Proposed restaurant itinerary for Venice
Hi all. My spouse and I are coming to Venice for 4 days next week for his 50th birthday and we are looking for your opinion on our restaurant choices, (especially from PBSF who seems to have a weathy of knowledge, thank you). We have been researching restaurants for the past month using Chowhound, guidebooks and Tripadvisor. We have selected four restaurants and have made reservations but would be open to making changes based on your advice.
First a bit about what we are looking for. We are a gay urban couple (with 2 young children that we are leaving with family) and consider ourselves to be foodies. We like fresh food with complex flavours and interesting combinations. We like international fusion but also want to experience Venetian tradition. We like personal service where choices can be made to suit our palates and where the server knows the menu and wine list well. My spouse has an interest in wine and is looking forward to enjoying Italian wines with a particular interest in Piedmontese wine. We aren’t particularly fond of seafood, and do like our meat, but expect that if the seafood/fish is fresh and it is prepared in an interesting way, it would win us over.
We are coming Wednesday to Sunday and the actual birthday is Saturday night, our last night. So we are hoping the last night would be a bit more special: quieter? Romantic? white table cloths? Perhaps a view? Priority is still good food.
So here are our choices. I have selecting them hoping that they provide a bit of variety.
- Wednesday (day of arrival) – Vini da Gigio 7:30
- Thursday (after a tour with photographer Marco Secchi) – l’Anice Stellato 8:00
- Friday – Alle Testiere (thought this would be the best option for seafood) 7:00
- Saturday (final birthday night) – Al Covo 7:30
Of note, we are also thinking of Alla Vedova, All’ Arco and Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi for lunch/cichetti, as we have heard excellent things about them. We also considered Il Ridotto, Bancogiro, La Bitta, La Porte d’Acqua and Sangal, but chose the others instead. We are also thinking of Fortuny and Bar Danieli for pre dinner drinks on the Saturday night. We thought we would indulge in the pampering and view but not spend a fortune on food that wasn’t stellar.
What do you think of our 4 choices? Would you swap any of our choices for our runners-up, or anything else? What about the times we have chosen. When do people usually eat dinner in Venice and what attire would you suggest we bring? Thank you so much.
Frankly, Il Ridotto was overated....IMHO....while the presentations were really nice, the food was trying to be too cool and frankly, wasn't that good. We had the tasting menu, and were in and out of there in less than one and a half hours. It was the biggest disappointment on our trip to Venice.
I'm not PBSF, whose advice is always valuable, but we're returning to Venice for our 7th and 8th weeks in October. I think your list looks terrific, and the only suggestion I have is to include Antiche Carampane, perhaps as your option for seafood on Friday (it's our favorite restaurant in Venice, but then we love seafood, which is all you'll find there), and to add Cantinone Già Schiavi for cicchetti . Have a wonderful trip!
Thanks alohatoall. I appreciate your input. (And by the way, I by no means meant to imply that advice from those other than PBSF would not be valuable or welcomed : -) I have added Cantinone to my list, which is perfect since it is not far from American Dinesen where we are staying. I debated long and hard between Alle Testiere and Antiche Carampane. They both seem similar. Testiere’s website was a little hipper. Carampane’s was more traditional. I went with Testiere on a gut feeling but if anyone can describe any differences between the two, I would appreciate that.
You may have read my post from last fall, but in case not, here it is:
Places we have not been to that are on my list for the future are Anice Stellato and Antiche Carampane,based on what I have read on CH.
Don't worry much about attire. No jackets or ties needed. Fashionable casual will be perfect. Why eat at 7 or 7:30? At that hour you will be surrounded by other Americans.
FWIW, we are also a gay couple, a bit older than your spouse.
Thanks rrems. I re-read your post from the fall and dinner sounds delicious. Thanks for the attire tips. Good to know. We picked 7:00 for Alle Testiere, because they have 2 seatings: 7 and 9:30. We thought the late seating would be too late, especially if we want to catch early light and quiet mornings. The other restaurants...well... we just didn't know what time is a good time to go? Suggestions? Also, if you have any tips on gay friendly establishments, let us know. I heard Teamo would be one.
I also think your choices are good, partly because we will be returning to Venice in October to celebrate my spouse's 50th, for 3 nights, and we will also be eating at Alle Testiere, Anice Stellato and al Covo. The first two, we've been to a number of times. Alle Testiere does have a more modern feel (though we haven't been to Antiche Carampane); Luca is very pleasant and enjoys talking with customers who like good food (at least, he seemed to with us).
We "found" l'Anice Stellato years ago; we like the location, so far away from the tourist bustle. We like to walk there; if you plan to walk, leave yourselves plenty of time, and yes, you'll get there eventually. It's a beautiful walk, of course. They do have about four tables outside; we sat there on our most recent visit, and it was a lovely evening. They didn't even ask us if we wanted to eat al fresco, so I don't know if they made the (correct) assumption that we Americans would want to sit outside, or it was just luck of the draw (there table behind us was Italian, I noticed).
On the whole, unless you really don't like to eat so late, I would also suggest eating at 8 or later; that's more the customary dinner hour in Venice.
In terms of attire, my husband said he wears a jacket, but no tie, to Alle Testiere, and probably to Anice Stellato too - definitely not needed for the latter, but I think part of his reasoning is that if he needs a somewhat-warm layer in the evening (we've been to Venice primarily in early October), he'd rather wear a dinner jacket than his North Face nylon jacket - I'd rather have him wear a dinner jacket, too!
One thing about Promessi Sposi, it may have good cicchetti, but it's not a very appealing location in terms of views or people-watching, it's in a tiny back alley. So if you'd rather have more of a view, consider elsewhere.
IMHO, the best place in Venice, and maybe the world (or what I've seen of it) to have pre-dinner (and post-dinner) drinks is Piazza San Marco. The prices are very high, but we've decided it's worth the price to us.
The four you've chosen are some of the better restaurants in Venice. All serve more or less traditional Venetian cooking. Alle Testiere's antipasti are a little more creative but the primi and much of the secondi are quite traditional. Exception might be the three revolving secondi: such as sauteed St Pietro with citrus and herb, rombo with olives, capers and prosecco, large white shrimp with cherry tomatoes; the rest are simply grilled items. If you are cooking for complex flavors and interesting combinations: might try Bancogiro or Il Ridotto (have not been).
For any of your choices, if you engage the serving staff in discussing the menu and wines, they will be more then happy to recommend dishes that will suit your taste and also the wine. The wine list at Vini da Gigio is one of the best in Venice and have wines from all over Italy, including some Piedmontese reds. Also meat dishes to go with them. As for the others, the list is smaller and the emphasis is on wines of the Veneto and Friuli. Whites and lighter reds go better with much of Venetian cooking.
You are not aren't particular fond of seafood; just to re-inerate that Alle Testiere is all seafood, no meat or poultry. The quality of seafood is high for all four on your list. Vini da Gigio and Al Covo have very good meat/poultry dishes. No chicken.
Romantic Saturday night: Al Covo is a pleasant restaurant with excellent service. Maybe cozy but I wouldn't label it as 'romantic' in the usual sense and it has no view. There are usually a few outside tables on a non-descript wide calle. Can't think of a romantic restaurant that has great view, good food and not over the top in terms of budget.
Cicchetti/lunch: my advice is to eat near where you are sightseeing at lunch time; there are good bacari all over Venice, therefore, treking across the city is not worth the time and energy. If you are in Cannaregio, Vedova, ai Promessi Sposi are good, as is La Cantina and the many others off the Strada Nuova. All'Arco (mostly standup) is just one of many around the Rialto: after Arco, hop over to do Spade (good fried items and very atmospheric), the back bar of Antico Dolo, Al Merca (standup only) or Bancogiro.
The others on your list: La Bitta is solid of one only want non-seafood but definitely not better than those on your list. Have not bee to La Porte d'Acqua or Sangal.
Pre dinner drinks: the view from the Danieli Terrace is spectacular; the only other comparable arial view is the Skyline Bar at the Molino Stucky Hilton in the Giudecca. Where is Bar Fortuny? the only Fortuny I know is in the Cipriani Hotel. Late afternoons are very popular for drinks and cicchetti. Sit outside at Bancogiro, Al Prosecco, La Cantina.
Dinner time in Venice: weeknights, 7;30/8pm. Warm weekends can be later, 9pm is not a problem and there will be diners until midnight, especially around the popular spots. Dress code is all over the place. Nice jeans are not out of place; running shoes, unless they are super stylish and worn by certain people, are an eyesore. September is great weather.
Thank you PBSF. I will move my reservations later. Plus, I am reconsidering Bancogiro. However, I think I may just take us their for lunch, rather than change one of our dinners. Although we are not seafood fans, we are keen to try a good seafood place and will keep Alle Testiere. Just got home from Madonna concert. Gotta finish packing before our flight tomorrow. Thank you all!!
Hello Chowhounders. Although I have been home a while, I have been meaning to write you back about our dining experiences in Venice. Overall it was excellent. Thank you all for your helpful input.
Night 1. VINI DA GIGIO: Excellent classic Venetian food. It was a great way to introduce ourselves to the culinary flavours of Venice. I had the venetian appetizers and a fish filet for my main. Preparation was simple but very flavourful. The restaurant was warm and cozy. The service however was spotty and slow, perhaps it was just an off night.
Night 2. L'ANICE STELLATO: Excellent food again. Traditional Venetian but slightly more inventive. The menu was only in Italian but we had a fantastic server who translated and described beautifully, every item on the menu. I had the sardine/eggplant parmigiana and the black squid ink spaghetti. My spouse had a sour shrimp dish, then pasta with prawns. We enjoyed it all very much although the prawns were still in their shells and tentacles (which we were prepared for, but still not that keen on). As noted, we are not seafood fans, but we found that the dishes we ordered were some of the best in seafood that we have ever had. The squid pasta was extremely fresh. Our server said that you could smell the sea, and she was right. For dessert we had an amazing selection of frozen zabaglione. Three large scoops, light and fluffy, each with different toppings. The restaurant was warm, both rustic and modern.
Night 3. ALLE TESTIERE: Another excellent night. Again, I am not a seafood fan, yet went to these restaurants with the desire to try the best in seafood, rather than have something that is familiar to me, and not the restaurant specialty. I was not disappointed. I had razor shell clams, for the first time ever. Absolutely delicious. When finished, I kept the plate to mop up the sauce with bread. It was complex flavours of deep olive oil, fennel, garlic, salt and more that I could not place. My main was ravioli with pumpkin and basil. PBSF commented that the appetizers at Alle Testiere are more inventive than their mains. So I stuck with just appetizers and didn't choose a secondi. Thank you. It was a good choice, as my spouse's main was tasty but not that interesting. The dessert was a smooth rich pannecotta. The cheesecake was more of a flour cake with a thick top and bottom crust. The restaurant was small, intimate, and simple.
Night 4. BANCOGIRO: For our final night we initially had reservations for AL COVO. We knew the food at Al Covo would be great, but it was our good-bye night to Venice, and wanted to be outside on the Grand Canal. We already had three delicious meals. Could they be topped by Al Covo? It would be a hard act to follow. So we were prepared to sacrifice food for ambience and went to Bancogiro. Indeed the food was not up to par with the other three restaurants but it was a very memorable and special evening. It was such a lovely location. Warm night along the canal, with candlelight and tablecloths, yet nicely tucked away from the crowds of the Rialto and San Marco areas. A wonderful way to end the trip and celebrate my spouse's 50th birthday. The food was good but it didn't seem as fresh as other restaurants. The quality was lower but we were prepared for that. The wine list was excellent and the dessert was amazing. A fabulous tiramisu. I want more of it. It was the way to end our trip.
CICHETTI: Unfortunately, we didn't get to sample as much cichetti as we would have liked, since we were often not in the right place at the right time, or not particularly hungry at cichetti time. We did go to Cantinone Già Schiavi twice. Thank you "alohatoall" for the recommendation. It was right near our hotel. A great place with lots of delicious cichetti. We went to Alla Vedova on a Thursday, and didn't realize it was closed on Thursdays. Didn't get to Al'Arco because we were not in that area. Didn't get to Cantina or Spimosi.
Too much to see and try. Too little time. Thank you all for your help and I hope this helps others.
I am so glad you persisted and gave seafood a try. There cant be a better place for this than Venice. I still remember the time I ordered liver at a top flight restaurant in LA when I was a young highflyer. I had always hated liver, as cooked by my mother, but for an unknown reason I decided to give it a try, and my attitude was transformed.
thanks for your very helpful report.