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Shannon's Venice Restaurant List

Shannon Essa (Shannon) and Ruth L. Edenbaum

Venetians, in many ways, eat like most Italians do, but they have some customs, drinks and dishes that are totally their own. Here is how to make the most of a trip to Venice, eating and drinking-wise.

Mornings

Prima colazione (breakfast) in most of Italy is a quick espresso or cappuccino taken with a croissant or pastry, consumed standing up at a bar. Order a caffe latte if you want coffee mixed with steamed milk; requesting a latte in Italy will get you a glass of steamed milk. Hot tea, hot chocolate and sometimes fruit juices are also available.

Croissants con marmellata contain apricot jam; con crema means they have a custard filling. An assortment of other rolls or pastries are usually available too. Standing up at the bar is always the least expensive way to have breakfast. Extra charges, often double or more, are usually added if you sit at a table and/or are served by a waiter at the bar.

Cichetti

One of the best things about eating in Venice is Cichetti (pronounced chee-KEHT-tee). These bites of food, ranging from a simple chunk of salami to fried rice balls stuffed with seafood, are served up in osterie and bars. Cichetti are popular both at lunch and before dinner. To eat Cichetti, walk into a place full of people standing and eating; point at the items you want, order a glass of wine, and when you are done, pay and go to the next stop. Read more about cichetti.

Lunch

One of the most popular lunch items are tramezzini, triangle-shaped sandwiches with all kinds of fillings, such as prosciutto, tuna, or shrimp. Panini are rolls stuffed with variations of meats, cheese and vegetables. These are often piled on trays in the window or at the counter. Pizza and calzone are also popular choices for lunch. Some bars offer a small spread of Cichetti, pizza, pasta, and salads. If you want a hot meal for lunch, go to a trattoria or ristorante and sit down at a table.

The Cocktail Hour

In the early evening in Venice, you will see the locals drinking a pinkish-red beverage - these are Spritz. Spritz are made with white wine, a splash of soda, and a shot of either Campari which is quite bitter or Aperol, which is slightly sweeter. A Venetian institution, you should try one at least once. Wine and beer are also consumed during the cocktail hour, along with lots of Cichetti.

Dinner

Pizza is very popular and there are quite a few great pizzerias in Venice. Seafood and risotto are specialties of the Veneto and are on almost every restaurant menu. After dinner you might enjoy a sgroppino, a delicious after-dinner drink made from vodka, Prosecco, and lemon sorbet, or you can stop for a gelato on the way home.

Here are some items you can expect to see on a typical Venetian menu:

Antipasti (appetizers)

Prosciutto e melone (ham and melon) is a safe and familiar appetizer, and it is as readily available in Venice as it is all over Italy. Among the most popular appetizers are granseola (spider crab), sarde in saor (fresh sardines in a sweet and sour marinade), molecche (soft crabs), bacala manteca (salted cod whipped with garlic flavored oil and parsley until it is light and creamy), schie (tiny brown shrimp), carpaccio of meat or fish, or an assortment of smoked fish or meats. If you are eating at an osteria that serves Cichetti, you can ask for a mixed plate of vegetable or seafood Cichetti to start your meal.

Primo Piatto (first course)

Primi piatti include soups, pastas and risottos. Pasta e fagioli, one of the true Venetian dishes, is a thick and hearty soup combining beans and pasta in a broth, which can be fish or meat based. It will turn up on almost every menu from the humblest trattoria to the more elegant ristorante, and it will never be exactly the same.

Just about every menu will also offer a thick and hearty vegetable soup, especially in winter. Risotto is an elegant and traditional primo. Risi e Bisi - rice and peas cooked in a mixture somewhere between a soup and a risotto is another Venetian classic. Bigoli in salsa - a thick whole-wheat pasta in a sauce of onions and anchovies is a very traditional dish as is spaghetti con seppie in nero - spaghetti made black with cuttlefish ink. Almost any pasta con frutta del mare (with mixed seafood) will be outstanding in Venice. Diners who don't eat fish can usually find a Bolognese sauce or a simple sugo di pomidoro (tomato sauce) to sauce their pasta.

Secondo Piatto (second course)

Since Venice is an island city, seafood is prevalent. While a bollito misto in Milan or Bologna will mean a plate of assorted boiled meats, in Venice it is an assortment of steamed or boiled fish and shellfish. Even better than bollito misto is fritto misto - all sorts of sea creatures and vegetables batter-dipped and fried and piled to an alarming height on your plate.

If you are not up for a stack of sea critters, try a grilled fish. Orata (gilthead) is a popular small Adriatic fish. An orata is often served whole on your plate for you to bone yourself. Branzino and rombo will be presented to you whole and then whisked back to the kitchen or a side table where your waiter will bone it for you. A mixed seafood grill will include several of the above, a piece of sole or salmon and some scampi charred from the grill and bursting with smoky goodness.

One of the most famous non-fish dishes is Fegato alla Veneziana - liver and onions over a bed of polenta. You might find roast chicken or grilled meats on menus as well.

Contorni (side dishes)

These are what you can expect to find in the rest of Italy. Salads, potatoes, sauteed vegetables. The Veneto is especially known for it's artichokes, radicchio, and asparagus and these are all good sides to order when in season.

Dolce (dessert)

A lovely dessert to try in Venice is a plate of local cookies with a glass of Vin Santo (dessert wine.) Tiramisu is popular as well. Many restaurants purchase desserts from a factory, and if this is the case (you will know by the color menu or in-view freezer) stop for gelato after. You could also try a sgroppino - the wonderful Venetian blended concoction of Prosecco, lemon sorbet, and vodka.

Venice Restaurants

This is a short list of some of my favorite restaurants in Venice. For the complete list, see, Chow Venice: Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima, by Ruth Edenbaum, Shannon Essa, Wine Appreciation Guild, July 2003

Trattoria Antiche Carampane
San Polo 1911, Venice
Tel: 041-524-0165, closed Sunday night and Monday
No menu; no pizza; only fish is served, but it is outstanding. You can sit outside in mild weather. The chef works magic with scallops, and a simple grilled branzino is perfection. This place just gets better and better; the interior has been upgraded a bit too. If you like fish, this place is a do not miss!

Antica Trattoria Poste Vecie
Rialto Pescheria Venezia
Tel: 041-721-1822
This is reputedly the oldest restaurant in Venice and one of the oldest in Italy. Known for its excellent fish, Poste Vecie also offers an assortment of meat dishes and excellent soups. Especially notable are the Spaghetti con vongole verace, the saute of clams and mussels, Pasta e Fagiole, grilled monk fish and the house sgroppino. Diners still are offered a complimentary Prosecco. There are working fire places, a rarity in Venice, and a garden of sorts for spring and summer dining, and nonsmoking rooms.

La Zucca
Ponte del Meglio/Calle delle Tintor 1762, Santa Croce
Tel: 041-524-1570
La Zucca offers interesting (and sometimes extremely rich) pastas and contorni and creative meat dishes, served up at very reasonable prices. They also have an eclectic wine list with many well-priced and hard to find selections. The location is fairly out of the way, but you should absolutely make reservations before you go to La Zucca. Highlights include anything made with pumpkin (pumpkin soup, pumpkin flan), very rich lasagna, a simple pasta with fresh ricotta and tomatoes, and for dessert, panna cotta with nuts and honey.

Pizzeria Accademia
On the Dorsoduro side of the Accademia Bridge
It is pretty hard to not enjoy yourself, sitting on the edge of the Grand Canal while you dine on a tasty, inexpensive pizza. While not the absolute best pizza in Venice, it is the whole package that makes the Accademia a must-stop. Roberto and his staff are friendly and hard-working; the prices fair and the food good, and the view can't be topped. They don't take reservations and sometimes service can be slow, but once you have a table, it is yours for as long as you like, and you may want to linger. Only pizza and sandwiches are served. There is an inside dining room, but it is pointless to sit inside, so only go in when you can sit out on the canal.

Resources

Slow Travel Italy - Travel Notes - Venice Cicheti: A Different Type of Meal - Cichetti in Venice, Shannon Essa

.Slow Travel Italy - Travel Notes - Venice Sestieri: Venice Sestieri - the neighborhoods and where to stay, Shannon Essa

Slow Travel Italy - Restaurants: Using restaurants in Italy

Slow Travel Italy - Caffes: Caffes and gelateria in Italy

Slow Travel Italy - Language Lessons: Language lessons for ordering in caffes and restaurants

Slow Travel Italy - Restaurant Reviews: Restaurant reviews for Italy, from Slow Travelers

Books

Click to order from Amazon

Ruth Edenbaum, Shannon Essa, Chow Venice: Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima, Wine Appreciation Guild, November 2006 (Second Edition)

This food guide for Venice was written by two of our SlowTalk members, Shannon and Ruth. They published their detailed restaurant lists first on SlowTrav, then they wrote their book in 2004. The second edition, revised and updated, came out in November 2006. This is a "must have" for any trip to Venice. In Venice you can eat very well, if you know where to go. This book tells you where to find the best restaurants and caffes.

Order from Amazon


Shannon Essa is a traveler through life who resides in San Diego. She co-wrote the guidebook Chow! Venice about eating and drinking in Venice, Italy. Shannon also owns and operates GrapeHops, Small Group Wine & Beer Tours to Europe and Beyond. Read Shannon's blog Poptarticus and see her SlowTrav Member Page.

Ruth Edenbaum is the co-author of Chow! Venice, Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima. She lives in central New Jersey and spends more than two months a year in Venice.

© Shannon Essa and Ruth L. Edenbaum, 2004

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