Peter's model of course rather excludes the notion of any non-Italians (apart from him) being good enough friends with Italians to get restaurant recommendations from them ... but we've spend quite enough time on this board discussing Peter's ideas about Italian restaurants without me extending the conversation here.

I've never been to Carampane so I can't compare, although I've had a look at the menu online and it is maybe a tad less interesting than Testiere. But then I'm inordinately fond of Testiere, and I know how these heartfelt recommendations can often turn in to big disappointments. (Testiere will do a great fritto misto but it's not always on the menu; you might have to request it in advance.)

Have a great time. One tip: have morning coffee and little pastries at Tonolo, near Campo S Margarita. (Dorsoduro, 3764-S.Pantalon, 30123 Venezia, tel.+39-041-5237207, closed Mondays. Nearest vaporetto stop S. Tomà.)

#25 circeplum

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 01:58 AM

peter - as ever, jumping to conclusions!

i ate terribly in venice and speak italian pretty fluently as, surprisingly, does my italian mama. unlike you, who can't seem to spell pizzeria! :raz: :wink:

(from italy true test thread: 'First of all it clears up the misconception once and for all that Pizza is Italian and NOT from NYC (BTW did you know that there are many Pizzaria's in Naples that do not serve wine at all! Italians, on the whole, prefer to drink beer with pizza and think we're crazy ordering wine).

#26 peterpumkino

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 03:13 AM

peter - as ever, jumping to conclusions!

Sorry, but if you ate badly in Venezia you went to the wrong restaurants, period.

Regarding my spelling - have you seen my English? I don't now about you but I have a lot of work on and do not have time to proof read everything I send out.

One thing, I have eaten some terrible meals in Venezia, Firenze and Roma but I only have ever had myself to blame.

#27 peterpumkino

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 03:15 AM

Circeplum,

Where was your Italian mama born?

#28 Kikujiro

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 03:19 AM

edited in imitation of Circeplum below, and because I'm bored. If we all do this we could slowly erase the whole thread backwards.

#29 circeplum

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Posted 08 October 2002 - 03:51 AM

edited out of apathy and anomie

#30 magnolia

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Posted 29 October 2002 - 10:53 AM

My wife and I went to Italy this spring.  We kept a journal in which we described, among other things, the food we ate...

Zeb A - This is fantastic and really helpful. I'm trying to plan well in advance (thanks Mogsob!) for a trip to Venice next year, so doing the research now.

Last time I was in Venice I was a poor but molto impressionable student, and I was picked up (with not much arm-twisting)by an Older Italian Guy (he was probably 25!) named Duccio (sp?) who took me to a place called Paradiso Perduto (or whatever the translation of Paradise Lost is, my Italian è smarito - or scomparso, whatever..) It was the only "real" meal I had in a week of living on pastries and coffee, so I remember the meal being great - I proceeded to cut the evening short after he walked me back to my hostel ...which led to his being hostile...until the night watchman came out and basically told the guy to get lost. Ah, youth....

Anyway do share other journals with us, we promise not to be shocked... not at the prices anyway. :smile: