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Jun 3, 2009 09:35 AM

Venice, Italy - TOPS

Armed with a ton of restaurant research and advice from friends, here's our take on a week of dining in Venice:

Fiaschetteria Toscana, Cannaregio 5719, San Giovanni Grisotomo 041-528-5281,
Be certain to book the dining room downstairs, as recommended by others at CH. We ate at this restaurant twice because our first dining experience here was our favorite in Venice. The upstairs dining area is where they relegate larger parties and children. And that’s totally cool, but you might get stuck waiting for an hour+ after ordering to get your food and then having to ask for the bill three times. The food is the same on both floors, but the service was not.
I tried to not let our second experience detract from our first, because the first time around was so lovely. The bartender from our hotel, Marco, a local and also self-proclaimed foodie, said FT was one of his favorite restaurants in the city. The food doesn’t change over the years, and it’s simple preparation, but only the freshest ingredients are used. Using our first dining experience here as the beta, we wholeheartedly agree, dine on the downstairs level here and this would be one classic Venetian place not to miss. Be certain to get the fresh grilled fish, as it is their specialty. Save room for the tiny strawberry tartlet if strawberries are in season.

Il Ridotto, Castello 4509, Campo SS. Fillippo e Giacomo 041-5208280
A very close second prize for dining experiences this week goes to Il Ridotto. Initially, it felt a little exclusive and on the fancy side versus the other restaurants we had been to in Venice; however, this feeling subsided quickly. The chef treats his restaurant as his home, and was determined to make our dining experience an inviting and special memory. He checked up on us frequently to make sure we were enjoying his creations, but he was so subtle that it never felt intrusive. He gets more artistic and creative with his preparation and presentation than our other Venetian dining experiences, but it wasn’t over the top frou frou noveau.
We loved the local baby squid in their ink on top pureed potatoes. We had various raw fish tossed with lavender and paired with fruit or other items as a starter. Our favs from this dish were the scorpion fish with apple and fennel, the sea bas on top of a peach and the tuna with thyme. Our absolute favorite part of the meal - and one not to miss - was his pasta. We had peperoncino ravioli with rock shrimp, garnished and dressed with fresh tomatoes, basil and a sliver of mozzarella. OMG. So delish. The fresh fish is also not to be missed here.

Al Covo, Castello 3968, Campiello della Pescaria, 041-522-3812
I know this one gets added to every Venice foodie list and we were told by one of our friends who is the GM of a very famous Italian restaurant in NY (as well as a few others he worked with) that this was THE best place in Venice to have fritto misto. The owner/chef was so honest and endearing. He alone will make you come back. We defaulted to him in selecting our dishes. He said it was like asking a father who his favorite son was. But, with his guidance, we shared the fritto misto (the portion is so large that it needs to be shared and the owner will tell you this even though it goes against the P&L). It was truly delicious and prepared in the classic Venetian way. I loved the cod – mmmm mmm good. He has broad wine list with wines that are reasonably priced.

Vini da Gigio, Cannaregio 3628, Fondamenta San Felice 041-528-5140
Ok – this one was written up in so many food-rating books and all with very high ratings. It was good, but we were a little disappointed. We loved the soft shell crab and I would imagine their fritto misto would probably follow suit, as the preparation would have been the same. Pass on the pasta. The servers were very lovely and personable, but I think this restaurant has such a following and demand for reservations that they’ve fallen prey to the “resting on their laurels” syndrome. Advice to management - A restaurant with ratings in major guide books such as yours shouldn’t allow the pestering rose guys to ask patrons 4 times over the course of a meal if they want a rose.

Ca d’Oro (Alla Vedova), Cannaregio 3912, 041-528-5324
Inexpensive, good and endearing. A traditional bacari experience. You must have a meatball (or three).

Snacks, lite bites and other:
Osteria Enoteca, San Marco 1610, 041-5285242
After seeing what could be the most expensive and underwhelming cocktail or snack of your life in the San Marco Piazza, this was such a welcoming experience. We had a lovely half bottle of Brunello and deliciously and perfectly cooked pasta. Put this one on your agenda for a lite lunch after walking around San Marco, as all the tourists in that area are too busy queuing at Hard Rock Venice to find this little gem.

Il Refolo, Santa Croce 1459, 041-524-0016
Post reading many guide books and seeing a deluge of non-locals (massive fanny packs seem to be the dead give away) eating at pizza places, we steered clear of this food genre. I mean amazing prosciutto and melon is in abundance here people, so why default to pizza especially if you are warned in advance that it’s so-so? However, sometimes, a pizza and a beer hit the spot. We agree, the pizza here was very good.

Antica Drogheria, (wine store) San Paolo, 041-5229762
He was very honest telling us which wines had been sitting around for a little while and which ones they had just got in – 2004 Brunellos had just arrived that week, so of course, we picked up a few to take back.

Best of the Best:
If we were to diet for a month and prepare our ultimate Venetian dinner menu based on our experiences this week it would be:
Soft shell crabs, Vini da Gigo
Meatball(s), Ca d’Oro
Prosciutto, so fresh at most locations
Pasta sampling:
- Rock shrimp in peperoncino ravioli, Il Ridotto
- Osteria Enoteca
Grilled Fish, Fiaschetteria Toscana

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  1. Thank you for taking the time to write the detail post. Glad that you had some excellent food in Venice.

    1. Thank you for reporting back on your experience in Venice. My wife and I will be going in about 2 weeks.

      I was just wondering what the prices were on these restaurants? And are these restaurants non seafood eating friendly?

      9 Replies
      1. re: Tony

        Both Fiaschetteria Toscana and Vini da Gigio have good non-seafood choices. Al Covo is more problematic as their menu changes daily and, like most restaurants in Venice, is seafood base. Have not been to IL Ridotto. Most enoteca and becari such as Drogheria and Alla Vedova will have many non-seafood cicchetti as well as simple dishes.
        Guide-line for a 3 course meal per person without wine, etc:
        Fiaschetteria Toscana: 55E
        Vini da Gigio 40E
        Al Covo 55E
        Wines are much more fairly priced than most restaurants in the US.

        1. re: PBSF

          Thank you PBSF for the info on those restaurants. Those restaurants are a tad bit more than my wife and I were looking to spend.

          Can you recommend some places in the 30 to 35 E range or some good casual eats in Venice, Rome, Florence, or Cinque Terre?

          1. re: Tony

            There are quite a number of cheaper choices that are very good in Venice. A few I recommend (maybe too frequiently) are Osteria Alla Frasca, Anice Stellato, Alla Fontana, Da Sandro (Osteria San Barnaba) Alla Zucca.There are also some good pizzerias in Venice.(dai Tosi piccolo in Castello, which has other food as well, Ae Oche, a cpl of restaurants, etc) as well as a cluster of rather lower priced restaurants near San Barnaba. Da Alberto near the Rialto is another less expensive restaurant I have seen recommened here. A convenience in Venice is the Rough Guide map, which in addition to being waterproof marks reliable restaurants, helping you find something near where you happen to be at lunch or dinner time. Finally, if you are in Venice for more than a cpl of days, the locally published Eateries of Venice (Osterie Venezia e Dintorni) book is very useful in locating more modest restaurants favored by the venetians, not all of which are on the tourist circuit - its available in bookstores and from the book vendor near the Miracoli church and also maps the restaurants and bars covered.

            1. re: Tony

              The above poster's recommendations are good. I may add Bancogiro, La Mascareta, La Bitta (no seafood): even more reasonable with honest food (nothing fancy) are Osteria a Bocco, al Bomba, Al Promessi Sposi. Couple of comments regarding to eating in Venice: good seafood are extremely expensive; there is no rule that one has to order 3 courses: share or split antipasti/primi or skip dessert altogether (eat gelato) as it is frequently not the best (exceptions are F. Toscana and Al Covo); eat simply one night then splurge the next.
              I suggest re-posting your request on a separate thread. You will get responses for the other places you are visiting.

              1. re: PBSF

                jen kalb - Thank you for the recommendations on the guidebooks and the restaurant recs as well. We are unfortunately only going to be in Venice for one night, so have to keep things very simple.

                PBSF - Greats list of restaurants provided and thanks for the tip on ordering food.

                I was thinking about doing a separate post but wasn't sure how many hits I would get. I did some chowhound research and came up with a few places. I'll give the separate post a shot. Please feel free to add more comments. Very much appreciated.

                1. re: Tony

                  One night, wow. If you want to save money, my only suggestion is NOT to order a whole fish. They are wonderful in Venice, but definitely pricy. Do try some of the seafood specialties that are unique to venice.

                  1. re: Tony

                    If this is my first trip to Venice and have only one night, I would eat dinner OUTSIDE at Bancogiro. Of course, make sure it is not raining. It is located in the San Polo , near the Rialto market. Make sure you don't get suckered into the places just off the bridge. The food is good and is moderately priced (might stretch your budgets just a little). The view is wonderful and it doesn't have the overly tourist feel of many restaurants facing the Grand Canal. I would order seafood that is uniquely Venetian: spider crab, baby seppie, little soft-shelled crab called moleche, tiny baby gray shrimp, canoce.

              2. re: PBSF

                Hi Tony and PBSF -

                Sorry for my delay in responding to your inquiry.

                I have to agree with PBSF, most restaurants in Venice have a strong seafood base. I am partial to seafood and I guess it shows in my write-up. However, there are many outstanding non-seafood choices. Amazing prosciutto is everywhere. I love it. The pasta dishes are to die for and available at pretty much every restaurant in Venice. And yes, you must include the pasta. Veal is also on most dinner menus. We went on diets and detoxed when we came home.

                Tony - We really enjoyed Ca d’Oro (Alla Vedova). We found it to be very reasonably priced and filled with locals. You can make a reservation for dinner the day of, but make a resie. AND - promise me that you will have at least 3 meatballs. We loved them. Enjoy your trip.

                1. re: ChristineBerenger

                  Christine - I will be going to Venice in about a week from now. Thanks for the information on Venice and the cuisine. Thanks for the tip on Ca d'Oro as well. It was on my potential list of places to eat.