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Oct 11, 2006 12:37 AM

Restaurants in Venice

Good and casual - Acqua Pazzo (great pizza).

Overrated and unpleasant - Vini da Gigio. The place is past its prime and now comes with an attitude. Got an inedible plate of pasta w/truffles - it was overwhelming. Sent it back and was asked if I would like something else. So I ordered something else, and when the bill came, both items were on it. They refused to take it off. The owner came over and she was equally nasty and said they put lots of truffles on their plate b/c that is the way everyone wants it. If you eat truffles, you know that it is a wonderful but strong flavor not meant to be loaded on like pepperoni. Finally, we said we would pay for both but would let our hotel know what had happened since the hotel made the reservations. When the bill returned it was no longer on it.

Fortuny at Hotel Cipriani was good but a bit stuffy. The restaurant De Pisis at the Bauer was excellent but pricey.

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  1. So why would you eat at one of the hotel restaurants in Venice ??? This is a perfect recipe for spending four times as much as the food is worth...

    Venice has developed in a quite peculiar way. Venetians do not eat there if they can avoid it, so what you see and meet at all restaurants are touristst, tourists and some more tourists. This is not a chowhound area.

    Of course, you HAVE to eat somewhere, and Venice is worth visiting. This board has plenty of reports about decent places where to eat (and it need not be Alla Testiere or da Fiore, these places are only popular because there the waiters speak English fluently...). Get one of the dedicated restaurant guides, and you will find that you get at leats decent food. Of course outside of Venice, just a few miles away, a decent dinner costs less than half, and is much much better. Only: you better speak Italian !!


    1 Reply
    1. re: Sturmi

      Id rather say Venice is a challenging chow area, but offers wonderful opportunities, in terms of the unique lagoon seafood, and pure cuisine. Whats key is to get out of the mainly touristic areas and to restaurants frequented by the venetians, whose population seems to have declined more each time we visit. Ive mentioned Michela Scibilia's book on the Venice osterie frequently as a resource for finding the good places. It is regularly updated and is avaiable in both english and italian - either is usable - in bookstores in Venice. give it a look next time you are there.

    2. Alle Testiere is legitimately excellent by any standard-it is absurd that you would say it is only because the waiters speak English fluently. Venice is also most definitely a Chowhound area. I believe it is one of the purposes of this board to identify places that are legitimately excellent at any price.

      1. Alle Testiere is good, but not excellent. And it is pricey.

        The problem is that Venice is now overrun with tourists who will pay any price for food which is not plain junk food. And yes, I too love Venetian cuisine, but - thanks to our Italian friends - I now know that it can be much better and much less expensive. You just have to leave Venice and go to the terra ferma, the mainland. Use the Gambero Rosso or the Osterie d ́Italia guides and find someone who speaks some Italian in order to get her REAL thing...

        And in Venice, I mainly go for tramezzini at Rosa Salva or panini caldi at the Bar Ai Nomboli. That is all I need when visiting the great museums, churches, exhibitions, concerts...

        5 Replies
        1. re: Sturmi

          YOu make a good point that there are lots of options on the Terra Firma in Mestre marghera, etc., especially as the out-migration of Venetians continues. However, we've had three week+long visits to Venice in the last 5 years, and despite strategizing to visit some of these havent made the trip yet. The lack of attractions other than a meal in these areas is a factor for tourists. I repeat there are still good options to be enjoyed within the city, in cannaregio, castello, dorsoduro, san polo, even san marco - it just takes a little more energy to identify and get to them.

          1. re: Sturmi

            I purchased the Osterie & Locande D'Italia per your recommendation and took a brief look. It doesn't seem to list any Venice restaruants, but those in Venuto (the area). Do I have the wrong book. Also the last Gambero Rosso I see was issued in 2000, is there a more current version? Thanks!

            1. re: Boss77

              I have the 2006 Osterie &....... and it lists Anice Stellato in Cannaregio and La Bitta in Dorsoduro. Oh how I wish I had had the book last month in Venice, but it was in the bag Delta sent to Kiev. The guide's most interesting recommendations for the Venice area are in Mestre. We did something really interesting around Venice. When Venice was at its peak, wealthy Venetians had mansions and estates along the canal to Padova. They were taken there in their private gondolas or on barges manned with slaves to escape the summer heat of the lagoon. We drove along this canal and many of the mansions still exist. The Slow Food Guide has restaurant recommendations for Stra and Mira along the canal. Frankly, I have found this guide much more reliable than the CH board suggestions.

              1. re: BN1

                I see that now, Venice hidden at the back. Thanks!

              2. re: Boss77

                I dont know if you can buy the Gambero Rosso Guides (including the guide to the Restaurants of Italy) in the US. We bought ours in Italy - it would not be my first recommendation, but if you like chef-driven cuisine it may be more reliable and comprehensive than Michelin. . For Venice, the Michele Scibilia Osterie book is good for local places.
                Re the Slowfood guide, they do not currently recc many places, but Dalla Marisa, Osteria La Frasca are two that have been in the guide in the past -

            2. Of course you are right, there are still places in Venice where you can get decent food. We will go to Venice between November 16 and 19 and hopefully I will be able to give a positive report afterwards.

              And now to the lack of attractions: Boy are you wrong !! The better half of Venetian architecture are the villas along the Riviera della Brenta !!
              And there are great restaurants in the same area, such as our favorite, the Trattoria Nalin in Mira Porte.
              And you can take the "Burchiello", a regular boat from Venice, Riva degli Schiavoni, to the Brenta, to see all the villas !!

              6 Replies
              1. re: Sturmi

                I've been to Venice a dozen times in the last 15 years including having just returned. There is, indeed, excellent food in Venice. Yes, it is more expensive perhaps much more expensive than the mainland. But this is Venice. And the excellent food is there. There is also no question that there is excellent food outside of Venice and it is much more reasonable in cost. But I cannot imagine staying outside of Venice and commuting in. Nor commuting from Venice to eat outside-it is simply too difficult. Frankly, it would also lack the charm and romance, too. There are many interesting and worthwhile sites to explore away from Venice but for most visitors, with only a handful of days to stay there, they will not leave. I think you have a different perspective than myself and most others in Venice; this includes dining. But for you to say that Alle Testiere is merely good, not excellent is incredible. One of the comments that its owners are proudest of is how they "negotiate" at the market: not for price but for quality. They are excellent negotiators.
                I am persistent in making this claim because I was the first to mention this restaurant on here almost six years ago now. It was because of posts about this restaurant on Chowhound by myself and MANY others that numerous guide books began to mention this restaurant. When I first went to it ten or so years ago it was rare that I found an American in it. Now-perhaps unfortunately-that is no longer true. Still, I doubt that Americans constitute more than a quarter at any given time of the 24 seats in the restaurant. You mentioned da Fiore. I actually agree with you that it is now overpriced. At one time however Patricia Wells in the International Herald Tribune called it the "best restaurant in Italy." It may or may not be but I don't think the food has changed. Just the prices. It was because of other posts on Chowhound by numerous contributors over the years (restaurants such as Corte Sconta among others) that guidebooks first mentioned them also. This is a primary source for good food both in and outside of Venice as well as a source for other publications. Gambero Rosso, L'espresso, Veronelli and others are likewise excellent. But in some cases restaurants are first mentioned on here. Not in them. Again, that is one of the primary purposes of Chowhound. I'm sorry but I just cannot let you summarily dismiss Venice and some of its restaurants because of your reluctance to pay what they charge. I would ask you to discuss some of the mainland restaurants or sources that you enjoy in detail so others can try them.

                Last, of course you are right that Venice is overrun with tourists. It is for this reason that we do not go in mid May to mid September. The other months are bad enough. In fact, over the years, most of our trips have been from early December to early February when there are relatively few tourists. Still, for ourselves this is the price we pay for what we believe to be one of the most enchanting and magical cities on earth.

                By the way: the very first post in this thread is also the first post that I have seen anywhere that complained that "the truffles were loaded on like pepperoni." Because of that Vini da Gigio will be the first restaurant I visit on my next Fall trip.

                1. re: Joe H

                  Thank you for your excellent response. I have been lucky enough to have spent months at a time in venice for work, I couldn't agree more with what you have said, or how you have said it. While it is true that Da Fiore is not quite the restuarant it was when it first opened, I have had many wonderful meals there, and they couldn't be nicer. The only negative note would be the number of whiney american tourists I have found trying the patience of the owners and waitstaff the last couple of times I have been.
                  There are lots of great small trattorias in venice, you just need to go outside of the tourist neighborhoods (rialto and san marco) and find them. Isn't that supposed to be part of the fun?

                  1. re: KMERC

                    I personally think the "whiney american tourists" have soured the atmosphere in Da Fiore, judging by the cynical way were treated there on our one visit a couple of years back. Also, the food was less than perfect - certainly not great enough to overcome the attitude, both on the part of the waiter and the hostess. My husband vowed never to go back. Maybe if you become a regular its different, but I would not recommend a visit there any more. Then again, I have to take a pledge not to mention this again - my only excuse this time is that a search of the new Italy board will not surface my cavils on the old International.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      I'm sorry that you had a bad experience - I've always found them to be charming and accomadating - wish I could say I was a "regular" - tho I do try to go whenever I get up to venice. On my last couple vists there always seemed to be a table that would have been better off staying at home and eating at the olive garden.
                      Hope your experience was just a blip and not a sign of bad things to come. I'll have to get back up there. I need to check out "Met" anyway which has been mentioned so much on these post.

                      1. re: KMERC

                        well, we werent one of those (tho it didnt make me happy that a nearby table was from the same brooklyn nabe as me, and talking about local schools, yawn) but we might have been, with seafood risotto without any visible seafood in it, attitude when my husband wanted a small quantity of wine to complete the meal, and an argument over a service charge, among other things. A total bore and hardly a pleasant dining experience, especially at their price point. They could still cook - we had a couple of stellar things (esp some schie - the tiny grey shrimp - dont miss that if its on offer when in Venice) - but the meal as a whole wasnt worth it.

                  2. re: Joe H

                    Only been to Venice once (this past spring) but think that I can recognize excellent Italian food, whether in Venice, other parts of Italy or our NYC home base. Our meal at Alle Testiere was excellent. And quite reasonably priced.

                2. Thank you for you detailed answer to my provoking post. I am just preparing a report about a short trip to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region we made in September.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Sturmi

                    We also ate at Vini da Gigio this past August and wondered what the fuss was about! Our meal was poor at best. Service was certainly not difficult, but not above average.
                    Many restaurants we had wanted to try were closed for the month so we were particularly disappointed that this one fared so poorly.
                    Sorry not to give many details. It was a few months ago now. I remember a fish I had that was near inedible and my husband had a terrible osso bucco. Didn't bother with dessert.

                    1. re: Oakland Barb

                      You can find a good meal in Venice, but it is certainly easier to find a mediocre one. But you know what? Who cares!!! Venice is a magical city, even if you are subsisting on pizza and gelato. Venice has a way of transforming everyday experiences into extraordinary ones.