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Jun 2, 2012 10:55 AM

Venice restaurants - Any recent visits to Al Fontega dei Pescatori?

Hello! This is my first post here, though I've been pouring over the treads for some time. We will be visiting Venice in October this year for the first time ever. We will be there 6 nights and really don't want to make any dinner slip-ups (although I know that would be different for everyone.)

One concern I have regards Al Fontega dei Pescatori. I'd very much like to have dinner here one night, as I have read many good reviews, both my husband and I are true seafood lovers, it's very convenient to our hotel, and it looks like it's right in our price range. What concerns me are the three most recent reviews on TA. While the majority of reviews are very good, the last three are very poor or terrible. Normally, if a review trend is consistently good or excellent, with one lone bad review, i generally disregard that one, thinking the individual was either impossible to please or perhaps was expecting a meal identical to one in their hometown. (Long John Silver's, perhaps?) BUT - three bad reviews, back to back? Hmmm.... Just wondering, has anyone been there recently?

Secondly, here are the places we're thinking of - anyone of the opinion that any would be a waste of time?
We are fairly casual diners, and a little lazy at night (we'd like places near to our hotel on most nights.) We don't need fine dining, but seek truly fresh and well prepared food. We'll want to experience "authentic" or "classic" Venetian fare on at least a few nights. We'd like to stay around 100 Euro. I think on this list will be a little more, and some a little less, so should average out. For one really special dinner we don't mind going up to 200 (including a nice wine.) Are these budgets reasonable for what I am looking for?

Vini da Gigio
Alle Botte
Botega ai Promesa Sposi
Fontaga dei Pescatori
a Chiccetti stroll one night
Alle Testiere

I think I'll reserve 2 lunches - 1 at Al Covo, and one at Al Gatto Nero, and most days just pick up Panini or Frituri as we're out walking.

Sorry this question is so long - Thanks in advance for all your help.

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  1. I have no experience with Al fontego dei Pescatori - but it looks to me that those last three tripadviser reviews were by 3 people who were eating together - so I think you are talking about one experience, not three....

    8 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb

      Well, that's good to know - I didn't notice that. Any place can have a bad night. I will keep my eyes out for newer reviews, and wait for some more first hand experiences. Thanks. Jen, I notice you post here often. Do you have any favorites in that area near Ca D'Oro? What about super casual places that local folks are fond of? I would love to find some great food in an unlikely, or off the track spot.

      1. re: deensdream

        Well I like Anice Stellato in Cannareggio - that might be a little further off than you want to go but I like the feel and the food and its on a pretty, quiet canal. There are plenty of places right around Ca d'Oro so I am sure you will get other recommendations. I know Ive seem favorable reports on Al fontego here.

        1. re: jen kalb

          That sounds good - we'll likely try it for lunch one day when we're out exploring that area. We'll be venturing out, to be sure, and may even head up there at dinner. I'm just thinking about coming home after wine and drinks...this is when we'd normally call a taxi!

          For a special dinner to wrap up our visit, what do you think of Alle Testiere? If it's likely a dinner we'll think about months after, we wouldn't mind a water taxi home one night (if that's even practical , i.e., if a taxi can reach them or nearby.)

          1. re: jen kalb

            We were in Venice in January. Our favorite meal was at the charming and delicious Anice Stellato. We also had two very nice and friendly experiences at Ai Promessi Sposi. Neither is fancy. Both have a truly local feel. Though I learned some basic Italian before the trip, the staff at both places spoke some English. Have a great time!

            1. re: tlubow

              Tlubow. I'm looking forward to both of these spots. Thanks. Ai Promessi Sposi is very near to our hotel, and could be someplace we stop into a few times for a quick bite. I've heard good things about the comfortable feel and tasty food. Did you "happen upon" Anice Stellato, or did you seek it out? If the latter, was it tough to find? I know we'll be wandering around that area exploring, and I was wondering if it would be a good spot for a nice lunch. I am trying to learn a little basic Italian as well, to help interaction with staff and owners. Thanks for your input and good wishes.

              1. re: deensdream

                DD - I don't know how to link my report on Venice, but if you search the Italy board for "First Stop Venice" you'll see the entire thread, including my report back.
                To answer your question, we specifically sought out Anice Stellato and were so glad we did. We were visiting the Jewish Ghetto and it was close. We had a leisurely Sunday lunch there. We used Google maps to find it and we didn't have a problem. Always build in a little time in Venice for getting a little lost! Part of the fun is wandering all the alleyways and getting a little lost.

                1. re: tlubow

                  Thanks, tlubow. I've been scouring Chowhound and I'd seen your questions about Venice, but hadn't seen your follow up report. There's some good info in there! I don't think I've really mastered the Chowhound search. A good trip report has a TON of information and I for one really appreciate them!

      2. Your budget of 100 euro for two is very reasonable for Venice. I have not been to Al Fontego recently, therefore, can't give any up to date feedback. In the past, the seafood as always been excellent and the dining room is one of the more comfortable place to eat, especially the back covered garden. It is roomier and less hectic than Alle Testiere or Antiche Carampane which I consider two of the best seafood restaurant in Venice. Since the owners have not change, I don't think it has fallen off. I would definitely consider it.
        Near Ca'Oro, at least within Cannaregio:
        Around 100euros for two, give or take (probably a little more if a bottle of wine is included): Anice Stellato which I had a very good meal a few weeks ago; also Orto dei Mori for the first time; Vini di Gigio is good for very traditional Venetian food (nothing remotely creative) with one of the best wine wine list and wines by the glass. I also like da Rioba but I don't think the food or the service is as consistent as the others. The outside table with the excellent waiter makes up for it. The other good traditional place would be Fiaschetteria Toscana, a bit more formal but not more expensive. Main floor only.
        More moderate: Bottega ai Promessi Sposi and Alla Frasca are two of my favorites; little further da Alberto in Castello has good food and warm ambience. All serve traditional Venetian cooking.
        I have not been to Alle Botte for too many years to give any kind of feedback. I remembered that the cicchetti was better than the food in sit down dining room.
        Cannaregio has some of the better value osteria/trattoria Venice. There are some very simple places on the long Fond Misericordia/Cappuccine where one can eat very reasonably: Antica Mola, Al Timon, Bea Vita, due Gondolette. A set lunch (no choices) including a glass of wine and espresso can be had for around 12 euros and a la carte for 20 euro. Lunch is where one will met locals. Some do not serve dinner. Simple good value places rather than the best.
        Cannaregio also have some of the best cicchetti eating, bacari as well as trattoria/osteria that have front bars.
        As for 'a dinner we'll think about months after', that is very difficult to come by in Venice. There are no "destination" restaurants, no three star Michelin, no celebrity chef. There are very good places that serve excellent seafood simply prepared, some very traditional while some a little creativity. Add to that, good and friendly service, that is what one should expect.
        Alle Testiere for me, serves some of the best seafood in Venice; very good desserts and some excellent wines. The service is generally very good but can get a little brusque if it gets busy. The dining room is very small and tables closed together, making it rather bustling rather than relaxing. And the two seating a night can make the early seating a bit rush and the times might not fit everyones schedule.
        Water taxi: getting a water taxi is not as easier as one might think. First of all, getting one at a late hour is one issue, another is that it will only dock at certain places, mainly on large accessible canals. Then, there is the cost; a night time water taxis within Venice would start at around 50 euro. Unless for some physical reason one cannot walk much, the pleasure of Venice is strolling, especially after dinner when the crowd is gone, the calle are almost empty and the water in the canals is simmering. The ambience is is totally different from the daytime body to body push and shove in the tourists areas. Alle Testiere is not difficult to find, an easy 20 minute stroll from Ca d'Oro and if one takes the main calle; shouldn't worry about getting lost. The restaurant is located right off San Lio straight to Cp San Bartolomeo, then the main thoroughfare to Strada Nuova.

        4 Replies
        1. re: PBSF

          Thank you so much, PBSF for your thoughtful reply - you have answered my questions plus given me plenty of food for thought. As for "a meal we'd remember" perhaps I should have been more descriptive. I'm not seeking a starred restaurant, but one where I can taste the love and the care put into the food. (I don't mean to be overly sentimental, but I can't think of another way to describe what I am looking for.) For instance three years ago in Rome we had a very simple antipasta of white beans and a smoked fish (sardines I think) that was so delicious and at the same time humble that I nearly cried. Seriously. When I look at pictures from that dinner, I can still taste that simple and wonderful dish. That's what I would love to find again. I trust that will come from any place that really values their ingredients, and it sounds like most of those places you've mentioned at least have the potential for such a memory.

          Plus, being small town people and very casual, we gravitate to the places with warm and relaxed service. (A busy night at Alle Testiere would not put me off, however-I completely understand. Food service put me through college and I still, decades later, have dreams of being unable to keep up to a growing crowd. This is why I tip -generously for very good service - even when I am not expected to. I am grateful for all the work that goes into making my dinner a pleasant one.)

          Thanks also for reassuring me about the evening walk home. There's no reason we wouldn't be able to walk to dinner. We're walkers and love to walk. "Getting lost in Venice" sounds wonderful and inviting for our daily exploring, but somehow intimidated me when I think of walking late into the evening. I guess when I look at a map I really don't have a sense of the small scale of the city-it must be much smaller than it looks. Thanks again for all your help and good information.

          1. re: deensdream

            What you've describe in the first paragraph of your previous post is what mades choosing a restaurant so difficult. Most of the time, those 'transcental' moments come unexpectedly and can come from the simplest osteria cooking and/or from the genuine attitude of the serving staff. My advice is to pick places that fit what you are looking for in terms of the food and ambience and hope that they deliver at least good food and an enjoyable evening.
            The places on your list and those written about so far are fairly casual. There might be table cloth on the table in Vini di Gigio and their very comprehensive wine list can be intimidating, but it is a very friendly place and never a problem asking for what they recommend for an inexpensive local bottle or a glass or two. That is why they always have a good selection of wine by the glass. Same for just for about all the places. As for good service, that can be a complicated issue. From my experience, most of the wait staff are friendly and will explain the menu. And most will speak some English. Service in Italy is different than from what we are used to in the US. The pace is more leisurely; they don't come running to your table at a snap of a request, they have a certain way to doing things and won't adapt to different expectations; most are friendly but there can be a distance between them and the diner.
            Please skip the water taxi and walk, especially early mornings and evenings when the crowd thin out. During the day, especially, April through October, the central tourists hubs and its main thoroughfares can be opressively crowded. Just get out of those areas, and especially Cannaregio, it is peaceful and relaxing. Venice is a walking city and except the very eastern Castello, it is very compact. And there are no cars and is one of the safest city. One of the primary reason we return year after year is the feeling of just being able to walk everywhere without car noises, etc. Otherwise, the public vaporetto system is good (though expensive for short term visitors and not necessarily faster) and the traghetti are convenient.

            1. re: PBSF

              Thanks again. I know we are on track to have a fantastic time - no matter what. We've been given some great information to choose some nice eating spots. With the right attitude (our travel mantra is "no stress") even the worst of service can simply make a good travel story to tell later. Most of our 6 days will be walking and vaporettoing (new verb.) We'll probably see just a couple museums or a few more if we get bad weather and plan to walk to several churches. I am already planning a follow up visit so we need not feel any need to rush to the next thing. Now, on to our next stops - Bologna and Umbria, for which I'll start a new thread.

          2. re: PBSF

            Ciao PBSF, Jen, and all who responded and helped me do a little planning for our October Venice visit! The reply is a little late in coming, but I did want to give a little feedback on where we dined and how we felt about it. We were in Venice for 6 nights and ended up eating 3 dinners and maybe 4 nice lunches. Like most, I wanted to fit as many good finds in as possible, but two "full" meals a day turned out to be a case of the plans bigger than the stomach! To anyone who can comfortably do this without food hangovers, congrats to you! Don't get me wrong, it's not like we're timid or reluctant eaters. I'm sure, when we've left any number of social events, someone nudged their neighbor and whispered, "Boy, those two can really put it away, can't they?"

            Still, we're not so young, and one nice meal a day sufficed, and on at least a couple evenings we found ourselves eating gelato for dinner and were perfectly happy doing so. Plus. our six nights were really cut down to five by our trip to Pordenone one day to visit family, enjoying very nice Pizza and beer and wonderful conversation with them.

            Our first evening we reserved at Vini da Gigio and this turned out to be the perfect welcome meal! A nice, comforting dinner; very tasty, although nothing was over the top fantastic. I'm in no position to describe anything as authentic, being a complete Venice newcomer, but we ordered what we believed to be traditional Venice fare. We shared a terrific antipasta of a mix of traditional Venetian seafoods. For a main I ordered the fegato, and because I knew it would be served with polenta I opted to skip a pasta course (also because I knew I would be sneaking a few bites of husband's sepia nero.) Previously I had believed I didn't much care for polenta, but now realize I had just never had good polenta! The liver, onions and polenta was yummy, and a very nice welcome to Venice. The sepia? I'm a fairly adventurous eater, but had been reluctant to order this for myself, as I expected it would be very strongly "fishy" and be just too rich and strong to finish. Husband went for it though and I did have a few bites. I was surprised to find that it tasted more "grassy" and earthy than fishy and I thought it was delicious. I still think a complete serving would get to seem a little intense, but Ed had no problems licking the plate clean. For his main course he chose the frito misto and it was also very nice. The batter was nice and light enough to see the striations in the shrimp. We didn't feel like too much wine, so I think we shared a quarter litre. We both had desert and one of us also had a glass of port. I don't have my receipts with me as I write this, and I really should if I am to give any sort of accurate pricing feedback. If I recall the four courses plus two deserts, wine, water and drink totaled around 120 euro, a price we felt was fair for the nice meal we had. Service here was professional and cordial, though not overly friendly.

            The next day I had reserved for lunch at Il Ridotto. We had planned to be visiting St. Mark's that day, and I wanted something convenient yet away from the crowds and disappointing tourist haunts that would give us a nice respite from our first day of sightseeing. It delivered on all counts. Super convenient to St. Mark's - maybe 10 minutes, if that (and I don't move so fast!) We arrived maybe a half hour before our booking but they seated us immediately. The place never did fill up - I think there were only three other tables occupied, and one of them was a lone diner. I had looked at their menu online and knew ahead what I wanted to order. A lover of all things legume, I had to try the baby octopus with two types of fava bean puree. It was tasty, but I wasn't blown away. I found the puree under seasoned and the octopus was very salty. Maybe they were meant to balance one another, but I just didn't find the flavors complimented one another. Ed ordered the fried calamari and it was both generous and delicious. The batter was nearly translucent, and that is a big deal for me (as you will find later.) We each had the risotto, as a minimum of two persons is required. This was the basil and zucchini risotto with scallop coral. This was delicious and an eye-opener for me-my first "Venice style" risotto. I had hoped to have risotto several times (but didn't) hoping to master the cooking of it by osmosis. Having attempted it often, I now know that, while certainly good enough to eat, all I've been making up to now has merely been a tasty rice dish, nothing more. I'll have to continue to practice (and maybe order-up a few more trips to Venice ;>) Fortunately my dear husband has no problems being a taste tester - the hits as well as the misses. Service here was professional but aloof. We had a female server rather than the jovial owner that many reviewers have gushed over. I could see her visibly frost over when Ed ordered what she apparently deemed the wrong wine. "That is a red wine, sir."
            "Yes, I know." Then, we got the look that never seemed to go away. I don't expect servers to lay down palm leaves for me, but I would like to feel they are happy we are there. We skipped desert and coffee, choosing instead to enjoy the glow of our wrong, but very delicious red wine!

            Even thought we each just had the two courses. the gelato we enjoyed later in the afternoon served perfectly as both desert and dinner.

          3. I have been to Al Fontego recently, a Sunday lunch (we like to go there on the way to the train station) and thought it was just great.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mbfant

              Good to hear! Will definitely keep them in the plan. Thank you.

              1. re: deensdream

                Funny but I had one of those very memorable meals at Fontega! It was 4 years ago but I remember it so well. We had a mix of asparagus risotto and a seafood crepe, that plate was a revelation.
                We had started with one of their signature crudo plates--maybe it was "the Joker".
                We went twice during that trip and the razor clams were amazing the second visit--talk about simply but perfectly prepared--that was it!
                Two other pluses for Fontega--they're really good about helping you choose a nice wine to compliment your meal. And we went back, 2 years ago, for lunch, and it was fantastic.

                Our other favorite from the last trip was Orto dei Mori. totally different vibe, more metropolitan, but sensational food.

                I'll be in Venice, starting tomorrow, for 3 weeks. I'll be sure to report back.

                1. re: jangita

                  Thanks, Jangita, for chiming in with your good experiences. Looks like the lone bad reviews are definitely ones to be disregarded. I'll be eagerly looking forward to your report of your three week stay. With just six nights I imagine I'll feel torn between new places and stopping back to one that resonates. Have a great trip!

                  1. re: deensdream

                    Just back from Venice, where we stayed in Cannaregio, so I'll second PBSF's recommendations and thoughts about the area (in fact, I'd like to thank PBSF and many other Chowhounders for all their thoughtful posts and suggestions on this board!) Quite a few well-priced osterie and definitely a number of good choices for cichetti (we loved the bacala mantecato and polpette at Ca d'Oro/alla Vedova, for instance).

                    We only had a few days and didn't go to some of the most highly-recommended places on this board, attractive though they sounded. Our two best meals were at ALLE TESTIERE and LINEA DOMBRA. Both served terrifically fresh seafood, beautifully prepared, and service was professional, courteous and warm. Starters at Alle Testiere were relatively pricey compared to their mains (which were reasonable for the quality, averaging just under 30 Euro); the restaurant was tiny but welcoming. Lineadombra was more expensive, but the setting was spectacular (an outdoor deck on the Zattere just behind Santa Maria della Salute) and the presentations a tad more modern. Your bill would also be much higher if you order fish by the weight there (where the charge is per 100g).

                    I'd recommend a long leisurely lunch at Lineadombra on a nice sunny day (followed by gelato at Squero nearby) and the second sitting for dinner at Alle Testiere (but maybe not the same day!) followed by a leisurely stroll around the corner to Piazza San Marco.

                    Both would come to over 100 Euro (just for food, not including wine) if you do at least two courses per person, with Alle Testiere in the less pricey range.

                    The wine list at Alle Testiere is relatively modest but excellent - trust Luca with a good selection for you. Lineadombra's wine list is like a book, with some very high-end but also some well-priced good wines.

                    BTW we walked past Fontego and it looked like they were doing some work to it (this was on a Monday in early July) - perhaps other posters "on the ground" or more familiar can confirm/refute this?