Read an Excerpt
Frommer's Portable Venice
By Darwin Porter
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-7456-6
Chapter OneWhere to Dine
Even though Venice doesn't grow much of its own produce, it's surrounded by a rich agricultural district and plentiful vineyards, and specializes in fresh seafood. Venice's restaurants are among the most expensive in Italy, but we've found some wonderful moderately priced trattorie.
Some restaurants still offer a menu turistico (tourist menu) at a set price. It includes soup (nearly always minestrone) or pasta, followed by a meat dish with vegetables, topped off by dessert (fresh fruit or cheese), plus a quarter liter of wine or mineral water, bread, cover charge, and service (you'll still be expected to tip). Some restaurants serve a fixed-price meal called a menu a presso fisso, which rarely includes the cost of your wine but does include taxes and service.
If you want only a plate of spaghetti or something light, you can patronize any number of fast-food cafeterias (also look for rosticcerias or tavola caldas). You don't pay a cover charge and can order as much or as little as you wish. Pizzerias are another good option for light meals or snacks. Many bars or cafe-bars also offer both hot and cold food throughout the day. If you're lunching light in the heat, ask for panini, rolls stuffed with meat. Tramezzini are white-bread sandwiches with the crust trimmed.
1 Near Piazza San Marco VERY EXPENSIVE
Harry'sBar VENETIAN Harry's Bar serves some of the best food in Venice, though your tab will be painful. Harry, by the way, is an Italian named Arrigo, son of the late Commendatore Cipriani. Like his father, Arrigo is an entrepreneur extraordinaire known for his fine cuisine. His bar is a big draw for martini-thirsty Americans, but Hemingway and Hotchner always ordered bloody marys in their day. The most famous drink, which was originally concocted here, is the Bellini Prosecco and white-peach juice, wonderful when created properly, though we've had a watered-down horror here in the off season (a real disappointment at 13 [euro]/$16). You can have your choice of dining in the bar downstairs or the room with a view upstairs. We recommend the Venetian fish soup, followed by the scampi thermidor with rice pilaf or the seafood ravioli. The food is relatively simple but absolutely fresh.
Calle Vallaresso, San Marco 1323. 041-5285777. cipriani.com. Reservations required. Main courses 50 [euro]-100 [euro] ($60-$120). AE, DC, MC, V. Apr-Oct daily 10:30am-1am; Nov-Mar daily 10:30am-11pm. Vaporetto:San Marco.
Antico Martini VENETIAN/INTERNATIONAL Antico Martini elevates Venetian cuisine to its highest level (though we still give Harry's a slight edge). Elaborate chandeliers glitter and gilt-framed oil paintings adorn the paneled walls. The courtyard is splendid in summer. An excellent beginning is the risotto di frutti di mare ("fruits of the sea") in a creamy Venetian style with plenty of fresh seafood. For a main dish, try the fegato alla veneziana, tender liver fried with onions and served with polenta, a yellow cornmeal mush. The chefs are better at regional dishes than at international ones. The restaurant has one of the city's best wine lists, featuring more than 350 choices. The yellow Tocai is an interesting local wine and especially good with fish dishes.
Campo San Fantin, San Marco 1983. 041-5224121. Reservations required. Main courses 25 [euro]-65 [euro]($30-$78); fixed-price menus 47 [euro]-55 [euro]($56-$66) 4-course, 80 [euro] ($96) 6-course. AE, DC, MC, V. Thurs-Mon noon-2:30pm; Wed-Mon 7-11:30pm. Vaporetto: San Marco or Santa Maria del Giglio.
La Caravella VENETIAN/INTERNATIONAL La Caravella has an overblown nautical atmosphere and a leather-bound menu that may make you think you're in a tourist trap. But you're not. The restaurant contains four dining rooms and a courtyard that's open in summer. The decor is rustically elegant, with frescoed ceilings, flowers, and wrought-iron lighting fixtures. You might begin with an antipasti misto de pesce (assortment of fish) with olive oil and lemon juice, or prawns with avocado. Star specialties are granceola (Adriatic sea crab on carpaccio) and chateaubriand for two. The best item to order, however, is one of the poached-fish options, such as bass, priced according to weight and served with a tempting sauce. The ice cream in champagne is a soothing finish.
In the Hotel Saturnia International, Calle Larga XXII Marzo, San Marco 2397. 041-5208901. Reservations required. Main courses 30[euro]-35[euro]($36-$42). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily noon-3:30pm and 7pm-midnight. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Quadri INTERNATIONAL One of Europe's most famous restaurants, the Quadri is even better known as a cafe (p. 168); its elegant premises open onto Piazza San Marco, where a full orchestra often adds to the magic. Many diners come just for the view and are often surprised by the high-quality cuisine and impeccable service (and the whopping tab). Harry's Bar and the Antico Martini serve better food, though the skills of Quadri's chef are considerable. He's likely to tempt you with dishes like scallops with saffron, salt codfish with polenta, marinated swordfish, and sea bass with crab sauce. Dessert specialties are "baked" ice cream and lemon mousse with fresh strawberry sauce.
Piazza San Marco, San Marco 120-124. 041-5289299. Reservations required. Main courses 33 [euro]-45 [euro] ($40-$54). AE, DC, MC, V. Tues-Sun noon-2:30pm and 7-10:30pm. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Centrale Restaurant & Lounge VENETIAN/MEDITERRANEAN Only a 1-minute walk from Piazza San Marco in the center of Venice, this restaurant lies in a historical palazzo dating from 1659. The facade is pierced with three showcase windows on Piscina Frezzeria, plus an antique door opening directly onto the water canal, Rio dei Barcaroli, should you arrive by gondola. It's location is divine-just 30m (100 ft.) from the La Fenice opera house. Spike Lee or other celebrities visiting Venice might be seen lingering for hours (at least until the un-Venetian hour of 2am), enjoying after-theater cocktails in its lounge, with bamboo, screen, metal chairs, and a backlit crystal bar over busy fabrics. The intelligent, flavorful cuisine features such delights as risotto with scampi and champagne; black tagliolini flavored with squid ink served with raw scampi; or lobster served with pepper, lemon, garlic, and oliveoil sauce. Chefs make a delightful beef carpaccio and also satisfy the palate with a beef filet with a green or pink peppercorn sauce served with steamed fresh vegetables.
Piscina Frezzeria, 1659B San Marco. 041-2960664. Reservations required. Main courses 14 [euro]-26[euro]($17-$31). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 7pm-2am. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Da Ivo TUSCAN/VENETIAN Da Ivo has a faithful crowd. The rustic atmosphere is cozy and relaxing, your well-set table bathed in candlelight. Florentines head here for fine Tuscan cookery, but regional Venetian dishes are also served. In season, game, prepared according to ancient traditions, is cooked over an open charcoal grill. One cold December day our hearts were warmed by homemade tagliatelle (flat noodles) topped with slivers of tartufi bianchi, the unforgettable pungent white truffle from Piedmont. Dishes change according to the season and the availability of ingredients, but are likely to include swordfish, anglerfish, or cuttlefish in its own ink.
Calle dei Fuseri, San Marco 1809. 041-5285004. Reservations required. Main courses 30 [euro]-40 [euro] ($36-$48). AE, DC, MC, V. Mon-Sat noon-2:30pm and 7-10:30pm. Closed Jan 6-31. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Do Forni VENETIAN Centuries ago, this was where bread was baked for monasteries, but today it's the busiest restaurant in Venice, even when the rest of the city slumbers under a wintertime Adriatic fog. It's divided into two sections, separated by a narrow alley. The locals prefer the front part, which is decorated in Orient Express style. The larger section in back is like a country tavern, with ceiling beams and original paintings. The English menu (with at least 80 dishes, prepared by 14 cooks) is entitled "Food for the Gods" and lists specialties like spider crab in its own shell, risotto primavera, giant grilled scampi, and sea bass in parchment.
Calle dei Specchieri, San Marco 457. 041-5232148. Reservations recommended. Main courses 19 [euro]-28 [euro] ($23-$34). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily noon-4pm and 7pm-midnight. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Ristorante da Raffaele ITALIAN/VENETIAN The Raffaele has long been a favorite canal-side restaurant. It's often overrun with tourists, but the veteran kitchen staff handles the onslaught well. The restaurant offers the kind of charm and atmosphere unique to Venice, with its huge inner sanctum and high-beamed ceiling, 17th- to 19th-century pistols and sabers, wrought-iron chandeliers, a massive fireplace, and hundreds of copper pots. The food is excellent, beginning with a choice of tasty antipasti or well-prepared pastas. Seafood specialties include scampi, squid, and deep-fried fish. The grilled meats are wonderful. Finish with a tempting dessert.
Calle Larga XXII Marzo (Fondamenta delle Ostreghe), San Marco 2347. 041-5232317. Reservations recommended Sat-Sun. Main courses 12 [euro]-26 [euro] ($14-$31). AE, DC, MC, V. Fri-Wed 11:30am-2:30pm and 6:30-10pm. Closed Dec 10-Jan. Vaporetto: San Marco or Santa Maria del Giglio.
Ristorante Noemi VENETIAN The decor of this place includes a multicolored marble floor in abstract patterns and swag curtains covering big glass windows. The foundations date from the 14th century, and the restaurant opened in 1927, named after the matriarch of the family that continues to own it. Specialties, many bordering on nuova cucina, include homemade ravioli filled with duck and black truffles, salmon crepes with cheese, and fillet of sole Casanova, with a veloute of white wine, shrimp, and mushrooms. For dessert, try the special lemon sorbet, made with sparkling wine and fresh mint.
Calle dei Fabbri, San Marco 912. 041-5225238. Reservations recommended. Main courses 19 [euro]-28 [euro] ($23-$34). AE, DC, MC, V. Tues-Sun 11:30am-1am. Closed Dec 15-Jan 15. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Taverna la Fenice ITALIAN/VENETIAN Opened in 1907, when Venetians were flocking in record numbers to hear the bel canto performances in nearby La Fenice opera house (which burned down a few years ago), this taverna is one of Venice's most romantic dining spots. The interior is suitably elegant, but the preferred spot in fine weather is outdoors beneath a canopy. The service is smooth and efficient. The most appetizing beginning is the selection of seafood antipasti. The fish is fresh from the Mediterranean. You might enjoy the risotto con scampi e arugula, tagliatelle with cream sauce and exotic mushrooms, John Dory fillets with butter and lemon, turbot roasted with potatoes and tomato sauce, scampi with tomatoes and rice, or carpaccio alla Fenice.
Campiello de la Fenice, San Marco 1939. 041-5223856. Reservations required. Main courses 20 [euro]-31 [euro] ($24-$37). AE, DC, MC, V. Tues-Sun 7-11pm. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Trattoria La Colomba VENETIAN/INTERNATIONAL This is one of Venice's most distinctive trattorie, its history going back at least a century. Modern paintings adorn the walls; they change periodically and are usually for sale. Menu items are likely to include at least five daily specials based on Venice's time-honored cuisine, as well as risotto di funghi del Montello (risotto with mushrooms from the local hills of Montello) and baccala mantecato (milk-simmered dry cod seasoned with onions, anchovies, and cinnamon and served with polenta). The fruits and vegetables used are for the most part grown on the lagoon islands.
Piscina Frezzeria, San Marco 1665. 041-5221175. Reservations recommended. Main courses 35 [euro]-50 [euro] ($42-$60). AE, DC, MC, V. Fri-Wed noon-3pm; daily 7-11pm. Closed Wed Nov-Apr. Vaporetto: San Marco or Rialto.
Le Bistrot de Venise VENETIAN A classic Venetian cuisine, based on time-tested recipes handed down from generations, is served at this well-attended cafe-brasserie, which is also the site of occasional live music and poetry readings. It is counter-cultural hip, and attracts a lively crowd, often young and often local, until late at night. Many of the recipes are from the 16th or 17th century, and until the revival of this bistro were relatively forgotten by Venetian chefs. You might begin with a soup enjoyed in Venice 3 centuries ago: fennel with egg yolk, grapes, pine nuts, and cinnamon. One main-course recipe even dates from the 14th century-ravioli with herbs, sweet spices, and cheese. An old-fashioned quiche with prawn tails and scallops is served with an orange sauce, and sea-bass filet comes in a light almond crust with saffron sauce. A favorite dish of ours is the baked monkfish with cherry tomatoes in a marinated nest of zucchini. For desserts, we recently sampled a white truffle parfait in a vanilla-and-poppy-seed glaze.
Calle dei Fabbri, San Marco 4685. 041-5236651. Main courses 14 [euro]-30 [euro] ($17-$36). MC, V. Daily 11am-1am. Vaporetto: Rialto.
Le Chat Qui Rit VENETIAN/PIZZA This self-service cafeteria/ pizzeria offers food prepared "just like mama made." It's very popular because of its low prices. Dishes might include cuttlefish simmered in stock and served on a bed of yellow polenta, or various fried fish. You can also order a steak grilled very simply, flavored with oil, salt, and pepper or a little garlic and herbs. Main-dish platters are served rather quickly after you order them.
Calle Frezzeria, San Marco 1131. 041-5229086. Main courses 4.50 [euro]-15 [euro] ($5.40-$18); pizzas 6 [euro]-9 [euro] ($7.20-$11). AE, DC, MC, V. Nov-Mar Sun-Fri 11am-9:30pm; Apr-Oct daily 11am-9:30pm. Vaporetto: San Marco.
Osteria alle Botteghe VENETIAN/ITALIAN Once you've located the bigger-than-life Campo Santo Stefano, you'll find this osteria a great choice for a light snack or an elaborate meal. Standup hors d'oeuvres (cicchetti) and fresh sandwiches can be enjoyed at the bar or the window-side counter; more serious diners can choose from pasta dishes or tavola calda (a buffet of prepared dishes like eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, and fresh cooked vegetables in season, reheated when you order) and repair to tables in the back. Vegetarians will be happy with the vegetable lasagna. Classic dishes include a tender Venetian liver with polenta.
Calle delle Botteghe, San Marco 3454. 041-5228181. Main courses 8 [euro]-15 [euro] ($9.60-$18). AE, DC, MC, V. Daily 11am-4pm; Tues-Sun 7-11pm. Vaporetto: Accademia or Sant'Angelo.
Trattoria da Fiore VENETIAN/ITALIAN Don't confuse this trattoria with the well-known and very expensive Osteria da Fiore. You might not eat better here, but you'll be a lot happier when your bill arrives. Start with the house specialty, penne alla Fiore (prepared with olive oil, garlic, and seven in-season vegetables), and you may be happy to call it a night. Or skip right to another popular specialty, fritto misto, comprising more than a dozen varieties of fresh fish and seafood. The zuppa di pesce, a delicious bouillabaisse-like soup, is stocked with mussels, crab, clams, shrimp, and chunks of fresh tuna. This is a great place for an afternoon snack or light lunch at the Bar Fiore next door (10:30am-10:30pm).
Calle delle Botteghe, San Marco 3461. 041-5235310. Reservations suggested. Pasta dishes 8.50 [euro]-15 [euro] ($10-$18); main courses 18 [euro]-25 [euro] ($22-$30). AE, DC, V. Wed-Mon noon-3pm and 7-10pm. Vaporetto: Accademia.
Excerpted from Frommer's Portable Venice by Darwin Porter Excerpted by permission.
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