Venice: 4 nights, 5 restaurants
I'll be in Venice, alone, for four nights (tues to fri incl.). I'm planning to graze on cicchetti and gelato for lunch and real 2-course meals in the evening. I have the cicchetti and gelato sorted. For my dinners i'm looking for venetian style food, i don't mind a little modernization of classics. Good wine available in small portions is nice, but my main aim is good food. I speak a little italian.
I've found threads on this board very helpful. Five places stand out as being what I'm looking for and am interested in which four people on the board would go to / which one they would drop and why? Other helpful info would be how far in advance one needs to reserve and what the price is likely to be. For some reason Venetian restaurants post menus but not prices on the web.
Vini da Gigio
Ai promeSsi sposi
Thanks in advance. I will post a trip report afterwards.
Which of those on your list to include or exclude will depend what you are looking for in terms of food and ambience. All will have a few wines by the glass. Especially good for wine are Vini da Gigio and Bancogiro. Cost for a 2 course meal (assume the two courses exclude dessert):
Vini da Gigio: very traditional; antipasti 12 to15euro (mixed seafood assortments 24euro) , primi 14 (seafood risotto couple euros more), secondi 20-25euros.
Antiche Carampane: all seafood; antipasti and primi are 18 to 20; secondi 28-30; seasonal seafood can be more.
Ai Promessi Sposi: basic and simple with a small menu: antipasti and primi 10, secondi 12-15
Anice Stellato: traditional with a slight twist; antipasti and primi 15, secondi around 20 euros
Bancogiro: creative take on traditional cooking; antipasti 16-20, primi 17, secondi 22-25euros
Reservation: except for Friday/Saturdays during the summer months, couple days in advance should be sufficient.
Finally catching up on my trip reports. As ever, nothing goes quite to plan. I ended up eating five meals but only visited four restaurants, for reasons I’ll explain below.
I found that it was relatively easy to get a table without booking far in advance. (We are talking late-July here.) I didn’t book anything before my arrival in Venice. For most of my meals, I rang on the day. Often, it was clear that I needn’t have booked. But the staff at one restaurant (Anice Stellato) explained that things can be very unpredictable: one day they will only be half full and it is possible to get a walk-in, the next they will be completely booked up.
Straight after I arrived I was wandering near Antiche Carampane and went in to ask about availability. I could have got into dinner any night that week, but I realised that I had just-off-the-plane hunger pangs so I stopped for a light lunch. It felt very old school. The waiter talked me through the pastas, even though they clearly could have given me a menu. In that way, it reminded me a little of my one experience of Pierluigi in Rome. I chose a pasta con capesante, which really hit the spot. It was definitely a primo sized course, which was meant to be followed by another, unlike at some restaurants where primi have almost become the size of mains. The clientele were a mix of tourists and locals, which was the case everywhere I ate. (Obviously Italian-speakers could still be tourists, but in many cases it was obvious that they were not.) I got talking to an English family at the neighbouring table, who raved about the carpaccio that they were having. They had eaten at L’Orto dei Mori the night before and seemed to think that Antiche Carampane was slightly better, although they liked both places. Their concierege had recommended them what he said were the three best restaurants in Venice, but the family couldn’t remember the third. I guessed, correctly, that it was Anice Stellato.
That evening I went to Bancogiro. I booked in the late afternoon. There was no need, I could have walked in. Bancogiro had the loveliest location of anywhere I ate, right on the Grand Canal (which was not obvious from the front entrance of the place), but the least lovely food. I had a chilled tomato, watermelon and fennel soup, followed by a seafood pasta. The soup was blended smooth and it tasted mainly of tomato. I thought I could pick out some sweetness from the watermelon, but I’m not sure I would have guessed that ingredient blind, and I definitely didn’t get any taste of fennel. The pasta was good, but not special enough for me to remember much about it at this distance and, as at Antiche Carampane, it was definitely primo sized. Bancogiro was the only place I ate where the waiters seemed completely disengaged. No point trying to get tips about what to order from them. Service was so discrete as to amount to being ignored, which was fine by me as it allowed me to linger by the canal long after I had finished. The barman, on the other hand, was very enthusiastic. I wasn’t so keen on their wine by the glass but they had some interesting local artisan beers.
Next up was Anice Stellato. Another canal side location, off the main tourist path, although there is a very limited amount of outdoor seating. They mainly serve contemporary versions of traditional dishes, and they specialise in seafood. Portions are large, but they will do half sizes of some things if you ask, and I saw people sharing family-style but ordering less than a dish per head for each course. The sardine in saor was fantastic. A sea urchin pasta was novel and tasty. Half of the seppie al nero con polenta was still a lot, especially as it was very rich and unctuous. I was slightly disappointed that it came with yellow polenta, rather than the traditional Venetian white. In all my days in Venice, I don’t think I saw anyone eating the white stuff, which makes me wonder if yellow polenta has vanquished white even in Italy.
Anice Stellato had a nice buzz, there were other things on the menu that I wanted to try and, in a city where eating out is expensive compared to the rest of Italy, it was remarkably good value. So I decided to return the next night, instead of going to Vini da Gigio, which was on my list as a wine destination but where no doubt the best stuff would not be available by the glass. This was a clear choice for food over wine because the wine by the glass at Anice Stellato was unexciting to say the least. But I ate a baked turbot and the famous caponata, and was very satisfied.
For my final meal, I went to Ai Promessi Sposi. It was a much more simple affair than previous nights (which was also reflected in the prices). I started with a very generous portion of baby scallops and then had the bigoli in salsa. All perfectly prepared and very satisfying. They were very busy. I would not have got in here without a reservation.
Another definite thumbs up for Anice Stellato. Next time I’m in Venice, I might be a little less fish-focussed and try La Bitta, which I understand is based on a similar concept to Anice Stellato but specializes in meat.
I have eaten, only once, at all of those with the exception of Vini da Gigio. My favorite meal of those was at Anice Stellato, even though the place was, for the most part, full of tourists.
Here is what I wrote on my blog about the meal:
I loved the food and the service. We started with spaghetti with razor clams. And then we had grilled pork filet with a salad of fresh fennel and grapefruit. I thought all of it was very good. The 2 really outstanding dishes were dessert and contorno (side) of peperonata. Peppers cooked with tomato sauce and fresh herbs. It really hit the spot. We drank a few different white wines by the glass. The dessert was fantastic. It was a trio of frozen zabaglione (a custard made with marsala wine) one was "classic" with just a drizzle of caramel sauce, one was with a raisin compote and the third had crushed amaretti cookies and cherries. We also drank a Friulian sweet wine with the dolce.
I do remember the razor clams at Bancogiro being fantastic, too.
My least favorite, contrary to popular opinion was Antiche Carampane but it was about 5 years ago. Most memorable there was the sgroppino (not sure of the spelling) for dessert.
I think you can reserve a day or two out for most of these.
Have fun making your choices.
We loved Anice Stellato (and when we ate there in Feb. there were almost no tourists) and Ai Promossi Sposi. You will feel welcome at both places as a solo diner. At Ai Promossi tell them you found them on Chowhound. They were so interested in the site when we explained how we found them. They were very, very friendly.