My friend Dave, in Berkeley, recently asked:
I have friends going to Venice in 2 weeks. Could you give me a short list of 2 or 3 restaurants that you have liked there. I know you have found some special ones.
Our best meal in Venice recently was at Antiche Carampane, a hard to find family-run restaurant in San Polo frequented exclusively by locals. The menu changes daily and is based entirely on what they find that morning at the market, so it has a somewhat limited menu composed almost entirely of local fish, shellfish and vegetables, all brilliantly prepared. The atmosphere is very friendly, and the owners will basically tell you what to eat. If you are not picky, you will have a great meal. The atmosphere is lively and fun and even the desserts are great. It’s quite moderately priced given the quality of the food—and that it’s in Venice. It’s small, and reservations are essential. It’s also quite hard to find, so you’ll need a good map. As Venice addresses are useless you’ll be wandering some fairly deserted residential alleys and squares until you find the Calle de la Carapane. When you’re sure you’ve missed it, just go a little further, and there it is.
Other favorites in Venice are San Marco, a stylish restaurant with excellent food and a good wine list, centrally located on a small street called Frezzeria behind the famous piazza; and Vino Vino a casual and inexpensive winebar/restaurant (on Calle della Vesta, no credit cards) near La Fenice opera house.
The three restaurants mentioned by every food writer in the world are all excellent, but also extremely expensive. The very formal Da Fiore is great, but you may not want to drop the 200 Euros per person it will cost you to eat there. Likewise the equally delicious and famous Al Covo. Fiaschetteria Toscana is my current favorite among the three, being slightly less pricey. All offer expansive menus, multi-lingual staff and excellent food—for a price.
If you have time to take a day trip out to Torcello (a very pleasant boat ride in good weather), one of my favorite restaurants for a long, leisurely lunch is Osteria al Ponte di Diavolo. Great, typically Venetian food in a lovely outdoor setting between the boat dock and the oldest church in Venice. A little expensive, but worth it, and again reservations advised.
It’s worth visiting Do Mori, one of the oldest bars in Venice, for a drink and a few excellent cicheti. This stand up establishment, tucked away on the Calle die Do Mori on the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge is a stand up affair, and open only during the day. Nearby there are several similar bars offering cicheti and wines by the glass.
Notable too are a number of new, very stylish and modern bars and restaurants that seem to be popping up around Venice, indicating that the city is more than simply a museum. You’ll encounter them in out of the way places, but Aciugheta (on the Campo Santi Filippo e Giacomo, between San Marco and San Zaccaria) is a nice central place for a drink and cicheti. They also operate a stylish new restaurant with only five tables (on the same square) which serves very good modern takes on Venetian food.
I will also recommend the guidebook Venice Osterie (in English) though you’ll probably have to pick it up in Venice itself at the Mondadori Bookshop (Salizada San Moise, in the haute shopping district off Piazza San Marco.) By the way, there is a very stylish cocktail bar behind the bookstore, one of the few that is open late in Venice, but drinks are rather expensive. If you still want to drink after dinner, I’d suggest a walk to the Campo Santa Margherita and the cheap and lively bar Margaret Duchamp.
In addition to the above, I cannot stress enough the value of simply wandering around the farther, tourist-ignored reaches of Castello, Cannaregio, San Polo or Dorsoduro around lunch time, where you will encounter wonderful little restaurants catering to local residents and workers, and serving up simple, delicious food at absurdly low prices. Poke around and go with your instincts. In these non-tourist areas you’ll also find great places for coffee and drinks (try the Spritz Aperol, a local favorite) at rock bottom prices—the Venetians love their coffee and drinks.