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Sep 2, 2013 12:33 PM

Venice -- where do the locals eat?

We'll be in Venice in mid-September. I'm not sure how long we'll be there -- probably not more than a couple of days. But we'd love to find a few places for lunch and dinner where the locals would take visiting friends and family. Fresh ingredients; simply prepared but delicious; NOT filled with tourists. We'd appreciate all recommendations. Thanks!

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  1. Where do the locals eat? What's left of the locals in Venice eat at their neighborhood osterie and cafes where they are known. In these places, they are treated like old friends and family and frequently dishes cooked specially how they like them. If the family is visiting grandpa and grandma, they head to the same osteria and have big platters of food served them just like in the movies. Venice is down to about 55,000 full time inhabitants with the elderly and students making up the bulk of the population. Neither groups are the going out for full all out meals people. If your tolerance for tourists is low, either skip Venice or head out to the very eastern Castello, the only area not touch by the 200,000 tourists that descend on Venice each day. There you will find only local eating simple Venetian cooking that probably won't fit your idea of 'fresh ingredients and delicious', the 'farm to table' that we idolize. Since much of Venetian cooking is not complicated, simply prepared is not an issue; fresh produce and seafood are pretty much the norm for any good restaurant. Wild seafood is expensive which make Venice an expensive city to dine out.
    I am not a local but for the past 20 years or so have been spending a couple months every year in Venice. Where do we take visitors depends on their taste and who is paying. For everyday simple affordable food, we take them one of the osterie in Cannairegio such as Al Timon, Bea Vita, Alle due Gondolette and eat the set lunch. Or munch on cicchetti at the many bacari scattered around Venice. In either case, we are not looking for optimal food but at least decent with a couple glasses of wine and a friendly warm atmosphere. This is how locals eat on an regular basis. A little more upscale and a few more tourists, maybe Ai Promessi Sposi or Alle Vedova. A little more expensive are Anice Stellato or Alla Frasca or Trattoria da Fiore. If we want to splurge some on them or if they are paying, Vini da Gigio, L'Orte dei Mori, Al Paradiso, Osteria San Marco, Antiche Carampane. If our guests are younger and want good food with more of a vibe: Bancogiro, Boccadoro, Alla Zucca, da Rioba. Contrary to the reputation, there are good food in Venice; just not in numbers, variety and showmanship of most cosmopolitan cities.

    1. There is a great little 'locals' place near the Biennale grounds, off Via Garibaldi: La Rampa. It's only open from the mornings through lunch, no dinner. Filled with mostly locals, they have a very simple menu of daily specials. I love it.

      1. While I have far less experience than PBSF, I have eaten in several places mentioned.
        To me, the most "local" experiences were at Al Timon (and I loved every bit of the food and great variety of wines by the glass) and at the far more sophisticated, Orte dei Mori.

        We were surrounded by loud Americans at Anice Stellato and I so want go back and try it again.

        Alla Zucca, in my one visit, was magical food-wise but also lots of English speakers.

        I loved Al Paradiso but it was a bit pricey.

        I really agree with PBSF--there really is great food in Venice.

        8 Replies
        1. re: jangita

          I would venture to say you will see many more "venetian " customers if you dine in midday- the folks that have moved to the mainland but still work in Venice. That was certainly our experience. Its true in many of the restaurant in Rome centro also, as well as other places.

          The part of Castello e of Arsenale is lightly visited by tourists outside of the time of the Bieanniale - as well as the Giudecca and the parts of Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, etc that are most distant from Rialto/San Marco. If that is truly a priority for you, you might want to consider restaurants in those areas, like some that have been recommended.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Now a days, especially during March to October, there are a lot of visitors around the Arsenale and via Gariabldi during the day. One has to get really into Eastern Castello, at least past the Giardini and into Sant' Elena/Sant Pietro to find mostly locals (except for the tourist joggers). Despite all, once evening comes, except for a few areas, much of Venice is peaceful and quiet. In the evenings, there are still number of osterie away from the San Marco, Rialto and around the main thoroughfare that feed the locals. Like a true osterie, they are rather simple and basic.

            1. re: PBSF

              Thanks for the clarification - our last few visits were all in winter time (Dec-Feb) and these areas were pretty much tourist free. We were almost always the only non-Italians in the place.

              1. re: jen kalb

                The municipality of Venice has embarked on project to make use of the Arsenale, part offices, part exhibition hall, part museum, hence, there is more going on in that area. You're right that in the winter, it is much more tourist free than the summer. In the summer, bunch the yachts and smaller tourist boats are docked on that part of the lagoon. In the winter, the cruise ship season that ply the Mediterranean is on hiatus. We haven't been in Venice in the winter for a number of years. Just too cold and damp and can't use the terrace in our apartment which makes the city even more closed in.

          2. re: jangita

            I agree that Al Paradiso is expensive with a three course meal around 55 to 60 euros. We like it very much. The menu has variety, the food is very good and the owners are charming. It is a good alternative to the often repeated group of Al Covo, Vini da Gigio, Fiascheteria Toscana, Alle Testiere, Carampane.
            Alla Zucca gets a lot of English speakers. Tourists think that it is the only alternative if one doesn't like seafood or is a vegetarian. Sometime it gets a few sprinkling of young Venetian couples out on a date.
            Too bad about the loud Americans at Anice Stellato; maybe it is my imagination but I experience loud tourists in Venice more often than just about any other popular tourist city in Europe. It hardly ever happens in Paris.

            1. re: PBSF

              "maybe it is my imagination but I experience loud tourists in Venice more often than just about any other popular tourist city in Europe."

              It may be that the absence of car traffic and overall quiet atmosphere of Venice accentuates the loudness. I host a fair number of visitors at my own home in Italy, which is nowhere near Venice, and I simply don't know what to say to some visitors about their insensitivity to volume control. Lowering one's voice is a hard case to make in Italy because, in truth, many Italians bellow at the drop of a dime. But Americans in particular seem to be "shouty."

              I sometimes wonder if some of my guests worry it won't be evident they like Italy unless they are shouting about every little thing all the time. But since not everybody who visits me shouts, I sometimes wonder if (a) people who first and foremost identify as "parents" are so used to shouting at their children they no longer hear themselves or (b) people accustomed to eating in NYC restaurants don't realize they don't need to shout all the time as part of an interesting experience of food.

              It may also be true that American culture is now all about shouting. Or when modern urban tourists from anywhere get to someplace as quiet as Venice, they shout to obliterate the unnerving silence.

              My thinking only goes so far on this because I have hard time thinking through anything when people are shouting.

              1. re: barberinibee

                Im not sure Americans and other anglophones are any louder than, say Germans, but Im certainly hypersensitive to them! There is also that idea that if you speak loudly and slowly, you we be understood..

                1. re: jen kalb

                  Actually, I find German speakers generally rather soft-spoken, although around here I seldom know if they are Germans, Swiss or Austrians. In defence of loud Americans, I sooner dine with them in a restaurant than screaming Italian television.