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Twelve authentic spots to eat and drink on a budget in Venice

Venice is one of the most popular spots in Italy for tourists, and the beautiful lagoon city can get expensive, but at these spots you can eat and drink Italian specialties at a good price.

Twelve authentic spots to eat and drink on a budget in Venice
There are plenty of places to eat and drink well in Venice, and this guide can help you find them. Photo: Dimitris Kamaras/Flickr

As tourists flock to the city over the summer months, some may be worried about reports of unscrupulous restaurants taking advantage of visitors and overcharging them.

But despite its reputation as a pricey destination, a visit to Venice doesn't have to leave a bitter taste in the mouth. 

And holidaymakers shouldn't be deterred by the measures recently introduced by city authorities to tackle overcrowding and excessive tourism. If you're respectful to locals, and if you take the time to seek out locally-run restaurants, you're likely to have a more enjoyable and memorable visit.

With the help of two Venice food experts, The Local has put together a list of 12 tried and tested local spots to eat and drink.

There are also some general tips and tricks that will help you avoid an overpriced and underwhelming meal. Seeking out supermarkets or pizza al taglio (by the slice, sold to take away) is an easy way to save money, and if you want a sit-down meal, the further away from St Mark's Square and other sites you go, the cheaper things will generally be, though there are still some good finds tucked away in the centre. Huge signs, logos, and waiters beckoning you in from the street are all warning signs — the best places know they can rely on their good food and reputation alone.

One Venice-specific tip, suggested by several The Local readers, is to look for a 'bacaro' (tavern). These neighbourhood pubs offer simple fare, usually with handwritten menus or none at all, and typically lacking in garish signage. There, you can gorge on 'cicchetti', Venetian tapas-style finger food.


Cicchetti by the water in a Venetian tavern. Photo: Michele Simoncini/Flickr

On the other hand, pictures of food or translations of dishes into multiple languages, while helpful, is a sign the restaurant is catering for tourists rather than foodies. It's much more valuable to brush up on your food vocabulary beforehand, or politely ask the waiter for help. Better yet, simply ask them for their recommendations — but make sure you know the price beforehand.

Finally, always be on the lookout for sneaky added charges, whether it's the 'coperto' (service charge), an extra fee for an outdoor table, or desserts or drinks that are offered by the waiter.

Glesni Williams, who works in visual arts management and has worked at Venice's Peggy Guggenheim Museum and Venice Biennale, recommends:

Enoteca al Volto, Calle Cavalli

With a claim to being the oldest bar in Venice, this cosy spot close to the Rialto Bridge offers both seafood in its restaurants and cicchetti at the bar. Either can be paired with a wide selection of wine or beer. Look up to see the ceiling, decorated in hundreds of beer mats.

La Perla ai Bisatei, Campo S. Bernardo, 6

If your trip to Venice includes an excursion to Murano, add this charming osteria to the list to get a glimpse into daily life on the island. It's often full at peak times, but the owners are friendly and efficient and will do their best to seat you as quickly as possible.

 

A post shared by Elvira Politi (@c_est_l_evi) on Dec 5, 2016 at 5:36am PST

Osteria Al Squero, Dorsoduro

Open all day, head there for a quiet coffee and pastry in the morning or return later on for the wide range of cicchetti, when it will have transformed into a bustling wine bar. 'Squero' is the Venetian term for 'boatyard', so you'll be able to enjoy a view of the city's gondoliers at work.

Bacarando in Corte dell'Orso, S. Marco

This eatery is just a stone's throw from the Rialto Bridge, but offers drinks and food at very reasonable prices, with plenty of seating including outdoor space in summer, and welcoming staff. Time your visit right and you'll be able to enjoy live music too.

READ ALSO: The must-try foods from every region of Italy

Nine handy Venetian words to use on your next trip to Venice


Photo: SarahTz/Flickr

Trattoria dalla Marisa, Cannaregio

A tiny trattoria with a local feel; this spot is often crowded and should be avoided by picky eaters as there are usually only a small number of meals on offer, but rest assured that whatever it is will be freshly cooked and taste great. It also boasts lovely views over the water.

Il Paradiso Perduto, Fondamenta Misericordia

With sparkling wine for €1.50 a glass, and two resident cats, what's not to love? Delicious food and a lively atmosphere in a small side street — but in busy periods you should make a reservation.

Valeria Duflot, who co-founded the website Venezia Autentica to promote local businesses, recommends:

Osteria Ruga di Jaffa

This eatery has only been going since 2015 but is already a firm favourite with locals, with cichetti, fresh fish, and homemade bread among its tasty offerings.

Trattoria al Ponte del Megio

A Venetian-run family business serving local food by a quiet canal ticks all the boxes for an authentic Venice experience. 

Antico Forno

For a quick, cheap and filling lunch, it's hard to beat a slice of freshly made pizza, and this is the top pick from the Venezia Autentica team — one of the founders works close by, and has eaten their pizza for lunch each day for years! You can also get panini and beer or wine to wash down your meal.

Bar Rizzo

If you're in town for carnival season or any other kind of celebration, you might feel the need for a late-night snack at some point. Forget the greasy kebab and head here for tramezzini, or Venetian sandwiches, right in front of the water bus stop for the Rialto Bridge. And it's not just an after-dark haunt; you can tuck into the tramezzini, pastries, or croissants during the day as well.

Bistrot de l'Osmarin

The friendly staff at this spot create panini, foccacce, pizzas, and more using high quality Itailan meats, cheeses, and vegetables. You can also pair them with one of the artisanal beers on offer.

And one recommendation from The Local:

Bacaro del Gelato, Fondamenta Misericordia

The Cannaregio district is just as beautiful as the more tourist-saturated areas, and much more peaceful. As a bonus, you can find this gelateria, where the ice creams are bigger and cheaper than those on offer in most of the city's shops — and they taste incredible.

This is an updated version of an article originally published in 2018.

READ ALSO: How to decipher Italy's mind-boggling pasta menus

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FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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