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Eating in Venice

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The Chowhound “Eating in Rome” report good, always updated, and needing no new start, I thought I’d start the same for Venice.

I was in Venice 12-15 Jan 07. My visit short, I didn’t have time to call on my usual inexpensive restaurant, Trattori dai Tosi, Secco Marina 738 (be sure your at the right place!). So reports are welcome.

Venice is magical in winter, with the fog, the view of the Alps, and between Epiphany and Carnival the city might as well be empty, San Marco with no line and minimal gawkers. Alas, for Chowhounds, many of the better restaurants are closed from Christmas to Carnival. And, alas, alas, Venice has not been one of my favorite eating places. I have found some exceptions.

After the sublime High Solemn Mass at San Marco (1030a, lasting about an hour and 15 min) or after Solemn Vespers (at 540p in winter, 6p in summer, lasting about an hour, concluding with a procession to an equally sublime Litany of the Virgin), worth a try close by is Antica Sacrestia, Fillippo e Giacomo 4442, at the corner of Calle de la Sacresta, and like most places in Venice, a challenge to find. I was there for lunch. I found it crowded, over heated, and I had to be shoe-horned into my table. Good food, good service, and nice atmosphere all the same. I had the simple fixed price menu.

Do Forni, Calle dei Specchieri, isn’t bad, and the ratio of price to food isn’t good. I wouldn’t call it fine dining. Still, my sole was acceptable. The service was good, my waiter displaying great self-control when dealing with two Russians who were making risible demands. I’m told that this place is also open late at night, and thus useful if one spends the day in Verona, Vicenza, or Padova.

Twice I’ve been to Trattoria Busa Alla Torre Da Lele, Campo San Stefano 3, Murano. Twice I’ve arrived for lunch right at 12 noon, the latter visit SA 13 i 07. Twice I’ve had the spaghetti in cuttlefish ink. Twice I’ve had the grilled fresh fish. Twice I’ve had the Tiramisu. And twice I’ve eaten as well as ever in Venice for a midrange price restaurant – and it isn’t even in Venice, but in Murano. So after touring the glass blowing, the glass museum, and the sublime Sts Maria and Donato (the exterior apse a hymn to the humble brick, the interior apse the otherworldly mosaic [have your party not look up and walk to the steps of the altar; you at the door put two Euro in the light machine; all will be transported to Paradise]), this restaurant is well worth it.

For Fine dining: The Met at the Metropole Hotel. The most outstanding food I've had in Venice, in a very well upholstered room, with fine service from a young Chinese woman speaking perfect English. The 1 Michelin star, shared by only one other restaurant in Venice (as of the 1997 ed. of the Red Michelin Italia), is quite well deserved. Vivaldi used one of the rooms for practice. Of course, it’s very expensive. Reservations are a must, the front desk telling me that the chef will serve only 40 people per night. Because the Metropole is my hotel in Venice, they slipped me in on short notice. Live music accompanies a fine meal.

Also at the Metropole: after a cold rainy day, as the darkness gathers, in the late afternoon or early evening, consider tea at the Metropole. Go to the hotel’s bar, ask for tea, and sit there or in the posh lounge. Alas, cigars are no longer available at the bar, but the bartender told me where to find good Havanas in Venice. Outside the hotel on the walk there are benches overlooking the beautiful view of the lagoon and San Giorgio, and there one may partake of the evil weed in peace.

From previous visits, and close to the Metropole: For fine dining: Do Leoni at Hotel Londra Palace, Corta Scota, Al Covo (2nd place after The Met), Trattoria Da Remigino. For less expensive eating: Trattoria alla Rivetta (if you can get in, given the crowds), Trattoria Pizzzeria da Paolo by the Arsenal, Ristorante Hotel Pensione Wildner (closed for renovation Jan 2007)

Corrections, updates, other reviews of Venice dining most welcome.

– Sid Cundiff

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  1. Do Forni is huge and there are a few tricks to getting the most out of your visit. Like many high-end places in Italy, rightly or wrongly, you basically need to spend your way into the club. If you don't order at least 3 courses and a decent bottle of wine (read over 50 Euros), you're likely to be treated to a competent but uninspiring meal. But, if you go a number of times and spend some cash, it is an entirely different experience. I don't endorse this somewhat rapacious approach, but I can understand it as the almost inevitable result of running an expensive place within stunmbling distance of the throngs of St. Mark's.

    Like many places, you're there for the experience, not the analytical precision of the food. Thus, the "price to food ratio" is kind of besides the point (although obviously the point of this site).

    That being said, the food can be excellent. The signature dishes are simple, but extremely well-executed. Start with the spider crab in the shell -- fresh, briny and refreshing. Next, the risotto with lobster or the linguine alle vongole. Again, simple but fresh and exactly the way you'd expect it. For main courses, stick to the basics: grilled or baked branzino, grilled langoustines, etc. If you're with a group, get the sea bass baked in salt -- depending on the number of people, it can be an enormous fish, and it's great fun to watch the waiters filet it tableside.

    For dessert, get the souffle. You need to order it in advance and it is served with two decadent sauces, one vanilla and one chocolate.

    It's very popular with Italians for a special night out -- witness, for example, the number of "Happy Birthdays" you hear sung in Italian. Don't go before 8:30. Order an aperitivo, relax and prepare to spend a long night eating and enjoying yourself.

    Please note: there are two sides and make sure you're in the back, preferrably the room to the far right.

    1. I have two favorites in Venice, both in the Dorsoduro district.

      The first is Avogaria. It has 2 rooms and there are twinkle lights strung between them. I had a mixed antipasti. It was mostly seafood stuffed peppers, sun dried tomatoes etc. and some cheese. The peppers were surprisingly spicy. My partner had orchiette to start and beef in almond sauce. Interesting food.

      The other recommendation and our favorite of the two is Al Gondolieri They are extremely welcoming and the room is comfortable and not stuffy. There were four of us and we had some wonderful things. Fried artichoke hearts, a seasonal specialty. Thin slices of rare veal over veggies molded in a round. One of us had a wonderful thing. It was veggies and greens in a terrine under ricotta browned and smoked somehow. Very unusual.

      For main courses - liver and onions on polenta, a Venetian specialty. Nicely rare lamb with potatoes. Filet steak with a Barolo reduction sauce, lovely. And a white ravioli to DIE for.
      We had, glasses of prosecco, a nice white and a nice Valpolicella (local) and an Amarone. All wonderful. Then we splurged and had another Valpolicella with our cheese course. For dessert one of us got the ice cream with balsamico. Ah...

      1. I've eaten at Avogaria a couple of times. Its at Dorsoduro 1629 (a worthless address). To get there from the Accademia, walk toward Campo Santa Margharita and make a left after going under the sottopassagio leading to Campo San Barnaba. Follow this calle until you go over a bridge. Avogorio will be on your left in a couple of hundred feet. An old building transformed into a comfortable ultramodern interior. The chef, at least on my attendances, was from Puglia and his menu reflected this bent. Good food and wine and, IMO, a fun place.