Unveiling Venice : Where to eat?


Ok, so here we go with another of our mini blogs on Venice – this time where to eat and what dishes are local! There are a plethora of restaurants in Venice and it can be a little overwhelming! But, don’t worry there really is something for everyone. Read on as we show you some great places to eat, some fantastic local dishes to try and where you will want to avoid!

What food will I find in Venice?

To be honest you can find many cuisines in Venice, but you know what they say when in Rome, or in this case when in Venice…

So we heartily recommend that you try the local dishes in Venice. Of course being surrounded by water, seafood features on many menus. But, if you’re not a fan there are lots of meat and pasta dishes for you to sample.

In this mini blog we will share the authentic Venetian dishes that you may want to look out for. We’ll also pop in a few of our favourite restaurants to try.  But that shouldn’t stop you heading out to explore and to see what you find along the way. But read on for our tips on how to choose a good restaurant!

Are all restaurants good in Venice?

The short answer is no, there are plenty that you will want to avoid, a typical trait of any popular tourist city.  Surely, in Italy all the pasta and pizza will be great? No, don’t make that common tourist mistake. So how do you find a good restaurant?

Before you get there, do your research and search for great restaurants in the area you are staying.  This gives you something to fall back on if you are tired and hungry. But as we said getting out and about is a great way to find some fabulous restaurants that aren’t charging an inflated tourist price!

Number one, stay away from the popular tourist locations.  St Mark’s Square for example, some of the food can be very good here but you will certainly pay a premium.  Note also, one of the rules in Venice is you are not allowed to feed the pigeons on St Mark’s. Another thing to note, is that if you are sitting at a table and there is a band playing at one of the neighbouring restaurants they will come along and ask you for a tip too.

On the Grand Canal you can find the most awful frozen package pizza.  There is a ban on wood fired ovens in Venice as they were thought to be contributing to pollution (though a few still remain), so actually finding a great pizza is not as easy as you might think. A quick search online will show you if it’s a bad choice.

Take care around Rialto Bridge, but that said if you’re stopping for a drink and don’t mind paying a premium for the view, then why not? We stopped at a bar that had terrible reviews, due to the price of the drinks (more on that in our blog on where to get a drink) but we had a fantastic afternoon, drinking Aperol and eating Cicchetti whilst watching the comings and goings of the Grand Canal.

The biggest clue is to look out for where the locals are eating, the native language is easily identified and this is always a great thing to look out for.  They may not always be the flashiest of restaurants from the outside, but the food will be excellent and the pricing competitive. Head out to one of the residential neighbourhoods if you have time (Castelo/Cannaregio), it is a great way to explore the contrasts of Venice.

When you come across somewhere, have a look at the menus normally displayed outside.  Have a quick check on Google or Trip Advisor, look at the score and check the recent comments.  The odd bad one is expected as you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but look for an overall positive trend.

Typical Venetian dishes that you should try…

Sarde in Saor

Often served as a starter this is a dish with sweet and sour flavours (agrodolce) which consists of deep fried sardines, onions, raisins and pine nuts marinated in red wine and vinegar. You will find this in most restaurants, give it a try even if you’re not normally a fan of fish.

Baccala mantecato

Slow cooked dried cod, is blended into a paste with salt, pepper and olive oil and often parsley, lemon juice or garlic.  This is served on toasted bread or polenta bread and is divine! It is said to date back to the 1500’s.


A kind of Venetian finger food, that you must try.  In fact, one of the best ways to see Venice is doing a Cicchetti tour, head out and see where you find yourself, stop off as often as you like or when your belly is full.  The Cicchetti are sometimes referred to as Venetian Tapas, but the locals prefer you don’t call them that.

Venice is famous for this tasty treat, pronounced ‘chi-ket-tee’ which comes in many forms.  You’ll find them at a wine bar ‘bácaro’, which are often very tiny, but don’t worry you don’t need a table to eat. When you find a crowd of locals spilling out onto the street, you will know you are in the right place. Cicchetti can be anything that the chef fancies putting together.  From the Baccala and Sarde mentioned above, to seafood and fish, pickled vegetables, croquettes, crostini, tiny panini or Polpette, fried balls of meat. 

The cicchetti will be pre-made and you just order a few at a time along with a small glass of wine (Ombre) or sometimes they will offer a mini Apérol Spritz. Note the Bácari (plural term) often don’t take card so carry some Euros with you.

Risi e Bisi

A vegetarian dish of risotto and peas which originated in the middle ages. Traditionally eaten on the 25th April (the day of St Mark) when the peasants were said to offer it to the ruler (Dodge) of Venice. Made from Spring peas from Vicenza (the name of my Maltese grandmother) and rice from Verona. The stock is made from the garden peas.  It’s an easy dish to eat, give it a try.

Pasta al nero di seppia

You will also find seppia versions of risotto/lasagne in many restaurants.  Our favourite place to try it is Pontini’s.  It is a dish with cuttlefish or squid ink added to the pasta, this gives it a glossy black texture.  Always a very instagram worthy dish but take care with your clothes and check your teeth after eating. 

Fegato alla Veneziana

This is a traditional Venetian calf liver dish fried in butter with sweet onions and something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar to soften the flavour.  More often than not it is served with fried polenta.  It was a big hit with Paul but not something I am keen on. This dish dates back to Roman times where the liver would be cooked with figs ‘figà àea venessiana’ which was used to mask the smell and ease the strong flavour.  Later the Venetians switched to the sweet white onions, ‘chioggia’.

And now our restaurant recommendations for Venice …

Our No 1 favourite, Trattoria Bar Pontini

Our absolute favourite when we visit Venice.  It does not matter if we have gone as a couple or as a large group it has always been excellent. Do try and add a visit to Pontini to your agenda, we have visited on every trip and it has always been outstanding.  Be sure to book ahead as it is small, always has a queue and is very busy. The best spots are outside, especially on warmer evenings, but inside is cosy too.

Osteria Fanal del Codega

This place, beside Fermata San Tomà is the recipient of several Travellers Choice awards, but still retains a mid price range.  It is in a super location with excellent staff and food.  Ask for a canal side table if you can and do book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Vineria All’Amarone

They are actually classified as a wine tasting bar but the food is also superb, just like the wine.  The staff are friendly and proud to chat to you about their extensive range of wines and olive oils.  You can book a wine tasting and optional food pairing, with wine flights (4 glasses) ranging from €38 to €68 for the super reds! A must see in Venice and insanely popular so book ahead on their website.

L’osteria di Santa Marina

We have not actually visited this restaurant ourselves, but we took a cookery class (more in another blog) in Venice and our chef (who previously worked at the Gritti Palace) said that this was fantastic and one where he ate himself.  Unfortunately the class was on our penultimate day so we did not have time to make a reservation, but we will definitely visit on our next trip.  Have a look at their website, they have some great fixed menus focusing on authentic Venetian food. It is a reasonable distance from the big tourist spots, but there are plenty of great things to see in the area, which is the Castelo district of Venice. A great example is the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo (The Basilica of St John and Paul. It’s circa a 1000 years old and is the burial place for 25 doges. It also has a stunning ceiling and a great amount of art within).

There you have it, our favourite foods and places to eat in Venice!

So that wraps up our where to eat in Venice guide, we hope you find it really useful,  If you enjoyed it take a look at our other Venice guides ‘How to get to Venice’ and ‘Unveiling Venice – Where to stay?

You can also follow us across social media – just search the Elnika Travel or head to our website.

See you soon, or ‘A presto’!

Nicki and Paul x

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