Restaurants in Venice
Not long ago the reliable judges of the Accademia della Cucina ventured that it was "a rare privilege" to eat well in Venice, and there's more than an element of truth to Venice's reputation as a place where mass tourism has produced homogenized menus and slapdash standards. Venice has fewer good moderately priced restaurants than any other major Italian city, it has more really bad restaurants than any other, and in some of the expensive establishments you're paying not for a fine culinary experience but for the event of dining in a posh Venetian restaurant. However, things have been getting better, an improvement due in part to the efforts of the Ristorante della Buona Accoglienza, an association of restaurateurs determined to present the best of genuine Venetian cuisine at sensible prices. In the Venetian context, "sensible" means in the region of L50,000/?25 per person, but even in the lower price ranges there are plenty of acceptable little places hidden away in the city's quieter quarters - and some are rather more than merely acceptable. And of course, pizza is a reliable standby if you're watching your budget, though - as with all restaurants in Venice - the general rule is that places within two hundred metres of the Piazza get so much tourist traffic that they don't have much incentive to make an effort.
More than anywhere else in Italy, the division between bars and restaurants is often difficult to draw. A distinctive aspect of the Venetian social scene is the bÃƒÂ¡caro , which is essentially a bar but also serves a range of snacks called cicheti (some times spelled ciccheti ); the array will typically include polpette (small beef and garlic meatballs), carciofini (artichoke hearts), hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, polipi (baby octopus or squid), and sun-dried tomatoes, peppers and courgettes cooked in oil. Some bÃƒÂ¡cari also produce one or two more substantial dishes each day, such as risotto or seafood pasta. Most bars of this type are long-established places, but in recent years there's been something of a bÃƒÂ¡caro revival, and you're more likely to find a seating area in these newer establishments; in the older ones it's more usual to eat standing up, or seated on stools at a ledge. Virtually all bars will have a selection of plump tramezzini (sandwiches) at lunch time.
Many of the places we've listed under "Restaurants" have a bar area on the street side of the dining room, while some of the "Bars" serve food at tables that's a touch more ambitious than a plate of sandwiches. We've classified our bars and restaurants according to which aspect of the business draws most of the customers, but if you're looking for a simple meal in a particular area of the city, be sure to check both sets of listings - both are sub-categorized into areas that match the sections of this guide.
As enticing as the city's bars are its cafÃƒÂ©s and pasticcerie (most of which also serve alcohol), where a variety of waistline-threatening delicacies are on offer, and there aren't too many nicer things you can do to your taste buds than hit them with a coneful of ice cream from Paolin or Nico . Stocking up for an alfresco lunch, you'll be spoiled for choice at the stalls of the Rialto and the smaller markets pitched in a number of Venice's campi, whilst there's a host of tempting alimentari to supplement supplies.
As elsewhere in Italy, take-away pizza is all over the place, but most of it is pretty miserable fare in Venice - you'd be better advised to sit down in a pizzeria or have a snack in a bar. The widest range of take-out pizza slices ( pizza al taglio ) and pies is offered by Cip Ciap , across the canal from the west side of Santa Maria Formosa, at Calle Mondo Nuovo 5799 (9am-9pm; closed Tues) - their spinach and ricotta pie is especially tasty and filling. Next best choice is the simple take-away place over on the other side of the Canal Grande at Calle della Madonetta 1463, a few metres north of Campo San Polo.
irtually every budget restaurant in Venice advertises a set-price menÃƒÂ¹ turistico , which at its best will offer a choice of three or four dishes for each course. This can be a cheap way of sampling Venetian specialities, but the quality and certainly the quantity won't be up to the mark of an ÃƒÂ la carte meal, and frequently won't even be acceptable. As a general rule, value for money tends to increase with the distance from San Marco; plenty of restaurants within a short radius of the Piazza offer menus that seem to be reasonable, but you'll probably find the food unappetizing, the portions tiny and the service abrupt.
In the following listings, the term "inexpensive" means that you should be able to get a two-course meal with a drink for under L35,000/?17.50, including service and coperto (cover charge); "moderate" means L35,000-70,000/?17.50-35; "expensive" means L70,000-100,000/?35-50; and "very expensive" covers the rest. We've supplied the phone numbers for those places where booking is advisable in high season. Wherever possible, we've also supplied the day of the week on which each restaurant is closed, but bear in mind that many restaurateurs take their annual holiday in August, and that quite a few places close down on unscheduled days in the dead weeks of winter. You should also be aware that Venetians tend to eat early and that restaurateurs routinely close early if trade is slack, so if you're in town at a quiet time, don't turn up much later than 8.30pm.