If Venice is known for anything, it is its cuisine. Fresh seafood and hand-made pasta are just some of the things that make the city's food scene so exciting. With so many options, deciding where to eat in Venice can be difficult. That's why we've compiled a list of the best restaurants in town. We'll go over everything from high-end restaurants to low-cost options, so you can find a meal that suits both your taste and your budget. In addition, we'll recommend some must-try local dishes to give you a true taste of Venice.
A Brief Overview of Local Food Traditions in Venetian Cuisine
Before we get into specific restaurants, let's talk about Venetian cuisine. Venetian cuisine is heavily influenced by the city's distinctive geography. Venice, as a group of islands in the middle of a lagoon, has always relied heavily on seafood as a staple of its diet. The city is also famous for its rice dishes, such as risotto, which is made with rice grown locally in the nearby Po Valley.
Fritto misto, a combination of fried seafood, vegetables, and sometimes even cheese, is a popular Venetian dish. It can be found on menus throughout the city. Sarde in saor, a dish of marinated sardines served as an appetiser, is another must-try. And, of course, you can't go to Venice without trying some fresh pasta. Bigoli in salsa, a dish of thick spaghetti in an onion-and-salt-cured-fish sauce, is a local favourite.
Indulge in Michelin-starred Restaurants in Venice.
There are numerous high-end restaurants in Venice, many of which have received Michelin stars. These restaurants are ideal for celebrating a special occasion or for those seeking a truly exceptional dining experience. Osteria da Fiore, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant that has been serving creative Venetian cuisine for over 30 years, is one standout. Chef Mara Martin's dishes are modern interpretations of traditional recipes and local ingredients.
Quadri, located in St. Mark's Square, is another excellent option. This elegant restaurant not only has one Michelin star, but it also has a beautiful view of the square. On Chef Massimiliano Alajmo's menu, dishes like spaghetti with scampi and bottarga (a type of cured fish roe) are made in new and interesting ways.
Where to Find the Best Local Fare in Trattorias and Osterias
Consider eating at a trattoria or osteria for a more casual meal. These quaint, family-run establishments serve hearty, traditional fare at reasonable prices. Osteria Al Diavolo e l'Acquasanta is a popular choice because of its real Venetian food and friendly service. Try the sarde in saor or the baccalà mantecato (creamed cod), two traditional dishes that are done exceptionally well here.
Trattoria da Romano on the island of Burano is another excellent option. This vibrant fishing village is a popular day trip from Venice, and Trattoria da Romano is the ideal spot for lunch. For over a century, the same family has run the restaurant, which serves fresh seafood and handmade pasta.
Seafood Restaurants: Delicious Flavors and Fresh Catch
Venice is a seafood lover's paradise, with the Adriatic Sea right outside its door. There are numerous restaurants throughout the city that specialise in fresh sea catches. Antiche Carampane, a cosy restaurant in the San Polo neighbourhood, is one such option. The menu changes daily depending on what's in season, but dishes like grilled octopus and spaghetti alle vongole are always available (with clams).
Ristorante Da Ivo, a celebrity-favourite restaurant that's been around for over 40 years, offers a more upscale seafood experience. Traditional seafood dishes from Venice are on the menu, like baked sea bass and fried mixed seafood. It's not cheap, but it's well worth it for the food and service.
Bacari and Wine Bars: Try some Venetian wines and Cicchetti
Bacari and wine bars are a way of life in Venice. These small, casual establishments serve glasses of local wine and small bites known as Cicchetti. It's a great way to try out a lot of different dishes without having to commit to a full meal. Cantina Do Spade, which has been serving wine and snacks since 1462, is a popular bacaro. The menu changes daily, but classics like baccalà mantecato and polpette (meatballs) are always available.
Vino Vero offers a more modern take on the bacaro. This natural wine bar serves organic wines and unique cicchetti made with ingredients from the area and that are in season. The menu changes frequently, but dishes like a roasted pumpkin with ricotta and hazelnuts or smoked tuna with pickled onions are possible
Pizzerias and Gelaterias: Low-Cost Eateries for Quick Snacks
If you're on a budget or just looking for a quick bite, Venice has plenty of pizzerias and gelaterias. Pizzeria Al Volo is a popular pizzeria that serves delicious thin-crust pizza by the slice. It's the ideal location for a quick lunch or snack.
Gelateria Nico is a great place to get something sweet. Since 1934, this family-owned gelateria has been making some of the best gelato in town. Classic flavours like pistachio and stracciatella are available, as are more unusual options like ginger and rose.
Plant-Based Delights in Venice: Vegetarian and Vegan Options
Vegetarians and vegans will have no trouble finding food in Venice. Many restaurants provide plant-based options, and a few even specialise in vegetarian and vegan cuisine. La Zucca, a vegetarian restaurant that has been open since 2000, is one standout. The menu features inventive dishes prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Try the pumpkin flan and the ricotta and spinach ravioli.
Vegan Days, a small eatery that serves vegan versions of classic Venetian dishes, is another excellent option. Vegan versions of sarde in saor and baccalà mantecato are available, or you can try something completely different, such as the seitan burger or vegan lasagna.
Snack on Traditional Fritto Misto and Other Local Delights on the Street
You can't go wrong with some of Venice's street food if you're on the go and need a quick snack. Fritto misto, a combination of fried seafood and vegetables, is a traditional option. It's available at street vendors and small shops throughout the city. Traezzini, small triangular sandwiches filled with everything from prosciutto and mozzarella to tuna and egg salad, are another option. They make an excellent light lunch or snack.
Try a slice of torta della nonna, a traditional custard tart with pine nuts, for dessert. It's available in bakeries and cafes throughout the city. Alternatively, try frittelle, a fried pastry. These fluffy, doughnut-like treats are frequently stuffed with custard or Nutella.
Cafes and Bakeries: Treat yourself to a sweet treat or a light lunch.
If you're looking for a relaxing coffee or a light lunch, Venice has a plethora of cafes and bakeries to choose from. Caffe Florian, serving coffee and pastries in St. Mark's Square since 1720, is a classic. It's a little pricey, but the elegant atmosphere and live music make it well worth it.
Torrefazione Cannaregio is a more modern cafe experience. This hip coffee house roasts its own beans and serves delectable pastries and light bites. It's ideal for a quick breakfast or afternoon snack.
Where to Find Local Ingredients and Souvenirs at Food Markets and Specialty Shops
If you're staying in an apartment or simply want to stock up on local ingredients to bring home, Venice has a plethora of food markets and speciality shops. One of the most well-known is the Rialto Market, where you can find fresh seafood, produce, and local cheese.
Pasticceria Tonolo, a bakery that has been around since 1886, is the place to go for something sweet. It is known for its delicious pastries like frittelle and crostoli, which are made of fried dough that has been dusted with powdered sugar. If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind souvenir, go to Il Mercante di Venezia, which sells locally made food products like flavoured salts and artisanal pasta.
Final Thoughts: How to Get the Most Out of Venetian Cuisine
Venice is a city that is best explored on foot, especially when it comes to finding the best places to eat. Don't be afraid to explore narrow alleyways and side streets in search of a hidden treasure. If you're not sure where to begin, ask locals for suggestions.
Finally, take your time and enjoy every bite. Slowly, with good company and a glass of local wine, Venetian cuisine is meant to be enjoyed. So sit back, relax, and take in everything Venice has to offer.