Best restaurants in Venice
Since 1936, Venice’s oldest wine bar has charmed locals and travellers with warm service and hearty Venetian cuisine. Not far from Rialto Bridge, look for the wooden table on Calle Cavalli and enter old-world Venice, where vintage wine labels cover the bar ceiling and wood-panels adorn a cozy dining room. Reservations are essential, portions are generous and prices reasonable, especially by Venice standards. Classic fare like spaghetti with clams, followed by Venetian-style liver with polenta pair perfectly with affordable house wines.
This popular neighbourhood restaurant, located along Venice’s hippest stretch of canal in Cannaregio, is a meat lover’s paradise. Giant wood boards come loaded with perfectly-seared slices of steak, surrounded by mounds of potatoes and veggies. These shareable feasts, along with lagoon-side seating, make for one of Venice’s most relaxed and lively dining scenes. You also can’t go wrong with sister restaurant, seafood-centric Timon All’Antica Mola, located next door.
The small, canal-side dining room of La Zucca (meaning “the pumpkin”) offers a romantic setting and one of Venice’s most unique menus. Vegetables play the starring role – the signature pumpkin and ricotta flan is not to be missed – yet, the rotating menu also includes succulent specialties like roasted rabbit with chestnuts. Reservations are essential for one of two nightly seatings and service can be rushed, even burly; but one taste of the house-made pear cake with ginger and those quirks will hardly linger.
This family behind this beloved restaurant, hidden within the labyrinth of San Polo, proudly shares culinary traditions passed through generations. Passion for fine, fresh ingredients shines in specials like exquisitely sliced and presented raw fresh catch (carpaccio di pesce crudo), baccala prepared three ways and generous seafood platters, lightly battered and fried to perfection. Don’t expect pizza or lasagna, this is classic Venetian fare offered at the highest level (often to visiting celebrities including Bill Murray and Yoko Ono), thus reservations are essential. Moderately priced and with an impressive wine list, this is can’t miss.
From Fondamenta Zattere’s expansive waterfront vista, Riviera offers fine dining in an ultra-romantic setting. Attentive servers patiently guide you through the experience, whether a seven-course fish or meat tasting or 11-courses featuring both. A la carte options are also available (vegetarian or vegan options are not). This is dining as theatre, expect artistically presented, inventive cuisine such as a cuttlefish roe with white wine foam and violet dust. Portions are ample, yet not huge. Add the expertly crafted wine pairing, and savor every bite and taste. When the engaging owner stops by your table, as he’s known to do, you’ll be glad you splurged.
A dinner party with friends is the vibe permeating this bite-sized dining room in Castello. With the kitchen in view from each of seven tables, diners feel part of the action. The friendly and engaging staff only add to the air of intimacy. A three-course prix fixe menu (reasonably priced at about $40 per person) features a choice of specialties like creamy burrata or bigoli in salsa, baked baccala or the cult-status CoVino burger (lunchtime only) and delicious desserts like tiramisu. Reservations are essential and payment is cash only.
From a romantic canal-side setting in San Polo, Maurizio and Mara Martin have created one of Venice’s most celebrated restaurants. Chef Mara learned to cook from another celebrated chef, her beloved grandmother. Respect for tradition shines through without inhibiting a sense of play and experimentation, earning da Fiori worldwide acclaim and a Michelin star. Opt for six and seven course tasting menus, with additional wine pairings, to experience the full spectrum of tastes. Go-to classics include homemade ravioli and risotto and the famous cuttlefish in black ink (sepia al nero).
Some locals say this Cannaregio hotspot has become too popular and touristy, yet even at its most bustling and crowded, the consistent blend of friendly service, lively atmosphere and delicious, reasonably-priced cuisine proves irresistible. Long communal tables and platters meant for sharing add to a casual, festive vibe. Simple dishes like cacio e pepe become an event when crafted tableside and served in cheese wheels. Frequent live music (sometimes, dancing too) adds to the sense of revelry. Even with a reservation, you may have to wait, so grab spritz and cichetti and join the canal-side scene.
This most famous of Venice restaurants, an institution since 1830, recently received a facelift at the hands of designer and architect Philippe Starck. The Michelin star restaurant’s beloved Murano glass chandeliers now illuminate walls upholstered in highly-original and playful fabric (designed by local textile artisans). To see these opulent dining rooms overlooking St. Mark’s Square would be reason enough to visit, but seasonally-inspired three or five-course tasting menus are the true attraction – with every bite of asparagus and green pepper risotto and accompanying beetroot foam, you will taste the promise of spring. Generous amuse-bouches are also playful and delicious. This is one of the rare Venice menus indicating gluten-free options.
Sexy and fashionable, this Michelin-star restaurant located inside the world-famous, five-star Hotel Metropole harnesses Venice’s legacy as once-mighty spice trading empire into a thoroughly modern menu and atmosphere. Murano glass lamps cast a glow over luxurious fabrics setting the stage for creative taste combinations in every course. Most notably, the vegetarian tasting menu infuses classic dishes with Asian elements, such as aubergines with beetroot and wasabi flavoured broccoli cream, topped with crunchy artichokes.
As the name suggests, this Castello hotspot is obsessed with seasonal ingredients from small producers surrounding the island and lagoon. Brother and sister owners Luca and Benedetta Fullin (whose grandmother opened popular restaurant Wildner in 1960), together with chef Matteo Tagliapietra, enjoy infusing classic fare with surprising twists and flavours, like risotto with seaweed or eel with mango. Try it all with a tasting menu and wine pairing featuring organic labels. This is modern Venice at the most delicious.
Not fancy, nor touristy, this neighbourhood restaurant in Cannaregio offers a taste of local life along with a small and eclectic menu. Stand outs include sardines rolled and stuffed with breadcrumbs and herbs (sarde in beccafico) and roasted rabbit (conoglio arrosto). Dining alfresco by the picturesque canal and ending the meal with delicious Anise cookies, you’ll thank the stars that you found this sweet spot.
With perhaps Venice’s most user-friendly menu featuring colour-coded highlights of local specialties as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options, this romantic Cannaregio spot offers creative twists on typical Venetian fare, like the Hemingway-inspired stuffed quail. Excellent soups and gnocchi play starring roles as does the serene setting. Choose between two tasting menus, reasonably priced at $58 per person or choose a la carte.
The island of Burano, famed for exquisite lace-making and colourful houses, is also home to one of Venice’s most charming family restaurants. Husband and wife Ruggero and Lucia set a jovial tone for “The Black Cat” while son Massimiliano shares his passion for wine as resident sommelier. Feast on hyper-local specialties like homemade tagliolini noodles with spider crab or Burano-style risotto with small fish from the lagoon waters surrounding this canal-side gem.
Time for a drink
Here’s your guide for getting beyond tourist meccas and experiencing the true essence of Venice, one tasty sip at a time.