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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.

                  1. Although most of the good food in Venice comes from the sea (as does most of the bad food, only less directly), many restaurants do serve meat and not just as a last resort to satisfy non-fish eaters. Fegato alla veneziana is traditional enough, and there are very good vegetables. Al Covo always has some excellent meat dishes (they nearly seduced me with their description of the duck last time I went, but in the end I stuck with seafood). I saw some gondoliers at Al Fontego tucking into some serious beef. I've eaten meat at Da Sandro. Venice has a lot of bad food, but it has a lot of very good food too. The scene is not nearly so grim as guidebooks often describe, and not grim at all -- quite the reverse -- for anyone who does some research and makes some reservations. October should be nice in Venice. Of course it should be fabulous in the Langhe. Just don't write Venice off because you think the food is uniformly awful.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mbfant

                      This is exactly the type of information I was struggling to find. Thank you for your post (although you're only making this decision harder for me... haha).

                    2. Just to add to my initial response to Venice and the advise to skip it because you are not big seafood eaters, it is primary due to the fact that your itinerary is already so packed for remaining 6 to 7 days (aside from Garda), covering a wide distance from Venice to ER to Langhe and Turin. It comes down to choices and what to give up. From the initial reading of your post, I came away with the impression that food is the primary focus of your trip and seeing Venice is not a priority. And spending such a short time (1 to 2 days) in a city like Venice to me is more or less a 'postcard' visit. Constantly watching the day trippers walking from San Marco to Railto to Frari to Academia, body to body through the narrow calles with their heads down looking at a map or glancing the store shop windows, my thought always comes back to 'what do visitors get from all this' when there is so much more to Venice. Personally, I wouldn't not bypass Venice for anything because we spend 2 months in Venice every year for the past 15 years. My advice to spend a little extra time in Venice or visit it on a another trip as it is a city not to be miss. And add to mbfant's post, there is good non-seafood in Venice, but if it is just base on food alone (dining out), I would go to ER and Langhe.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: PBSF

                          We removed a long sub-thread focused on Venice and tourists or Venice and who has opinions about it, rather than food. There were a couple of mentions of restaurants sprinkled in, though, so if anyone would like copies of their posts back so they can edit to focus on food and repost, please email us at moderators@chowhound.com and we can send them to you.

                        2. If you go to Brescia, you MUST have lunch or dinner at the charming La Sosta. Located in a converted stable, this restaurant serves the best risotto I've ever eaten.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: pikawicca

                            Glad to see this recommendation for this Slowfood choice in Brescia, also a very interesting town to visit..

                            Allende has many times recommended Miramonte l'Altro, in a northern suburb of Brescia. I hope to someday give it a visit when we return to this region.

                          2. Just answering your question - I would say the answer is NO. As a matter of fact, amongst the most memorable Dinners ever in my life was a fish dinner we had in a restaurant somewhere in Venice (can't remember the name) some years ago. It was actually so bad I quit eating half way through, even though I was very hungry!
                            I remember well the breaded, fried assortment of different "seafood". My thoughts ran to "breaded Guppies" and similar.
                            I could only imagine that they cleaned out an old freezer and just quickly dumped that stuff into a fryer. That bad!! We were a group of skiers, taking the day off from skiing to tour Venice, we were hungry tourists.
                            At my second time in Venice I simply split from my group at lunchtime and had a sandwich somewhere, which was fine since I really enjoyed walking through the city on my own and didn't feel like wasting my time sitting in a restaurant for an hour for more crummy food.
                            Having said that, with good prior research you will surely pick up a decent meal here and there, as has been suggested. And Venice is certainly a wonderful city to do some serious sightseeing on foot.

                            1. Dear God. Venice is one of the great cities of the world. Why would you even consider not going from any point of view.

                              You are only going to be there for 2 days max - just live on slices of pizza and sandwiches. There are plenty of "snack bars".

                              And enjoy!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Tuscanlover

                                We were just in Venice in January and we had a wonderful time. The City was crowded but once you leave San Marco you can walk for hours without crowds. Venice is a magical city and one of a small group of cities that we would go back to again happily. Wandering around and getting lost is spectacular. We enjoyed very good food in small, lesser traveled restaurants and we didn't have pizza or sandwiches once during our 4 days. You can look up my report by searching for "First Stop Venice" or PBSF can kindly link it for me again, since I'm not technically savvy enough to figure it out myself!

                                1. re: tlubow

                                  I couldn't agree more! I was in Venice at the end of March - glorious weather, fabulous visit - and had no problem finding good food. I have already posted a trip report. The only sandwich I ate was at Florian.

                                    1. re: PBSF

                                      Thanks for the link PBSF. I don't have time to read it just this moment, but I definitely want to give it the attention it deserves especially now after we've settled on staying in Venice for a few days. Thanks again.

                                2. After much consideration and talking with my wife we've decided to omit Venice from our trip. This won't be the last time we'll be in Italy I'm sure, so it'll be high on the list for subsequent trips.

                                  Our itinerary is now looking like this (changing from days to nights for easier tracking):

                                  3 Nights Desenzano del Garda

                                  1 Night Modena

                                  1 Night Parma

                                  Here is where we've come across three options:

                                  2 Nights in Cinque Terrre

                                  3 Nights in Langhe


                                  1 Night in Cinque Terre

                                  3 Nights in Langhe

                                  1 Night in Turin


                                  3 Nights in Langhe

                                  2 Nights in Turin

                                  Or would you recommend another option in the vicinity? Assuming food is a high priority (other things are obviously being considered. For one, I'm hugely into castles and will be trying to see as many as I can while visiting.)

                                  Thanks for all of the great feedback. As always, the information on these boards has proven invaluable. I just wish there were other travel sites that had as many knowledgable contributors as CH.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                    Certainly for food and wine, le Cinque Terre should be off your list, although other parts of the beautiful and charming Italian Riviera can be worth your while.

                                    Your trip is in October, and it is hard to thread the needle of a one-night stay on the Riviera when it comes to weather. You are unlikely to enjoy being on the Riviera if it is pouring rain, so it's not a good idea to lock yourselves into going.

                                    Instead, what I would suggest is that you give all those nights to the Piemonte in October, but if you get a sunny day, go to a great place for lunch on the Riviera from Piemonte. I believe that regular poster Allende has a favorite restaurant you could consider (I'm sorry I've forgotten the name). - although, if you are not willing to eat fish or seafood, you should make an effort before you go to track down a great place to sample farinata or foccacia col formaggio, and a pesto pasta. In October, there are wonderful mushrooms and ravioli stuffed with greens served with a sauce of pounded walnuts.

                                    While in you are in and around Parma, be sure to see the castle at Torrechiara. As I'm sure you already know, Piemonte is loaded with castles, most of them quite convenient to the best food and wine.

                                    If you do searches on this board for Emilia-Romagna, you will see some passionate posts (again from Allende but also others) about places to eat near Modena and Parma that are also places you can sleep. While you are around Parma, be sure to see the castle at Torrechiara (close Monday).

                                    1. re: barberinibee

                                      The place is Muraglia Conchiglia D'Oro in Varigotti, an easy drive from the Langhe.

                                      For us, the best seafood restaurant in Liguria by far. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/768884

                                      1. re: allende

                                        The travelers are not big seafood lovers. Are you aware of any place on the Ponente side of the Riviera that stands out for non-seafood dishes? La Cucina di Nonna Nina in Camogli is one of the few coastal restaurants I can think of that reliably has rabbit on the menu, and Luchin in Chiavari is great for both vegetarians and meat-eaters (lots of choices) but both are more than a 2 hour drive from the Langhe.

                                        1. re: barberinibee

                                          when I was compiling the database, it was my strong impression that the Ligurian cuisine switched to land-based when one went even a few miles inland. So perhaps, the OP should be looking at eating off the coast and up in the hills rather than in a coastal resort in this area.

                                          1. re: jen kalb

                                            Going "a few miles inland" is more easily said than done in mountainous Liguria, and very quickly eliminates sea views entirely. Plus, the roads are usually only for the brave! Not only do I not have a inland restaurant I can recommend, it is hard to fashion an enjoyable day on the Riviera coming from Piemonte if you try to include the extra time it takes to get into the hills in search of meat. And there is little point to the long drive if you don't spend the bulk of your time admiring the coastline.

                                            Given that there is good Genovese salami, lots of vegetarian pasta, farinata and foccaccie plus porcini mushrooms in October along the coast -- a non-fish eater can still have a tasty meal on the scenic coastline, even though the most-recommended destination restaurants do focus on fish for secondi.

                                      2. re: barberinibee

                                        Last October we had a delicious dinner at Il Ciliegio up on the hill overlooking Monterosso in Cinque Terre. Simple, moderately-priced food made with quality ingredients and good technique.

                                    2. Alright, I've flip-flopped on this issue yet again, hopefully for the last time. I took into consideration the beauty and the overall experience of visiting Venice and I've decided it's something we simply can't omit. The comments here made me realize that even though there may be a lot of not so great places to eat in Venice, with enough searching there's bound to be some gems (Il Ridotto for one.) So I'm thinking this will be the final version of our itinerary (although I really will miss not seeing Turin.)

                                      Flight Arrives in Milan Wednesday afternoon
                                      Wed-Fri Night in Desenzano del Garda
                                      Sat morning we hop a train to Venice
                                      Mon morning we hop a train (or pick up a rental car, need to research this) to Modena. If we rent a car I'll definitely consider stopping in Ferrara to see Castello Estense.
                                      Tues morning head over to Parma.
                                      Wed morning head out to the Langhe region.
                                      Sat morning back to Milan for our flight home.

                                      If we come across a particularly nice day while in Piemonte I will definitely look into taking a trip down to Liguria. My wife expressed interest in seeing the Italian riviera in some fashion or another so this would be a great opportunity to do so.

                                      Aside from not seeing Turin, another major disappointment is not being able to visit Hosteria Giusti as they're closed.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                        On my way from Florence to Venice, via train, we stopped by accident in Bologna. I thought the food was amazing there, including all the little meat shops. The food in Florence really stood out too - we were visiting friends, so they knew some amazing places.

                                        1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                          FWIW don't bother to drive down to see the Italian Riviera from Piemonte. The Ponente side of Genova is really nothing special (ugly towns and rocky beaches) and there are no really good restaurants inland that don't serve primarily seafood. The best place to see the Italian Riviera is south of Genova into Tuscany and that's too far. Stay in Piemonte and have another good lunch at a great trattoria.

                                          1. re: allende

                                            Thank you for the advice allende.

                                            We're considering staying at a place in Canale (Villa Tiboldi.) How is that area in terms of access to restaurants and wineries? It looks like they have a pretty great restaurant on site as well. I'm very close to booking as we both love the look of the place. We were also looking at a place in Monforte d'Alba (La Toricella) which, according to my research is a more favorable area for restaurants/wineries. Thoughts?

                                            1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                              Canale is a little off the beaten track (but not much) a bit north of Alba. Very near Priocca and not that far from Alba (20 minutes) and La Morra (half an hour). Easy drive to Da Bardon. Very near Cascinale. It is about 40 minutes from Borgo Antico and Cervere. I'm just thinking in terms of restaurants that I've mentioned. Monforte is a nice town, south of Alba and also good in terms of proximity to the great restaurants and trattorie. Much closer to Cervere, Borgo Antico, Cherasco and La Mora, but less so to Priocca, Da Bardon etc. Six of one, half dozen.... Can't go wrong with either town, just travel a little bit farther depending on where you stay. You can go to all the restaurants from either place as well you should. If you are really interested in food, not just saying you are, there is no finer place in Italy that I'm aware of that has as many places so close together that are really very very good (ristorante and trattorie both)

                                              1. re: allende

                                                Thank you very much. We've gotten responses from both places and I'm thinking we're going to stay in Monforte because the spot in Canale only had a suite available (which is over double the price of the room in Monforte) and a lot of the wineries I've been interested in visiting are much closer to Monforte.

                                                I read about Castello di Grinzane Cavour in another thread here on CH and I really love the place. As of right now I also have Azienda Agricola Vigna Rionda (Massolino) Winery, Aurelio Settimo, and La Spinette winery although I haven't looked into visiting/tours.

                                                Right now I'm liking the idea of hitting a few of the above mentioned wineries and capping off the day with dinner at Borgo Antico. I'm also toying with the idea of heading into Cherasco to check out the chocolate and hazelnut concoctions at Confetteria Barbero Di Torta Giancarlo before dining at Osteria La Torre.

                                                I've also read good things about the Travel Langhe wine tour service based out of Neive, but haven't looked into it other than visiting their website. 150 euro per person for a day seems reasonable, but it also seems a tad expensive.

                                              2. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                We have twice stayed in Alba at the Hotel Langhe, a great hotel at a bargain price and a very central location for touring Piemonte, and ate at some great restaurants. Here are links to my reports from 2011 and 2009:



                                            2. re: sixteenbiticon

                                              In October, you should not have a problem with weather, but I am only able to visit Italy in the winter months. The weather in the Piemonte and Liguria can vary drastically from one to the other. In the first picture below from Villa Beccaris in Monforte d‘Alba looking towards Barolo, the Langhe is covered with snow in December. At the same time in the second picture, the deck furniture is still out for swimmers in the Mediterranean at the Metropole Hotel in Santa Margherita Ligure. I love the Piemonte in the snow, but I enjoy the sunshine in Liguria also. I especially enjoy the hiking trails in Liguria. I’m into my sixties with a bad back, but I love to hike the trails in the Parco di Portofino between Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino. In bright, winter sunshine, I found the drive along the coast from Genova to Monte Carlo beautiful. It is easy to drive over the hill from the Piemonte to Liguria on the Autostrade, although I prefer the secondary roads. In Liguria, fish is pretty much the specialty, but I’ve also enjoyed Cima alla Genovese, classic Ligurian stuffed breast of veal. In Genova, the onions are unbelievably good. The scent on the street drew us to the Focaccia bakery. The Amatriciana I had in Genova has never been matched because of the home canned tomato sauce and those onions.
                                              (click pictures to enlarge)

                                              1. re: BN1

                                                I always forget about cima alla genovese! It is not hard to find along the coast in butcher shops and gastronomie, and Luchin in Chiavari has one of the best versions I've tasted in a restaurant.

                                              2. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                Good decision! In fact, the right decision.

                                                1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                  If your wife is interested in seeing the Italian Riviera "in some fashion or another," one thing you can consider is stopping for lunch in the Riviera on your way from Parma, taking the coastal road.

                                                  Some places that are 3 hours from Parma that have non-meat dishes that I would recommend are:

                                                  Luchin in Chiavari (for farinata, minestrone and roasted meats)

                                                  La Marinella in Nervi for foccacia col formaggio

                                                  Both of these places serve food in an extremely informal setting, and are atmospheric in different ways (La Marinella has a lovely sea view).

                                                  The coastal road from Chiavari to Recco is highly scenic, and you can rejoin the autostrada in Recco to continue on to Canale (2 hours).

                                                  If you'd rather eat lunch in Nervi, I would recommend getting off the autostrade in Rapallo and taking the scenic road to Nervi. After lunch, you can rejoin the autostrade in Nervi.

                                                  These roads take you along the villa-and-bouganvilla loaded cliffs above the sea, and you need to be comfortable driving hairpin roads at high elevations, and I would recommend a GPS if you follow these routes to help you locate the restaurants.

                                                  I will also point out that if you plan to sleep and eat in Modena, and sleep and eat in Parma, you really don't need a car until you leave Parma (which you can rent at the airport). It's also less than a 4 hour train trip from Parma to Alba, if you prefer trains to cars. You can pack a picnic lunch from Parma (try Salumeria Garibaldi).

                                                  In contrast to Allende, I don't think the Riviera Levante (south of Genova) is too far to go if you would very, very much like a day trip to the Riviera for lunch. Camogli, which is quite beautiful and small, is two hours driving from Canale. Were it me, I would head to Camogli, park the car, and take the short train ride to Chiavari or Nervi for lunch. Before or after lunch, you'd have plenty of time to see all of Camogli and enjoy its views. If you'd rather remain in Camogli, then La Cucina di Nonna Nina up the hill (take your car) can give you a lunch without fish (usually rabbit but also pastas and vegetarian appetizers) and so can Rosa's, which has lovely pastas.

                                                  1. re: barberinibee

                                                    I'm actually struggling with what we should do in E-R right now. We arrive Monday morning and head out to the Langhe on Wednesday morning so two full days and I'm not sure how to spend them. I found an excellent B&B in Nonantola outside of Modena so I was thinking maybe we should use that as a spring board to check out Modena, Parma, and/or Bologna.

                                                    Aged balsamic, cheeses, and cured meats of all kinds are things both my wife and I really love, that coupled with some bad reviews about Bologna and traffic horror stories lead me to focus my attention on Modena and Parma, but now I just don't know. I also think I want to have a car after Venice because I've read numerous threads here saying that the best spots are the rural countryside gems.

                                                    I've got a fairly decent grasp on the Langhe, but I'm just sinking my teeth into E-R. This is something I'll be researching heavily in the coming days.

                                                    In terms of the trip down to Liguria I just don't know if we'll have the time to fit it all in. It's great to have all of this in-depth info to consider, especially for other readers who may be interested in the region. Thanks for all of the input!

                                                    1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                      I certainly wouldn't push the Riviera thing. The whole point of bothering with the Riviera is the relaxation it offers. It's fun if you are going to toodle in for a lazy lookabout or a simple hike. No fun to jam it into a busy schedule.

                                                      In contrast to Ligiruia, the Emilia-Romagna tends to be a very simple place to drive around, with the usual caveat about the more populous cities (where you don't seem to be headed anyway). If you end up driving a car there, I repeat my advice to include the castle Torrechiara outside of Parma before you leave the area (closed Mondays).

                                                      1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                        If you stay in Nonantola, you might want to visit the Ostaria di Rubbiara there if it fits into your schedule. It has an acetaia and makes traditional liqueurs as well as offering the traditional cuisine .. Slowfood recommendation with the snail designation. - note closed Tues and open for dinner on Fri and Sat only definitely differing views on this place with its eccentric customs.

                                                        Weve read that there has been a lot of disruption of local business in the area due to the earthquakes, including at acetaias. .

                                                  2. In case you didnt do a search there are also some recommendations on this Board for Desenzano and the surrounding area

                                                    Its a fairly quick trainride to Mantova and Verona from there (not to mention Brescia) and the lake and the little lakeside towns are also lovely.

                                                    1. I've been doing some digging on Venice and I found a great place to stay in S. Croce Est. The restaurants on my radar so far are:

                                                      Il Ridotto (no-brainer)

                                                      Anice Stellato

                                                      Ai Promessi Sposi

                                                      and finally La Zucca

                                                      I've read great things about La Zucca, but there've definitely been some negative reviews as well. Does anyone have any recent opinions on this place? Bonus that it's right down the street from where we'll probably be staying.

                                                      As far as the ER leg of the trip we're definitely staying near Nonantola. As of now I'm looking at taking an early train from Venice to Modena then picking up our car and checking in. Afterwards I want to try to squeeze in a tour of Villa San Donnino then head south to check out the Ferrari Museum and the Rocca di Vignola. I found a great place to eat in Spilamberto, but unfortunately it's closed on Mondays. I will look into Ostaria di Rubbiara for a Monday dinner option.

                                                      I've already booked a Tuesday lunch at Hosteria Giusti. Pretty excited about that.


                                                      EDIT: One more thing I forgot. I've read there're a lot of pizzerias in Venice, but I regularly travel to NYC to eat pizza so my standards are pretty high. Should I go out of my way to sample Venetian pizza?

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                        I wouldn't worry about a few negative reports on La Zucca. That is par for just about any restaurant in Venice. It is the same as always. Aside from the bonus of proximity, go if it fits what you are looking for.
                                                        If your standards for pizza are pretty high, skip it. There are a few good pizzerias in Venice but none with wood burning ovens. I think they are good if families are looking for something fast, picky eaters, hungry for a change, etc. Why, if one is there for a short stay.

                                                        1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                          In reading recent negative food reports of La Zucca, check to see whether the disappointment was about La Zucca no longer being a mainly vegetarian restaurant, or also whether the disappointment was that La Zucca is not what many people consider a Venetian restaurant (it's not focusing on Venetian classics). People often said the food was perfectly fine, it just wasn't what they were looking for, and had they known, they would have gone elsewhere. In your case, since you don't like seafood, you might not have their problems.

                                                          On the other hand, if the recent reviews are from people who say they though the food was poorly prepared, period, that's a different story. Sorry I can't give you a recent experience of my onw.

                                                          As for pizza, many NY'ers don't like pizza in Italy period. It's a different animal, even the high-end stuff in NY that swears to you its pizza makers are from Rome, Naples. Add to that the fact there are some truly dreadful pizzzerie in Venice, go at your own risk or do a heck of a lot of research if you think you'll want to try it. But I'd generally avoid in Venice.

                                                          1. re: barberinibee

                                                            certainly La Zucca has not been a veg restaurant in the dozen years since the first time we went. It has always served meat in addition to veg dishes. what sets it apart is that they prepare SUBSTANTIAL vegetable based dishes that could serve as a main course vs. many places where the contorni are very light and just that, side dishes. But unless the vegetarian also can eat dairly products La Zucca is not so good since their dishes can be very rich. PS Ive only been in winter, so maybe the summer menu is lighter. Its one of those places where I remember seeing italians sitting down to platters of prosciutto with prosecco, not that common in Venice,

                                                            My family has enjoyed pizza in Venice since our very first visit, when we at at a little place on Salizxada San Lio (I think) Venice pizza is nothing special, at its best what I think of as average acceptable italian pizza, certainly not worth seeking out if you are a pizza head, but the places recommended on this board can be satisfying if you are tired of lengthier restaurant meals. stay away from the ones on the main tourist drags tho, for heaven sake.

                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                              Recommendations for La Zucca for vegetarians headed to Venice are quite frequently found on the internet, if not here. It is about the first place recommended to vegetarians, despite recent history. I think there is a recent trip report here where diners expressed disappointment that the vegetarian offerings were not as substantial as they had expected.

                                                              I think New Yorkers who declare themselves to have high standards for pizza might as well skip it in Venice, and most anywhere north of Rome, in fact, without stellar recommendations for a specific and freakishly good place.

                                                              1. re: barberinibee

                                                                BB I read the recent observations which were not that the vegetarian dishes were insubstantial (they are very hearty) but subtantively that the restaurant really isnt mainly a vegetariarian restaurant - which is true. They offer, however, several non-meat non-fish dishes suitable for vegetarians at all times and the ones we had (including with my veg daughter on one occasion) were really good. Since I have found that what vegetarians often yearn for are substantial filling dishes and not always the same grilled vegetable platters, simple contorni and pasta with tomato sauce, this restaurant can fill that particular bill, as well as the tastes of non-fish eaters, quite well..

                                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                                  Yes, I agree -- my bad writing. Substantively, not substantial. We're saying the same thing about that. I'm really not arguing anything about the reality of La Zucca. I'm trying to point out something about the reality of its reputation on the internet, divorced from reality, where wrongs ideas and information never die -- which leads to some false expectations of La Zucca, and hence, in some cases, negative comments about eating there that have nothing to do with how good the food is. Just expressions of disappointment that La Zucca isn't solely vegetarian or classically Venetian, because that's what some misinformed people were thinking they would get when La Zucca was recommended to them on message boards other than Chowhound.

                                                                  So when the OP said he/she worried about heading to La Zucca because of recent negative reviews, I was trying to provide some context. If the bellyaching was about the cooking, that's something to consider. If the disappointment was not getting an all-veg menu or classically Venetian menu, then that seems irrelevant to the OP's needs.

                                                                  Hope that's clear!

                                                          2. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                            I've been doing some more Venice research and am liking the idea of hitting Il Ridotto for lunch on Saturday after we check into our B&B. Hopefully we can get an early train from Verona. After that I imagine we'll check out San Marco then have dinner at Ai Promessi Sposi.

                                                            For Sunday I think we'll hop a boat out to Burano and check out Verisssa for lunch (that place looks amazing) then maybe walk around the main island for a bit. I'm looking at either Bancogiro or Anice Stellato for dinner. I like the idea of eating on the water at Bancogiro (not to mention that their menu and pictures of their food I found on flickr had my mouth watering) but I'm not sure how the weather will be in October.

                                                            Chime in if you have any notes about my plans. Thanks :)

                                                            1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                              I have not been to Il Ridotto or Venissa.
                                                              Ai Promessi, Anice Stellato and Bancogiro are good choices. As for eating outside in October, good chance early October and much less so later in the month.
                                                              With only two days in Venice, it comes down to what to see and finding a right balance between eating and sightseeing. That all depends on individual interest, stamina, food preference, etc. October is a while away, therefore, you have plenty of time to research, decide and re-decide.

                                                          3. So here's a question: Since they're both closed on Mondays and I seriously doubt I can do both in one day--can I do both in one day?--would you rather have lunch at Hosteria Giusti or tour and taste and/or have dinner at Antica Cote Pallavicina? While quite a drive from where we're staying, that place looks like what I would imagine heaven must be like...

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                              the latter is much closer to Parma than to Modena - it would make more sense as a follow on to your Parma visit (nice to visit the home of culatello). I dont think Osteria di Rubbiara is open for dinner on Mondays its lunch only I believe except for Fri and Sat. Havent eaten at Antica Corte, but enjoyed lunch at the same owner's next door Cavallino Bianco. Im sure if you look at Allende's posts he would recommend a couple of alternative places (ex La Buca) in that general area.

                                                              To me, unless you are staying at the Antica Corte Pallavicina, which could be a nice followup to your visit to parma, lunch rather than dinner at it or one of the other country places makes much more sense - given the driving involved. Its not very enjoyable driving on the bustling main roads of this region.

                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                That's actually exactly what we decided to do. After looking at their website and realizing tours start at 9am, we decided to schedule a tour for Wednesday morning after we leave ER on our way to the Langhe. I might email them and ask if I can do a tour and lunch as opposed to a tasting. I want the full experience, and a few reviews on TripAdvisor said the tasting paled in comparison to the meals served at their restaurant.

                                                            2. I thought I'd post an update since our trip is just a few short weeks away. Most of the (food-related) research for our trip has come from this board, so for that both my wife and I are eternally grateful.

                                                              We arrive in Milan on a Wednesday afternoon. My friend will be picking us up and we'll be staying with him in Desenzano del Garda. I'm letting him take the reins for the part of the trip we'll be staying with him. When I asked him if I should at least look into places to eat, he assured me that hes never had a bad meal in Italy. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to spending some time with a childhood friend in a gorgeous country.

                                                              Our train arrives in Venice Saturday morning. We check into our hotel and have a lunch reservation at Il Ridotto at noon. Afterwards we plan on doing some touristy stuff around Piazza San Marco. Dinner will be at L'anice Stellato.

                                                              Sunday we're taking the vaporetto out to Burano to have lunch at Venissa at 12:30. Afterwards we might check out Burano for a while and eventually amke our way back to Venice. We plan on seeing a show at Teatro La Fenice (still waiting for tickets to go on sale) and afterwards having dinner at Bancogiro (outside, weather permitting.)

                                                              Monday we take a train to Bologna and pick up our rental there (unfortunately there weren't any automatics available in Modena) and drive to check into our B&B in Nonantola before a short tour and lunch at Osteria di Rubbiara. After lunch we have yet another tour at Villa San Donnino in Modena. After this I'm not entirely sure what time it will be or how hungry so we haven't planned anything. A lot of potential spots turned out to be closed on Monday, and, if anything, I figured we could just get a dinner recommendation from a local.

                                                              Tuesday is a day I'm really looking forward to. We start by checking out Mercato Albinelli followed by Ghirlandina Tower and Modena Cathedral. Then we have a 12:30 lunch reservation at Hosteria Giusti. Afterwards we plan on heading south to visit Rocca di Vignola and finally capping off the day with dinner at Da Amerigo in Savigno.

                                                              Wednesday we leave early to head out to Antica Corte Pallavicina for a large tour of their grounds and lunch. Afterwards we may check out Asti and have dinner at Il Cascinalenuovo, otherwise we'll head straight to our hotel in Monforte D'alba and have dinner at possibly Locanda nel Borgo Antico or Trattoria Della Posta.

                                                              Thursday and Friday are our most unplanned days of the trip. We have ideas in mind, but don't necessarily want to commit to too much. I definitely want to check out the tasting room at Castello di Grinzane Cavour to get a feel of the various wineries of the region, and a day-trip to Cherasco is something I've been considering as I've read there's a fantastic confetteria there and dinner at Osteria la Torre sounds great (although I am a little intimidated by the spoken-only menu.)

                                                              So that's it. If you have any comments, please don't hesitate to share, but I'm pretty confident in our current itinerary. Maybe a little more help for the Langhe region, which I'll be sure to research just a bit more in the coming weeks, because one can never have too many options. Thanks again for all of your wonderful input, you've been a great help.

                                                              13 Replies
                                                              1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                a lot of good eating. you'd better take it easy at Giusti and Antico Corte Pallavicina though if you want to enjoy your dinners! salumi at both places is great, dont skip. desserts are skippable, pretty much everywhere.

                                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                                  just one more thing on the salumi -at Il Cavallino Bianco (sister place of Antico Corte Pallavicino) we ordered their assorted salumi for 2. the platter was huge and we had to reduce the rest of our order. So Id just get it for 1 wherever you are - it will be sufficient for both to try everything. Also, dont skip the pastas for the secondi in Emilia - you will be missing what they are best at. if you try to go low carb

                                                                2. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                  Do not be intimidated by the spoken menu at Cherasco. Just ask the brother in the dining room to take his time. As you've seen from the board, a number of people, who don't speak Italian, have gone there and had no problem. It is a great trattoria meal with a wonderful wine list.

                                                                  Hands down, Borgo Antico rather than Trattoria Della Posta. Just no comparison. Although if you're going to eat a big lunch at Pallavicina and then drive to Monforte, I might eat at Posta as a throwaway, and eat at Borgo Antico and Torre the other two nights.

                                                                  I'll be interested to what you say about Osteria di Rubiara. We've gone there three times. The last time, several years ago, Pedroni was strange. We understand that he is more so and among other things, blows a whistle when he wants everyone to leave, whether you are finished or not. In any event, you'll get a decent trattoria meal as well be able to buy some very good aceto balsamico.

                                                                  Have a good trip.

                                                                  1. re: allende

                                                                    Jen is right. Desserts are mostly skippable. Borgo Antico is an exception.

                                                                  2. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                    It seems our last major decision is dinner Thursday and Friday. Thursday it's between la Torre in Cherasco and da Renzo in Cervere. Friday dinner is between Il Centro, Il Cascinalenuovo, and Del Belbo-da Bardon. I'll do more searching as I'm sure I'll probably have to make reservations soon. It's very exciting that we're leaving in two short weeks.

                                                                    EDIT: I forgot to mention that I have secured a reservation for a late dinner at Borgo Antico for Wednesday.

                                                                    1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                      Are you going to Barbero in Cherasco? I'd love to hear about it after you're back if you are doing any hazelnut pilgrimages.



                                                                      1. re: barberinibee

                                                                        Yes I was referring to Barbero. Do you have any idea what their hours of operation might be? I didn't see any listed on their site. It looks like we might be doing a wine tour that day and I want to make sure we have time to go. Thank you!

                                                                        Edit: And don't you worry I definitely plan on doing a full trip report :)

                                                                        1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                          I found this website which lists their closure days. I would assume they are open from around 9am-1pm/4pm-7pm


                                                                          But you should call them directly, I think, to confirm that info, or e-mail or fax them. Those contacts are on their website and the other link that I gave you.

                                                                      2. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                        @ sixteenbiticon

                                                                        La Torre and Da Renzo are very different, with Torre being a great trattoria and Renzo a great ristorante. Same thing among Centro and Cascinalenuovo (restaurants) and Da Bardon (trattoria). All great.

                                                                        It looks as if you're using my list of favorite restaurants around the Alba area (including Borgo Antico). Look at my extensive notes on all of these, decide what type of food preparation and atmosphere you'd like and then come back with more specific questions which I, and am sure others, will be happy to answer.

                                                                        These are really all great places, each in their own way, but they are very different.

                                                                        1. re: allende

                                                                          Thank you allende. I'll probably end up choosing La Torre since we definitely want to visit Barbero as well. I'd probably prefer a ristorante for our other dinner choice, especially since it'll be our last night in Italy so I will look more into Il Centro and Cascinalenuovo.

                                                                      3. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                        Sounds like you have nearly nailed your itinerary! I hope you find Il Ridotto as culineraliy mesmerizing as we (my wife and I) did. Given that you have your meals nearly lined up – I’ll submit to you a couple of Venice finds I posted on this earlier this year – do take note specifically to the bacari (wine bars that serve single portion (cicheti) locally prepared specialties for a couple bucks each) – if that interests you. I found it to present a gastronomic adventure to all things “Venice” – even if you don’t think you’re a big seafood fan. The complete post (go to bottom of post for Venice) is at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837865.

                                                                        As well, note there is a wine bar immediately across from Il Ridotto called Aciugheta. It features one of the more memorable wine by the glass selections I encountered. I only sampled selections of the cicheti on several occasions and found the wine and bites of food just fabulous. And, it was closer to our hotel then the bacari over by the Railto Fish Market (my favorite area for these). Service is definitely a bit brusque so be sure and throw ‘em a big smile and you’ll get the attention you deserve.

                                                                        1. re: ritzyplanet

                                                                          Thank you for the suggestion. I put Aciugheta on our map. I figure it'd be a great way to take a breather before heading out to see the sights. Thanks again.

                                                                      4. Your restaurant list is impressive and good luck with such impressive lunch and dinner loactions in succession. Don't be afraid to cancel if you feel you can't possibly eat another meal that day. Take it from me, you can fast arrive at the phrase "if I eat another bite I'm going to explode." In Venice do not miss the Scuola de San Rocco - the Tintoretto ceiling is amazing and my experience is that the place is far far less crowded than the Doge's Palace, Academia, etc. I've often had the place to myself. Don't miss the Customs House at the end of the point for the space if not the art. And a drink at the top of the Hilton on the Guidecca may not be the most expensive you've ever had but it will be close - the view however is fabulous. We are off to Sicily the same time you will be up north.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: dave11743

                                                                          Thank you for the tips. I hadn't heard of the Scuola de San Rocco, but after one look on google I added it to my itinerary. And yes, I realize we might not be able to eat this much, but I plan on skipping breakfast and dining with the constant reminder to take it easy because I have quite a few great meals planned. Thanks again!

                                                                          1. re: sixteenbiticon

                                                                            Don't skip breakfast. Just go to the nearest standup bar/cafe, order a pastry and a coffee and enjoy the comings and goings. It might be your only chance to mingle with the locals in Venice.

                                                                        2. I was in Venice several years ago and while wandering the streets we popped into this place http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant.... Let me tell you that that I am still dreaming about my meal there. I can't remember exactly what we had but it was all fantastic and in fact we ordered additional courses and left stuffed and rolling out the door. I would highly recommend it if you are in the area.