Venice attracts over 20 million tourists a year who come to experience the city’s intoxicating mix of world class history, art, architecture and, of course, gastronomy. The city has a reputation for its excellent seafood and legendary cichetti, which is the Venetian equivalent of tapas. Look out for tasty local delicacies like Baccalà Mantecato, salted cod prepared with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, and Polenta e Schie, which is made from small shrimp that are found in Venice’s lagoon. Let our guide to the best restaurants in Venice, from fine dining destinations to historic Venetian bacari, help you avoid the tourist traps and get a true taste of Venice.
Consistently recommended as one of Venice’s best restaurants, Antiche Carampane has managed to retain its originality and charm despite its popularity. Tucked away in San Polo, the restaurant started life as a place for workers to have lunch before Giovanni Battista Bortoluzzi took over the trattoria in the 1980s and gave it a new lease of life. Still run by the same family, the restaurant is known for its superb seafood and traditional Venetian fare and booking well in advance is highly recommended. It’s not easy to find but it’s well worth the adventure to get there. The menu varies depending on what’s freshest at the nearby Rialto market that day but diners can expect reginal delicacies which include cod prepared Venetian Style and served with crispy chips and a sweet pepper cream, spaghettini with spider crab sauce and a local speciality of cuttlefish in a black sauce with soft polenta.
Italian, Seafood, Mediterranean, ££££
The ideal choice for a special occasion meal, Al Covo marries impeccable service with a true taste of Venice. The restaurant is run by chef Cesare Benelli and his American wife Diane who opened it in the late 1980s. The Benellis are committed to working with small scale producers in the Veneto region and champion a Slow Food approach. Dishes include a signature starter of fried squash blossoms filled with bufala ricotta and fresh mint, as well as mains like the deep-fried medley of local fish, seafood and vegetables with Biancoperla polenta and ajo blanco or Al Covo’s take on an international classic, Fassona beef Tagliata with fries, crudités and homemade ketchup. The wine list has plenty of decent by the glass options as well as an extensive bottle selection.
Osteria Alle Testiere
Famed for its sublime seafood dishes, the menu at Osteria Alle Testiere is dictated by what’s available at Venice’s famous Rialto fish market that day. Diners might begin with steamed spider crab or mussels prepared Marinara style, followed by spaghetti with clams, squid served with black ink sauce and polenta or turbot fillets in a sauce of citrus and fine herbs. Make sure you take advantage of the excellent wine list too, which includes plenty of locally made wines. There’s only seating for 24 diners so booking in advance is recommended. Calle del Mondo Novo 5801, 30122 Venice | Phone +39 041 522 7220 | Visit website
Italian, Seafood, Mediterranean, ££-£££
One of the oldest osterie in Venice, this atmospheric bar is located behind the Ca d’Oro in Cannareggio and is famous throughout the city for its legendary meatballs. Run by the same family since the 1800s, the cichetti served here are delicious and inexpensive.Feast on the famous meatballs which you can do standing at the bar like the locals or, reserve one of the restaurant’s few tables by calling ahead.Ramo Ca’ d’Oro 3912, 30121 Venice | Phone +39 041 528 5324
This tiny bar in San Polo is the favourite local lunch spot for very good reason. Hidden under an archway near the Rialto, enter this compact eaterie and experience a real Venetian bacaro. All’Arco is the work of chef Matteo Pinto, who runs the beloved local haunt with his parents, Francesco and Anna. Take your pick from a counter piled high with tasty morsels on top of crusty bread, from calamari and prawns to ham. Washed down with a few glasses of wine or prosecco, this is definitely one of the best value lunches in Venice.
Where the locals eat
Heralded as some of the best pizza in Venice, Antico Forno is a must try for pizza lovers. An inviting local pizzeria in San Polo, Antico Forno’s signature is ‘piazzaccia,’ which is pizza made using focaccia bread style base which gets crispy on the outside whilst remaining soft inside. Available by the slice or whole, pizza toppings include classics like margherita, four cheeses or ham and mushroom as well as seasonal specials like the Autumn piazzaccia, which mixes mozzarella fior di latte with Trevisan sausage, champignons mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.
Italian, Seafood, Mediterranean, £
A much loved local haunt, Paradiso Perduto offers the winning ingredients of inexpensive but tasty food and drink and live music. The decor is far from fancy but the venue is best known for its generous and superbly fresh seafood platters, which come either fried or grilled. There’s also a fun jazz club attached to the restaurant, where Keith Richards once performed. Located in Cannareggio, this bar and restaurant gets lively at lunchtime and keeps going until midnight.
Cantino del vino gia Schiavi
Italian, Wine Bar, Mediterranean, £
This long established wine bar and shop proclaims itself as offering a taste of the real Venice and it’s not wrong. An atmopsheric bar with a great selection of wine and cichetti, it’s extremely reasonable prices make it a local favourite. Expect to stand up to eat and jostle with the locals for space but it’s well worth it for the wonderful cichetti, which include plenty of vegetarian and seafood options, and atonsihingly good value wine list.
Italian, Bakery, Patisserie, £
One of Venice’s best places for breakfast or for those moments when you’re in desperate need of a sugar and caffeine hit, Pasticceria Tonolo is the stuff of local legend. Located close to the Frari, locals and visitors queue out of the door here for the sublime pastries, from wickedly good chocolate croissants to local specialities like bignè al zabaione, a choux pastry fille with Marsala spiked cream.