When my husband and I initially decided to visit Venice I did all of my customary pre-trip research and came up with places to eat each of our meals at and activities to fill our days with. The whole trip was planned with absolute, borderline obsessive, precision. What could possibly go wrong?
Alas, non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco. The Italian proverb literally means, “Not all donuts have holes,” and figuratively means that things don’t always turn out as planned. Our time in Venice was no exception to the rule. What I had severely underestimated is how challenging it is to navigate the labyrinth of streets that make up Venice, Italy and, needless to say, we didn’t end up having a chance to check out all the restaurants and bars we hoped to.
This guide to six of the best places to eat and drink in Venice therefore could be referred to as “modified” but includes some absolute gems, some of which will take you off the beaten path (at least as far off as you can ever get in the small city). They range from budget friendly to moderately affordable, from traditional Italian to downright quirky. If you plan on traveling to Venice any time soon I highly recommend checking out at least one of these delicious establishments. You won’t be disappointed.
Fondamenta Nani, 992
When we landed in Venice well after sunset and embarked on an hour and a half long water taxi ride to our hotel it became clear that my plan for a sit-down dinner would have to be thrown out. Fortunately, I had prepared for such an event and had this legendary wine and snack shop in mind as a backup. Perhaps legendary is an understatement. Cantinone Già Schiavi is in fact world renowned by foodies for having THE BEST cichetti in the city.
The cozy and affordable spot features a nearly mind-boggling floor to ceiling selection of wine for purchase either by glass or bottle in addition to a diverse menu of small bites. Don’t come to Cantinone Già Schiavi expecting a sit down dining experience though because the shop’s interior doesn’t have any actual seating. If you wish to linger, your best bet is to take your glass and plate outside to adjacent Rio de San Trovaso and use the canal wall as a table.
Tip: Plan on a 15-20 minute wait just to get in the door of this tiny establishment. It is extremely popular at all hours of the day and is generally always filled with tourists and Italians alike.
Fondamenta Cannaregio, 1268
Whenever my husband and I travel we always try to have a minimum of one slightly more formal dining experience in each city we visit. Trattoria Pontini is the perfect restaurant for such, featuring a traditional Venetian seafood menu at a moderate price.
The intimate establishment is packed at all hours of the day, and rightly so. Their fresh seafood spaghetti and lasagna are literally things of legend. The waitstaff speak limited English but are warm and welcoming, just like the eatery that they work in. Should you visit, you must try their house wine. It comes on tap and therefore has a bit of sparkle to it which, as it turns out, makes for an absolutely delicious and refreshing accompaniment to their fresh dishes.
Tip: Do yourself a favor and make a reservation at Trattoria Pontini, otherwise you might be waiting in line for over an hour to be seated. But just in case you don’t remember to do so, I promise the food is well worth the wait!
Ristorante Da Stefano
On our first full day in Venice I was craving some good, old-fashioned fast food…Venetian style. This budget friendly and casual restaurant is tucked away down a narrow and winding alleyway near Piazza San Marco. The incredibly friendly staff will meet you right at the door, if not on the street itself, and explain their offerings – you can select from a €5 “fast food” takeaway option, a €10 sit down meal that includes a salad, main course and beverage if you fancy a break for your weary feet, or you can sample the menu to your heart’s content.
This is THE SPOT to go if you’re looking for a delicious and filling meal in Venice that won’t break the bank. The inviting restaurant prides itself on using only the freshest of the fresh ingredients. So fresh, in fact, that the staff refuses all requests from patrons who want to purchase extra food to take with them to eat the next day. If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t the best!
Tip: Da Stefano has a small but varied gluten free side menu. I highly recommend their unbelievably delicious gluten free lasagna, it melts in your mouth!
If you’re looking for a quirky spot to pop into for a smoothie…with a twist…look no further! Immediately upon entering Frulalà you will be greeted, likely in your native language regardless of what it may be, by what has the be the friendliest staff in all of Venice. If the welcoming fruit-adorned interior doesn’t quite convince you to pull up a stool and stay a while the delicious samples the staff offers you will.
In addition to selling traditional smoothies, Frulalà has some sneakily alcoholic offerings like a delectable rum-laced, fruit-topped, passion fruit option. If you drink alcohol, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this menu-item. It is unbelievably fresh, delicious and can almost be considered healthy.
Tip: Take advantage of the fact that you can sample just about everything on their menu prior to purchase!
Magna Bevi Tasi
Calle Sacrestia 4513
This family owned establishment quickly became one of my favorite places to visit in Venice thanks to their mastery of the Aperol Spritz. Magna Bev Tasi is open seven days a week and is bustling from sunrise to well past sunset, with their largely Italian clientele often times spilling out into the square outside.
Located just a canal away from Piazza San Marco, the cafe meets bar in the perfect spot to pop into for a quick break between historical sites. Magna Bevi Tasi offers a wide array of beverages, from their traditional Aperol Spritz to craft beers to potent espresso, ensuring that their menu truly offers something for everyone.
Tip: In addition to making a mean aperol spritz, Magna Bevi Tasi also offers an extensive selection of cold meats, cheeses, fresh fish, and oysters as snacks.
Calle Vallaresso, 1323
Harry’s Bar is a modern Venetian attraction in its own right. The establishment, founded in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani, is world renowned, in part thanks to Ernest Hemingway’s affection for the spot. During the winter of 1949-1950, Hemingway installed himself in Harry’s while he finished Across the River and into the Trees, in which he mentions Harry’s by name several times.
There’s no way around it, Harry’s Bar is pricey with their classic petite Bellinis coming in at €20. But if you’re looking for a taste, or sip, of tradition in Venice, there’s no better bar to visit.
Tip: Harry’s, like the famous attractions in neighboring Piazza San Marco, has a line stretching around the corner at most hours of the day. Be sure to allocate time for a wait!
If you have the opportunity to visit Venice I highly recommend doing so and taking the time to explore some of these affordable and diverse restaurants and bars. They each offer distinct experiences and specialties and together make up the very heart and soul of the magical city.