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From a food lovers perspective, is Venice worth it?

First some background on our trip. My wife and I will be spending 10 days in Northern Italy for our third anniversary this October. The secondary reason for this trip is to visit a longtime friend in the Air Force whos stationed in Desenzano del Garda. Nothing, aside from our flight, is set in stone and as of right now our tentative travel schedule is:

2-3 days in Desenzano del Garda (probably checking out Brescia and Verona as well during this time--I'm leaving the plans for this leg of the trip up to my buddy.)

1-2 days in Venice

2-3 days in ER (with a focus on Parma and Modena)

2-3 days in the Langhe region and Turin

I've been surfing the Italy CH boards for a few weeks now, updating my google map with restaurants that've piqued my interest and I've noticed the general consensus here that the dining scene in Venice leaves something to be desired. This combined with the fact that neither my wife nor I are big seafood eaters has lead me to reconsider our plans for visiting Venice. On the other hand, I'm reading nothing but great things about the other regions we're planning on visiting (especially the Langhe!)

Restaurants I have marked on my map include Il Ridotto, Hosteria Giusti, Ai due Platani, Il Cascinalenuovo, Ristorante Centro, and Ristorante Bovio among others.

So if you would be so kind as to give your opinion on this matter I would be eternally grateful. General comments about our planned itinerary are encouraged as well!

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  1. Venice's restaurant scene may not be world class but "general consensus here that the dining scene in Venice leaves something to be desired" is not true for a short stay. Without going much more into that subject, if you are not big seafood eater and have no desire to spend a couple of days in Venice, then I would skip it and concentrate on the rest of your trip. And If you do decide to spend a day or two in Venice, my advice is to skip Il Ridotto (have not been there and have no reason to think it is not good) and choose a more traditional place has some good non seafood choices.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PBSF

      Do not skip Il Ridotto. If you don't want sea food they do a fixed price meat menu.

    2. Don't understand Ristorante Bovio. If you want the best in food around the Alba area, Da Renzo in Cervere and Borgo Antico are far superior. I'd definitely keep Centro and Cascinalenuovo of course and for great trattoria food, La Torre in Cherasco and Del Belbo Da Bardon in San Marzano Olivetto, both of which happen to have great wine lists.

      1. I have had many fantastic meals in Venice ... and I am not a huge seafood fan either. I would stop in Venice for cicchetti at Al Bottegon alone!

        Glad to see you have Ai due Platani on your list - one of our favorites from that trip. We also had a lovely meal at Bovio, but I would defer to allende.

        If at all possible, try and fit in a stop at Antica Corte Pallavicina - one of the best meals (we had lunch) we have had in all our trips to Italy.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ekc

          No need for anyone to defer to me. I don't have all (any of) the answers, just my own taste... and many, many years of going to lots of restaurants in the countryside.

          Nothing wrong with Bovio, but there are so many better restaurants for food. It has a great wine list, but this year I noticed on the list that many of the really drinkable barolos, that were on the list last year, from 1996, 1999 and even 2001, are gone. If not for the wine, no reason to go there IMO.

          1. re: allende

            allende, your extensive experience eating in the Piemonte is exactly why I would defer to you for recommendations in the area versus my suggestions based on my 3-day trip there last year. Sure, I had many fantastic meals on my trip, but you have much more dining experience which gives you a much stronger foundation for your recs. Of course, it is all personal opinion in the end! :-)

        2. Our trip to Italy that included the Langhe was the most food-indulgent trip I've ever had; it was amazing. Though we didn't like Da Renzo very much, as the service was not pleasant at all. My favorite was a very long and leisurely lunch at La Ciau del Tornavento. Also wonderful was dinner at Trattoria della Posta, just outside Monforte d'Alba, followed by dinner at Giardino del Felicin. Especially if you're Barolo lovers, with your rather limited time, I would skip Turin and stay in the Langhe. We stayed in the Barolo town of Monforte d'Alba and had two great visits to local wineries, arranged by the owner of the great B&B that we stayed at. Caveat: our trip to this region was in 2007, so restaurants may have changed since then.

          General comment on your itinerary is that if you're anything like me, you'll be frustrated that you don't have enough time for all the restaurants that sound wonderful in the places that you'll be. So if you can bear to give up a location, then you'll have more time (more meals) for the remaining destinations.

          We've always had fine food in Venice, though I don't know that I can give recommendations, as we focus on seafood places (and some of those are less traditional). No, it's not the best cuisine of Italy, but Venice itself, IMHO, is very difficult to beat. Il Ridotto gets great writeups, but it's a pizzeria, and if you're trying to sample great regional cuisine, pizzeria is not Venice's forte.

          Lastly, as you plan, think of your itinerary in terms of nights, not days. For example, one day in a location might be two nights or one. Especially helpful when planning dinners.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Lexma90

            In Venice, I think you are confusing Il Ridotto with Il Refolo which is more or less a pizzeria. Il Ridotto is a fine dining restaurant serving 'creative' Venetian cooking.

            1. re: Lexma90

              @ Lexma90

              Interesting comment on the service at Da Renzo. We've always thought the service was just as friendly and professional (in a casual way) as could be. Recently, we've been there twice in the last two months and that has continued to be the case as I indicated in my posts.

              We've enjoyed Trattoria della Posta but for food, and particularly the wine list, IMO, it is very far beneath other trattorie in the area in terms of what it offers.

              1. re: allende

                Yes, yes, of course you're right - sorry for the error!

                1. re: Lexma90

                  Skip Turin? I'll admit most of the things I've found for the city aren't food related (Cinema Museum, Egyptian Museum, Borgo Medievale) I've read nothing but rave reviews of the chocolate scene in Turin. It's a tempting thought for sure.

                  Another thing I should mention is we spent our last anniversary in SF and then Napa Valley so we've definitely done the wine country thing, although I'm sure the Langhe is much different than Napa/Sonoma.

                  1. re: sixteenbiticon

                    If you're not so interested in the Langhe wine scene (yes different than Napa - you pretty much don't just wander into wineries in the Langhe, and visiting them in general is not so much of a commerical proposition; and I think it's much more beautiful too), then Turin may a better choice for your interests. It's funny, I had heard so many wonderful things about Turin, and felt it was the kind of place we'd like, a smaller city that's less touristy. But it just didn't click with either me or my husband. The only reason I could come up with is that the city is so grand, with lots of big, impressive buildings, that the piazzes and other public spaces were too big, and not intimate enough for my tastes. Not much of a reason, I know. Obviously, I'm in the minority on Turin!

                    1. re: Lexma90

                      “Obviously, I'm in the minority on Turin!” - Not necessarily. There are many of us who prefer the slower-paced, rural areas and small towns. Also, there are so many wonderful, little restaurants to discover in the countryside of Italy.

                      1. re: BN1

                        No doubt about it that Torino is an Italian city palpably oriented toward "the future" and as the one-time home of Fiat and the birthplace of not only unification but the Italian movie industry and other tech-y things, it is a city that celebrates speed and fast-forward even as it simultaneously plays a leadership role in promoting "Slow Food" (but mainly as hip and unifiying, not because it loves "slow".)

                        I feel Torino embodies an extremely important aspect of Italian culture, its capacity for renewal and re-invention. But I agree that other destinations in italy are more preferred by a majority of visitors. Almost all Italian destinations are controversial to some extent, but if there is one group of people consistently in the minority, it's those who prefer not to spend any more time in Venice than absolutely necessary (although the bald numbers are larger than some people realize).

                2. If you go to Venice, you must go to Il Ridotto! It's amazing, very tiny and intimate. We were there about 2 years ago with our 2 yr old and the chef makes a point of talking to every table. I would go back to Venice (and fight the tourists!) just to go to Il Ridotto. his other restaurant nearby is also not bad.