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Venice - Local Delicacies ADVICE!!

zarkerberg Aug 5, 2012 02:16 AM

Hey peeps!

I've read quite a number of threads recommending top / Michelin starred restaurants at Venice - which has been really helpful - Thanks!!

However, I only have the luxury of having 2 dinners (staying 2 nights) in Venice, and I would really love to sample their famous local delicacies (Seafoods - Spider Crabs etc) / restaurants popular amongst the locals (not necessarily most expensive / michelin starred restaurants).

Are those seafoods in season early october?
What else is a must TRY Venetian meal?

Anticipating inputs from everyone especially PBSF..
Much appreciated!

Thanks Again!!


  1. m
    marakiishungry Aug 6, 2012 07:04 PM

    Hi! We just returned from a trip that included five days in Venice. I had arranged a reservation for Alla Testiere well in advance of our trip and we went on our first night...my opinion is that while it was very good quality fish, it was not something that I would recommend for someone trying to get a traditional, authentic meal. I did some research after our visit, and many other reviewers have stated the same thing, and some also accused the chef of "selling out" to commercial interests (promoting his cookbook) or riding on his laurels. I don't know much about that, but I did notice that everyone in the restaurant was American during our visit, so I was interested in how much of his business is drummed up by the hype of some of the stellar reviews that he has gotten combined with the limited seating. So if you go, it will be good quality seafood, but if you have a restaurant near you that you can visit at your leisure at home, I would skip this one in Venice.
    For places that we thoroughly enjoyed, I can give you three that are literally steps from each other. One is La Cantina, which is great for sitting and people watching while enjoying some great nibbles (which can easily become a meal) and wine. Also nearby is Osteria Ca'D'Oro/Alla Vedova, which i great for chiccheti or for a sit down meal. Finally, one of our favorites that we literally wandered into was Vini Da Gigio, which had great food with great service and hospitality. The seafood here was great!
    Another place we enjoyed was Da Maria Alla Fava, which was kind of hidden away and had a pleasant courtyard to sit in. We only found it because we decided to ask for seafood restaurant recommendations in the fish market. We had mussels, pasta and sepia nero with polenta here, which were all great.

    I hope this helps, enjoy your trip.

    11 Replies
    1. re: marakiishungry
      PBSF Aug 7, 2012 01:02 AM

      Glad you had a good experience at Vini da Gigio; it is a very good but if one wants to eat the seasonal seafood from the lagoon or seafood in general, there is no comparison to Alle Testiere. We ate at both this May and enjoyed both. At Vini da Gigio, there were no canocia and moleche when both were in season. There was a primi of tagliolini con Granseola. For antipasti, we shared two misti: di pesce crudo (scampi, tuna tartar, branzino and scallop carpaccio), and di specialita veneziane (bacala mantecato, sarde in saor, grilled razor clams and polpo with olive oil and parsley); did not order the orate or branzani when we were told they were farmed. Apted for the coda di rospo with artichokes, grilled eel and the braised duck for secondi.
      At Alle Testiere, there were tartufi di mare, a kind of clam, as part of a raw seafood antipasto, also had steamed canocia and granseloa and deep fried moleche; then gnocchi with canestrelli, fillet of rombo with olives and capers and grilled mazzancolle. For desserts, a very good tiramisu and berries with prosecco sabayon. I disagree about the ‘selling out’. It is true that the small dining room is tightly packed with mostly Americans and other foreigners. There is a cookbook for sale on display in the window and bottom of the menu but there is no overt ‘selling’. And the two seating per evening is a major irritant and inconvenience. We’ve eaten about a dozen meals over the years and it has only gotten better. It is true that it is not as traditional as Vini da Gigio but it is by no mean not Venetian. They might sneak a little fresh ginger into the steamed clams or mint in the tiny scallops. Parts of the menu is still very traditional: meat from spider crab dressed simply with olive oil and parsley, steamed canocia, baked scallops with onions; spaghetti alla vongole, plenty of simply grilled fish. And I am puzzled by your statement: “so if you go, it will be good quality seafood, but if you have a restaurant near you that you can visit at your leisure at home, I would skip this one in Venice.” Where do you live that you can get moleche or canocia?

      1. re: PBSF
        marakiishungry Aug 7, 2012 05:57 AM

        Well, there was no moeche on the menu at Alla Testiere during our visit (July), so despite where I live, I couldn't get them there either. We had razor clams at both Alla Testiere and Vini da Gigio. At Alla Testiere, we had the mixed seafood plate for two, which we got grilled on the suggestion of our server. Perhaps fried would have been better, who knows?

        From our experience, I still feel that there are restaurants to visit in Venice where you can get good, local food without having to book in advance and limit yourself to the two seatings. Of course it will mean having to pay a premium for it and of course it will require some research. Are you saying that there is only one place serving lagoon seafood in Venice?

        1. re: marakiishungry
          PBSF Aug 7, 2012 08:05 AM

          The two seasons for moleche are Spring (late March to early May) and Fall (late September/October). From what I observed at the Rialto this Spring, they were not as abundant as some other years and prices were high (55euro per kilo).
          "Are you saying that there is only one place serving lagoon seafood in Venice?", not at all; many good places will serve them. I recommended Alle Testiere because if they are in season and available, it is a good chance that they will offer them. I always mention their shortcomings regarding to their tightly packed dining room, their two seating policy and occasionally brusque service. Less so now that they have a printed menu rather than reciting it.

          1. re: PBSF
            alohatoall Aug 7, 2012 11:27 AM

            Here is the link to the travel forum reporting the closure of Al Fontego -- since confirmed by a friend with close ties to Venice: http://slowtalk.com/groupee/forums/a/....

            1. re: alohatoall
              PBSF Aug 7, 2012 11:52 AM

              Thank you very much for the link.

              1. re: PBSF
                alohatoall Aug 7, 2012 12:42 PM

                You're welcome, and thank YOU for your invaluable information about Venice. We'll be there for 2 weeks in early October (our 9th and 10th weeks there), and I've consistenly relied on and agreed with your recommendations -- our favorite by far is Antiche Carampane. Thank you again!

                1. re: alohatoall
                  PBSF Aug 7, 2012 02:44 PM

                  Antiche Carampane is ours also. Signora Libra and her staff are wonderful people. Early October is perfect weather.

            2. re: PBSF
              Ruth Lafler Aug 12, 2012 06:23 PM

              Do you recommend going to the Rialto to see what might be available? When I was in Venice I was staying in a flat in Dorsoduro. I saw a guy with a stall set up right in the middle of the "street" who had some of the weirdest looking sea creatures I've ever seen. I wish now I had taken a picture ... when I walked back that way later he was gone, and I never saw him again.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                PBSF Aug 12, 2012 08:38 PM

                Interesting experience with the seafood vendor; was the calle in Dorsoduro? The only seafood vendor in Dorsoduro that I've ever seen are the two legitimate stalls in the Campo Santa Margherita. The only other area that I can ever imagine one might run into one (iligitimate?) is around the Ponte de Pugnai, off Campo San Barnaba. That is the only food buying area in Dorsoduro.

                As for browsing the Rialto Pescheria, that will give an idea what seafood are available. Seasonal seafood can be unpredictable; for example, when I was there for 6 weeks this Spring, I saw much less seafood from the lagoon (moleche, canoce, schile, etc) than previous years, though they were available at some of the restauranats that we ate at.
                If supply is small, restaurants that pay a premium will get the first dib.

                1. re: PBSF
                  Ruth Lafler Aug 12, 2012 09:05 PM

                  IIRC I was walking from my flat in the Calle Toletta to my sister's on the other side of the Accedemia. Maybe it was on Calle Sant'Agnese? Definitely nowhere near Campo San Barnaba or Santa Margherita. This guy seemed very ad hoc -- it was the only time I saw him, and there weren't any other vendors in the area. I've wished ever since I'd taken a picture. I love the pictures I took of the produce boat in the Campo San Barnaba!

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    PBSF Aug 12, 2012 09:32 PM

                    Calle Toletta and Sant'Agnese are the main thoroughfare in Dorsoduro. He must have been quite a sight. The produce boat almost shut down late last year when the owner wanted to retire. Fortunately a young family took it over. Really nice people.

      2. PBSF Aug 5, 2012 09:16 PM

        Venice has very few Michelin star restaurants: two to be exact, Osteria da Fiore and Quadri. Most of the restaurants recommended on this board are basically good trattoria/osteria types, though most would not be considered 'inexpensive'. Venice is an expensive city to dine out; there is no getting around it, especially if one wants to eat quality seafood.
        Local seafood that are in season in October:
        the tiny soft-shcll crab call moleche (moeche), usually deep fried or grilled
        schile, tiny gray shrimp simple steam or poached served with white polenta
        canocia, steamed or grilled, eat with fingers
        granzeala, the spider crab, the meat taken out and drizzled with olive oil and parsley, maybe
        a squeeze of lemon
        canestrelli, tiny scallops, in a pasta or simple saute
        Available all year round are large scallops with roe, little clams call vongole verace, tiniest squids, baby octopus, anchovies, sardines. also the 'go' fish used in the broth to make risotto and soups.
        Much of other seafood sold/served in Venice are no longer from the lagoon/Adriatic; most are from the deeper Mediterranean and the Atlantic; those include the scampi and much of the fish. One may find small sole in the market that are from the Adriatic but most restaurants prefer the larger specie. And farmed branzino and dorada are common, even at the good restaurants.
        As to where to eat seasonal seafood; except a few restaurants that does not serve seafood, they will be available in just about all the good restaurants. Certain items may not be on the printed menu, therefore, always wise to ask. From my experience, good wild seafood is expensive; some restaurants may offer better 'value' but I would be suspicious of any restaurant charging little for moleche, crab, canocia. Go to the better restaurants for those.
        One can get good seafood at less expensive places but they will most likely be cuttlefish, octopus, sardines, anchovies, maybe large scallops, Many of these are perfectly tasty and many of the traditional dishes use them: bacala mantecato, sardine fried, grilled or in 'saor', cuttlefish in its ink with polenta, spaghetti alle vongole.
        For moderate places, I would go to ai Sposi Promessi, Alla Vedova, Alla Frasca, ai 4 Feri. And many bacari will have the traditional dishes such as sardines,anchovies, bacala, clams, octopus. Order a seafood platter at La Cantina or eat cicchetti at Trattoria da Fiore's next door bacaro, Bancogiro, all'Arco, do Spade, the front bar of Al Bacareto, ai Sposi, Alla Vedova, da Alberto.

        14 Replies
        1. re: PBSF
          zarkerberg Aug 6, 2012 12:58 AM

          Wow, that's really informative ! Thanks for taking time to write that up. Much appreciated, PBSF..

          One last question, if it was your first visit and you only have 2 nights / meals, which of the twos would you pick? ;)


          1. re: zarkerberg
            PBSF Aug 6, 2012 01:49 AM

            "For moderate places, I would go to ai Sposi Promessi, Alla Vedova, Alla Frasca, ai 4 Feri." If to pick two from those, ai Sposi Promissi and alla Frasca. Most likely, you will not be serve moleche, spider crab, canocia and other local seasonal seafood because they are too expensive. For those seafood or what you might be referring as 'local delicacies', you need to go to more expensive places.

            1. re: PBSF
              zarkerberg Aug 6, 2012 02:54 AM

              Thanks alot for the info..

              Which restaurant would top the list then to get the local seasonal seafood, if i dont mind paying the $$$.... ?

              thanks again

              1. re: zarkerberg
                PBSF Aug 6, 2012 09:12 AM

                Picking a single top restaurant in difficult and problematic, much depends on our own preference. If seafood is my focus, I would go to either Antiche Carampane or Alle Testiere; neither serve any meat or poultry. I have been to both numerous times over the years. In either case, these are basic trattorie: informal service, simple lively ambience and sometimes a bit cramp as in Alle Testiere with only about 24 seats. In the case of Alle Testiere, they do two services per evening which if one wants to linger can be a problem, therefore, do the second seating if you don't mind eating late. A three course dinner will be around 60 euros before wine. What one is paying for are the quality of the seafood, the precision of cooking/seasoning and not elaborate preparations, table cloth trampings or pampering service. Much of the preparation are simple: steamed, saute, grilled or deep fried with seasoning and garnish. The availability of seafood can be a day to day thing but chances that good that they will offer at least some. For Antiche Carampane, always ask if they have items not on the menu. A third choice might be Al Fontego dei Pescatori. The interior is roomier and more comfortable including a back garden which hopefully still be open in early October. I have not been there in a couple of years but my Venetian friends ate there recently and was excellent.

                1. re: PBSF
                  jen kalb Aug 6, 2012 10:05 AM

                  We found that these lagoon specialties are often available as a mixed seafood appetizer, where the various items are presented simply dressed. you may want to look for such a dish. Corte Sconta is a place we liked that offers it, and I believe Antiche Carampane (see picture in middle at link)http://antichecarampane.com/antiche-c...

                  It could be easier this type of antipasto plate rather than satisfying your itch by ordering individual dishes (though the moeche as I recall, would not be included,

                  Also, some restaurants offer a grand presentation of grilled seafood, though that can be particularly pricy.

                  1. re: PBSF
                    alohatoall Aug 6, 2012 05:59 PM

                    PBSF, it's been noted on another travel forum that Al Fontego dei Pescatori has just closed! I'm sure we'll all miss it!

                    1. re: alohatoall
                      PBSF Aug 6, 2012 09:02 PM

                      Thank you for the information. Can you give me the link to the travel forum? Much appreciated.

                      1. re: alohatoall
                        Octavian Aug 7, 2012 04:55 AM

                        I think only the newish location, the premises on the Zattere formerly occupied by Riviera, has closed. A few weeks ago, Fontego's Web site showed both locations; now it only shows the one on Calle Priuli: http://www.alfontego.com/

                        1. re: Octavian
                          PBSF Aug 7, 2012 08:31 AM

                          When Riviera closed couple years ago, I thought Al Pesador at the Rialto took it over. At that time, I believed they changed the name to Al Pesador. Surprise that things change so quickly in Venice. I'll have to check with my Venetian friends regarding to Al Fontego.

                          1. re: PBSF
                            Shannon Aug 7, 2012 08:40 AM

                            Al Pesador did take over Riviera, NOT Fontego dei Pescatori.

                            I haven't eaten there since it changed hands, but I've heard it is really good.

              2. re: PBSF
                allende Aug 6, 2012 01:06 AM

                Interesting that where I live, vongole verace are the larger clams and vongole arselle are the little clams.

                1. re: allende
                  PBSF Aug 6, 2012 01:55 AM

                  The two common types of clams in Venice are the verace which is a little larger and more expensive than what is labeled simply as vongole which might be the arselle you are referring to. In the States, the only tiny clams we get are the manilas which is about the size of the verace. The next size is the common little necks which are huge by comparison.

                  1. re: allende
                    Octavian Aug 6, 2012 05:25 AM

                    The naming of clams as of much else in Italian cooking is not an exact science, and the same thing can go under different names, depending on the region. My Italian food dictionary says that arsella, of Genovese origin, is sometimes a name for the vongola verace, but it also says that it is sometimes a name for the tellina, a very small clam, which is itself a misnomer, because the clam commonly known as the tellina does not belong to the Tellinidae family of clam.

                    1. re: Octavian
                      allende Aug 6, 2012 06:24 AM

                      On the northern Tuscan coast which I was referring to, arselle are very small, about the size of a normal person's small fingernail. It is less than half the size of our vongole verace. The manilas in The States are much larger than our vongole verace. Vogole verace, arselle, they are both very flavorful if fresh fresh.

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