One day in Venice
My wife, my 2-year-old son, and my in-laws are traveling to Italy next week (!!), and I could use some dining advice. A little about us: my wife and I are adventurous eaters that love food and consider great food of all kinds to be one best parts of a vacation, although on this trip we are fully prepared to be a lot more casual than usual. My wife is a vegetarian (no meat/seafood), but is fairly flexible about finding what she can when traveling. Our son eats out a lot and is generally good in restaurants, but will not have the patience for long (>1.5 hour) meals and may be tired and off his game from jet lag. My in-laws are not particularly adventurous. Whew, a lot of constraints to deal with!
We are flying into Venice (arriving 12:30 pm from the US), and then proceeding to Florence the following day (departing on a 4:30 train). I know, far too short a time, but that is the way this trip worked. We are looking for one dinner and one lunch, plus some ideas for snacks mid-afternoon the day we arrive, in case we are hungry before dinner.
I've done quite a lot of reading through this board and other places, and found lots of ideas, but need some advice in narrowing down the options and gauging what will be appropriate for us.
For our first dinner, the night we arrive, I am thinking we will want something simple and lively within a short walk of our hotel. Based on what I've read, it sounds like Aciugheta, Ostaria al Garanghelo, Trattoria Al Bacareto, Ostaria Al Mascaron, Da Alberto, and Bancogiro might all be options. Any thoughts on which of those are likely to be more feasible for a vegetarian and toddler, and for a first dinner? I also looked at Enoteca la Mascareta for cicchetti, but will there be tables to sit at? Are there other good first-night options I'm missing?
For our lunch, one of the above places would of course also be an option. Alternatively, we've considered something more pricey like Al Covo. There have been reports on this board that Al Covo was fairly toddler-appropriate, and it seems to be very well regarded. Will it be tough getting a table? Other ideas?
For a late lunch / mid afternoon snack, will bacari / cicchetti places be an option for a snack at, say, 3 pm? Any recommendations for good ones within 5-10 minutes of Santa Maria Formosa?
Thank you so much in advance, I know this is kind of a complicated question!
Not many restaurants near Campo Santa Maria Formosa that meet your criterias. Most restaurants serving traditional Venetian cooking will have a couple vegetarian dishes on the antipasti and primi sections of the menu but rarely as a secondo. The best on your list that is nearby your hotel is da Alberto, lively, warm with good food. The other two, Al Mascaron and it's bacaro Al Mascareta (tight tables and I believe still open only evenings) are nearby but I am not big fan; overpriced, indifferent service, just ok food. Al Bacareta is similar to da Alberto but a bit of a trek. Bancogiro is very good; the food is a bit more creative; outside terrace facing the Grand Canal (among the other next door neighbors) or a cozy second floor alcove. It is just a short walk if you take San Lio to the Rialto Bridge. I would skip Ostario Garanghelo. The traditional food is still pretty good but it has nothing to offer for vegetarians. Acuigheta has a large menu of decent food and throughout the day; the best choice for informal around San Marco. I would use it as a fall back if jet lag sets in. Not many good bacari in the neighborhood. I would recommend Cavatappi behind San Marco. It has a few outside tables (the weather is great right now in Venice). As for snacks, you will have no problem finding as it is the speciality of the neighborhood. There are a couple of pleasant terrace places right on the Campo.
Lunch: Al Covo is not a bad choice since one can order just one or two courses that will not tax the patience of a 2 year old. As stated by an earlier poster, there are a few tables outside but inside is very pleasant. Even though Venice is packed right now with visitors, shouldn't have problem getting a lunch reservation; closed I believe Wednesdays.Or I would pick the fall back, Aciugheta and sit outside if possible.
I am sorry that I can't be of more help as I am not as familiar with that area of Venice as others. A lot more choices if one can venture a little further.
Thanks for the advice so far, this is very helpful in narrowing down our list. It sounds like Da Alberto or Bancogiro are our best options for dinner our first night, with Acuigheta as a reasonable backup in case we are exhausted from jet lag and need to eat too early for a real restaurant (keeping also Cavatappi in mind if we want a pre-dinner snack). Good to know there are some nice cafes on the Campo, too.
For lunch the following day, it is a Wednesday so that means Al Covo is out. Other suggestions? It is hard to know in advance how much energy we will have at lunchtime (jet lag in toddlers is obviously rather unpredictable), but it is likely that we'd feel up to a somewhat longer walk. Ideally we'd have a couple of options, one nearby (perhaps Aciugheta), and one or two a bit further that would provide better food if we felt up for the walk. I'd love to make it to the Frari, so something over in that neighborhood would be well placed. This would limit us to places where we can get a table without a reservation, though, as we'll likely be making a decision on the fly. The appeal of Al Covo was the reputation for great food and convenient location to San Marco, so it seemed fairly easy to commit to for lunch.
Most eating places around the Frari are informal cafes and such. One of the better option of this type is Muro Vino e Cucina Frari (just 2 minute walk), a comtemporary space with large menu of pizza, antipasti, primi, salads; good but nothing earth shattering. Better options are about 10 minute stroll up to Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio where there are Alla Zucca and il Refolo. Aside from pizza, Il Refolo has a few good vegetarian antipasti and primi options; should be able to do lunch without a reservation. Better if you have your hotel call that morning.
Also good near San Marco are Osteria Enoteca San Marco. Despite being so near to the mob scene, it has a front wine bar serving good ciccheti and back dining room. Not inexpensive but they are serious about food. Also Osteria ai Assassini, similar but more traditional and less expensive. If you are considering da Alberto the first night, I would make a reservation as it is small and always packed.
If you are taking the 4:30 train, make sure to allow plenty of time. Things always take longer for first time visitors. A five minute walk can turn into 30 minutes if one takes a wrong turn. Cp Santa Maria Formosa is not the most convenient for the vaporetto and quite a long walk to Santa Lucia. Unless you are lunching near your hotel or taking the water taxi, I would finish lunch no later than 2;30.
Seems like you selected a lot of places that might be in a reasonable range for you.
I think Osteria Alla Frasca could be another good option for a meal if you are looking in the general area of Santa maria Formosa. It has a fairly informal sheltered outdoor area reasonable prices and a mixed clientele, mostly venetian Id say from our visits. They have seafood but I think they would be flexible accomodating a vegetarian and above all I think it would be a comfortable place with a toddler.
Personally (tho I haven't been) I think Al Covo may be a bit unrealistic with a toddler. Its a bit more formal tho not overly formal and people go there for special occasions. I think its a place you would want to visit when you wouldnt have to be worrying about behavior, tolerance of a wait for food, etc. - although I note from their website they do have some outdoor tables. but others may certainly have a different view.