Table of Contents
- Our Trip to Venice
- Food in Venice
- Venice Food Guide
- Venice Restaurants
- Venice Icon – Harry’s Bar
- Venice Cicchetti Bars
- Venice Cheap Eats
- Venice Gelaterias
- Venice Cafes
- Mercato di Rialto (Rialto Market)
- Things To Do in Venice
- Plan Your Venice Stay
- Book a Venice Tour
- Hungry for More Italian Food?
- Pin It for Later
- About the Authors
Wondering where to eat in Venice Italy? Famous for both its canals as well as its food, Venice has great places to eat hidden among a veritable sea of tourist traps. Check out this Venice Food Guide with our picks for the best Venice restaurants and cafes.
Some businesses may revise their hours and menus due to COVID-19. Others may close, either temporarily or permanently, without notice. Be sure to check websites for updated information and make advance reservations where possible.
Built on islands in the middle of coastal marshlands and with a propensity for flooding, Venice is a city that defies common sense.
Gondolas and vaporetti (water taxis) whisk people through canals while pedestrians traipse over a seemingly infinite number of arched bridges just to get from point A to point B. Sculpture-adorned homes built centuries ago struggle to survive rising waters that inch higher upon what used to be entry steps.
There’s no way that Venice would be built today. But this nonsensical sinking city is filled with ornately stunning architecture, amazing nautically-inspired art and epic skyline views of the Venetian lagoon from the island’s eastern end.
Despite its issues or perhaps because of them, Venice is one of the most magical cities in the world. Many complain about the deluge of tourists, but tourism and Venice have coexisted for centuries. In fact, tourism is a key element that keeps this Adriatic beauty afloat.
Sure, it’s easy to view Venice as a giant theme park but, no matter how many try, no one has been able to match the sheer beauty and richness of this top world destination. Other self-promoting cities loosely shower themselves with platitudes: “Suzhou is the Venice of China!” “Hamburg in Germany is the Venice of the North!” Even Mykonos island in Greece sports a “Little Venice” while Los Angeles has a “Venice Beach.”
Our Trip to Venice
After numerous trips to Italy, our dreams of visiting Venice finally came to fruition. We anticipated a week of eating our way through the original City of Canals. We rented an Airbnb apartment with a balcony overlooking one of the canals and scheduled a tour with Walks of Italy that would take us on a gondola tour via (you guessed it) a canal.
Armed with an excellent advance plan to sample the best Venice cuisine, we reserved tables at some of the city’s best restaurants before our trip. Though we thought we thought we were ready, sometimes even the best-laid plans can go awry.
Before our trip, we had fantasized about riding gondolas during the day and feasting on pasta at night. However, we got more excitement than we expected thanks to epic flooding that transformed the watery wonderland into a watery mess, rendering our colorful rainboots useless.
We visited Venice in late autumn expecting high water. What we got was a 50-year flooding event. A unique yearly phenomenon known as aqua alta (which literally translates to high water) resulted in more than a meter of the wet stuff throughout the city.
On our last night, we waded home from dinner with water up to our waist. Somehow, we neither melted nor floated away and were able to eat in one of the best restaurants in the city.
Luckily, the weather mostly cooperated and we were successful in our endeavor to explore the best places to eat in Venice. Throughout the week, we experienced cheap eats to fine dining and everything in-between.
We never rode a gondola due to the inclement weather but that’s okay. We still enjoyed traipsing through the city’s super narrow alleys and ancient brick archways. This may have been our first trip to Venice but it certainly won’t be our last.
Food in Venice
Inhabited by Marco Polo, conquered by Napoleon and celebrated annually by masked Carnevale revelers, Venice has more than its share of ‘tourist trap’ eateries. Though tourists may make the mistake of eating randomly without a plan, true food travelers can easily eat well in Venice.
Making reservations at some of the city’s best tables is a must. The better Venice restaurants serve an Italian food set that includes dishes like bacalà mantecato, sarde in saór and fritto misto as well as desserts like silky tiramisu and s-shaped bussolài cookies.
Food in Venice is not undiscovered. Acclaimed cookbook author Marcella Hazan may have been born in Emilia-Romagna but she spent decades living and eating in Venice. TV personalities Phil Rosenthal and the late Anthony Bourdain have wandered through Venice’s maze of alleys and canals while eating excellently along the way.
Venice Food Guide
Our quest for great food in Venice was a noble mission that we came prepared to conquer. We did extensive research prior to our week in Venice and arrived with several coveted reservations as well as plenty of time to discover independent cafes, cicchetti bars and gelaterias.
The result is this Venice guide that will fill your holiday with great food at all price points. If you get thirsty, we have you covered with drinks too.
To be clear – dining at Venetian restaurants isn’t cheap. The city’s restaurants skew high in price for Europe, and the city’s handful of Venice Michelin-starred restaurants cost even more. However, savvy food travelers can find dining gems that offer relative value based on the quality of their food.
We can’t stress this enough so we’ll say it again: Venice is NOT a city where you want to wing it with your meals. The risk of eating at overpriced tourist traps in Venice is high unless you do your research or rely on our culinary groundwork.
Plan ahead and make advance reservations at the best restaurants in Venice before your trip to avoid disappointment. As you do your research, be sure to consider the following restaurants:
Osteria alle Testiere
We almost didn’t eat at Osteria alle Testiere, a tiny but popular Venice restaurant with just ten tables and 22 seats. Our issue wasn’t a lack of reservations. Thanks to our Venice-loving friend Susan from A Lush Life Manual, we secured the difficult reservation before we arrived in town. Our issue was the weather.
As noted above, Venice experienced unprecedented flooding during our visit. When a flood alarm filled the airwaves hours before our dinner, we were ready to cut our losses and cancel the meal.
Thankfully, co-owner Luca di Vita offered a different solution by providing us with an earlier table that allowed us to arrive at the Rialto osteria before the flooding began. Getting home, however, was another story.
This fateful decision resulted in us taking the longest one-kilometer walk of our lives through stinky water in murky darkness. There were moments when we didn’t think our camera gear (or we) would survive. We returned to our apartment, and, once there, practically swam just to make it to the stairwell which leads to our third-floor flat.
And guess what? Aside from a lost pair of Mindi’s shoes, we have no regrets. Not only did we end up getting quoted in Newsweek about our experience, but we also ate a special dinner that, in many ways, solidified our understanding of Venice cuisine.
Osteria alla Testiere isn’t fancy and that’s okay. Created each day based on the nearby Rialto Market’s fresh catch, the restaurant’s one-page food menu offers a selection of seafood dishes like delicate spider crab, hearty mantis shrimp and grilled “little octopus.”
What struck us most during our meal was the care and craft given to each dish. In a nod to Venice’s historic spot on the spice trail, Chef Bruno Gavagnin added a liberal amount of cinnamon to flavorful sauces that coated our prawns and gnocchi. We also enjoyed spaghetti, cooked to a lightly resistant al dente, with meaty vongole clams and bright red sundried tomatoes.
We felt like part of the family as we rolled up our sleeves and ate next to strangers who became friends before the end of the meal. As we sipped on glasses of Friulano white wine from the edge of Italy near Slovenia, we toasted Venice and shared one last dessert of verdant Bronte Pistachio Flour Cake at our final dinner in Venice.
In retrospect, we probably should have skipped dessert due to the flooding. But hey, it’s all part of the adventure.
Osteria alle Testiere is located at Calle del Mondo Novo, 5801, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy.
Corte Sconta, on the eastern end of the main island near Arsenal, loosely translates to hidden courtyard. In warmer weather, the romantic restaurant’s namesake space is surely put to good use. But we were happy to enjoy our lunch in a lovely sun-soaked dining room with a more than adequate view of said courtyard.
Courtyard aside, the real reason to dine at Corte Sonte is to enjoy a fish-forward menu that features local favorites like sarde in saor (sardines marinated in vinegar) and baccalà mantecato (salt cod mousse). The family-owned restaurant has been cooking these dishes for 40 years and counting.
The highlight of our meal had to be the wonderful ‘Venetian Style’ tuna, a robust grilled piece of tuna loin plated with onions and white polenta. The combo of earthy charred tuna, creamy polenta and carmelized worked in wonderful harmony.
We paired the dish with a primi plate with tagliolino (pasta) and seasonal tartufo bianco (white truffles). Prepared with a simple butter sauce, the truffle flavor was clear and unmuted.
White truffles are a luxury item in much of the world. After hunting for the elusive fungus in Emilia Romagna before our Venice trip, we couldn’t resist eating truffles in Italy yet again. In our opinion, access to truffles is reason enough to visit Italy during the autumn season.
Corte Sconta is located at Calle del Pestrin, 3886, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy.
Il Paradiso Perduto
Il Paradiso Perduto caught our eyes while we were walking to nearby Torrefazione Cannaregio (see below) for coffee. After encountering a boisterous late-afternoon cicchetti crowd spilling on to the sidewalk, we immediately made a reservation for dinner that night.
Situated in a large, bare-bones space reminiscent of a finished basement, the lively restaurant has an inviting cicchetti bar in front and a buzzing, pleasantly noisy dining room in the rear. With menus printed daily in Italian only and people seated at shared tables, the energy is good. The experience feels both rustic and local.
Though we had no issues during our meal, pescatarians may experience a quandary at Il Paradiso Perduto due to the menu’s large number of fish and seafood choices. From fried seafood antipasto to grilled fish plates big enough to share, the options can be overwhelming.
Those not able to narrow down the choices can opt for pasta. Cacio e pepe served tableside from a jumbo Pecorino wheel and sprinkled with freshly ground peppercorns is a great pasta option. Either way, ordering cheap house wine produced in Cividale del Friuli is a must.
Il Paradiso Perduto is located at della Misericordia, 2540, Fondamenta Cannaregio, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy.
Venice and Texas collide at Al Covo where married owners Cesare and Diane Benelli have been running the front (Lubbock native Diane) and back (Venetian local Cesare) of the house with aplomb since 1987. However, the food at this Venetian restaurant is 100% local.
The first restaurant we visited during our Venice food trip, Al Covo impressed us from the get-go with its clubby dining room decorated with exposed brick, artwork, ceiling beams and comfortable cushions.
But it was the food that impressed us most, starting with an amuse-bouche of fried brown shrimp over polenta to baccalà with polenta and linguine with vongole clams. However, we hit the seafood motherload with the restaurant’s fritto misto. An embarrassment of crustacean riches, this fried platter was loaded with calamari, prawns, clams, anchovies, scallops, mullet, artichoke, sole and fennel fronds.
The Benelli’s, followers of the Italian Slow Food movement, source much of their food from local farmers, artisan producers and fishmongers. Plucked from the nearby Adriatic Sea, Al Covo’s seasonal seafood options run the gamut from simple sardines to more exotic spider crabs.
Both natives and travelers fill the tables at Al Covo, making reservations an absolute must. Diane, one of the owners, greeted us with relief when she heard that we had a reservation just before she turned away another group that brazenly arrived without one. Also worth noting, the restaurant has an extensive wine list for food travelers who are also wine travelers.
Al Covo is located at Campiello de la Pescaria, 3698, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy.
Al Conte Pescaor
Recommended by Mila from Una Russa in Italia, Al Conte Pescaor is an old-line restaurant that exceeded our expectations. Not featured on best-of-Venice lists and with somewhat dated decor, the restaurant served us memorable dishes that epitomize homestyle Venetian cuisine at its best.
Like many Venice restaurants, Al Conte Pescaor serves a wide variety of fish and pasta dishes but also has options suitable for carnivores. Daryl started the meal simply by ordering meaty spaghetti bolognese while Mindi went to the dark side by ordering ink-black tagliolini freschi al nero di seppia with cuttlefish ink.
However, we came together by sharing a fantastic version of frittura di scampi e calamari with a heaping amount of fried shrimp and calamari. We toasted our fishy fortune with a bottle of red wine and shots of yellow limoncello.
Al Conte Pescaor is located at S. Zulian Pool, 544, 30124 Venice VE, Italy.
Trattoria Ca d’Oro alla Vedova
Trattoria Ca d’Oro alla Vedova operates as both a trattoria and cicchetti bar. Crowds fill this Cannaregio spot every evening, making reservations mandatory for those who want to eat their dinner while seated at a table.
Though the name of the restaurant translates to widow’s gold, copper pots hang from the ceiling and knickknacks fill the walls. The atmosphere is jovial and upbeat.
Starting with Polpetta is a must since the crispy meatballs are a house specialty. We enjoyed spicy spaghetti alle busara topped with shrimp and bigoli in salsa, a local pasta specialty flavored with anchovies, onion and parsley.
Trattoria Ca d’Oro alla Vedova also serves beef meatballs with tomato sauce and polenta. The wonderful saucy meatball and creamy polenta combination is something we now want to cook at home.
Trattoria Ca d’Oro alla Vedova is located at Ramo Ca’ d’Oro, 3912, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy.
Osteria La Zucca
“Go to La Zucca and eat the pumpkin flan.” After the third person gave us this advice, how could we not? And so we did on a rainy Venice afternoon.
Popular with traveling Vegetarians, Osteria La Zucca offers a selection of veggie dishes as well as dishes suitable for their carnivorous friends. But, without doubt, pumpkin flan is the star of the show at this casual Venice eatery named after the orange winter squash.
In addition to eating a slice of the osteria’s popular flan prepared with sage butter and smoked ricotta, we shared a meaty main with autumn rabbit roasted in white wine and served with chestnuts. Water and wine completed our mid-day meal.
Osteria La Zucca is located at S. Croce, 1762, 30135 Venezia VE, Italy.
Venice Icon – Harry’s Bar
Harry’s Bar may not be a private club but it’s an exclusive one. Anyone can enter, anyone can sit at the bar, anyone can order off the classic Venetian menu and anyone (with a reservation or luck) can sit in the bar’s tiny art deco dining room.
However, affordability is another issue and that’s where the exclusivity comes to play. Harry’s Bar is an establishment designed for people who don’t really care how much they’re spending – customers whose disposable income makes signing a bill feel more like chewing gum than solving a math problem. In many ways, Harry’s Bar is the Venice equivalent of dining on the island of St. Barth’s.
Simple menu items like minestrone soup cost €31, first courses like simple tagliolini with cuttlefish cost €48 and main courses like Scampi (shrimp) with curry sauce and rice pilaf can be ordered for the “low, low” price of €79.
We don’t usually print restaurant prices because of their changing nature, but the prices on the Harry’s Bar menu are unlikely to decrease anytime soon.
But, as you may have heard, Harry’s Bar is a Venice institution. Celebrities from Ernest Hemingway to George Clooney have frequented the Venice landmark since Giuseppe Cipriani opened its doors in 1931.
Even if you haven’t heard of Harry’s Bar, you’ve surely heard of its two culinary creations. Not only can the bar take credit for inventing the two-ingredient bellini made with prosecco and white peach puree (which was €22 at the time of our visit), but it can also claim fame for inventing beef carpaccio, the savory starter made with raw beef, olive oil, lemon juice, onions and capers.
Venice Cicchetti Bars
Eating Cicchetti (small snacks) at bacari (wine bars) is one of the most fun things to do in Venice. It’s also one of the most cost effective way to eat and drink in the City of Canals.
Check out our separate Venice Cicchetti Guide with our favorite Venice Cicchetti bars. You don’t want to miss these gems during your trip!
Venice Cheap Eats
Touring Venice’s myriad of winding streets and countless footbridges can be exhausting. And not let’s forget the exhaustion of lifting your arms to take canal selfies. It can all make a tourist hungry between meals.
Savvy food travelers will want to save their euros, dollars and shekels for memorable lunches and dinners at the best restaurants in Venice. This is where cheap eats come into play.
We’re not gonna lie – cicchetti bars serve many of the best cheap eats in Venice. However, sometimes the goal is a quick, cheap bite between sites like Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. We recommend the following fast-casual options for these times:
Acqua e Mais
Acqua e Mais specializes in Venice street food. Owner/Chef Alvose Tiozzo channels tradition with both acqua (water) and mais (corn) but seafood is the star of the show here.
The centrally located eatery serves scartossos (paper cones) filled with fritto misto as well as polenta morbida (soft polenta) and other Venetian food favorites. And the best part? The food is as cheap as it is tasty.
Vegetarians can order soy balls at Acqua e Mais. As for us, we ate seafood. During our mid-day visit, we shared a scartosso piled high with crispy calamari (squid) and gamberi (shrimp). The fun snack cost us €5.50, a bargain for Venice.
Acqua e Mais is located at Campiello dei Meloni, 1411-1412, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy.
Crowds swarm Antico Forno to order thick pizzaccia and thin pizza slices all day every day. And who can blame them? Pizza is one of the most popular foods in Italy if not the world. It would only make sense to eat this cheap food favorite in Venice.
Ironically, however, pizza is not popular in Venice as it is in Italian cities like Naples, Florence and Rome. Without a ton of options, we followed our noses to Antico Forno for a quick slice after shopping at nearby Rialto Market. We assumed it would be at least decent and hopefully even better.
Sadly, the only good thing we can say about the pizzaccia we shared at Antico Forno is that it was big. Otherwise, we’d liken the tough, flavorless slice to cardboard. We ended up throwing half of our pizzaccia away since it wasn’t worth the stomach space.
Antico Forno is located at Ruga Rialto, 973, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy.
Now that we’ve disappointed you about the state of pizza in Venice, we’re going to turn your frown upside down with gelato. We’re pleased to report that Venice is a great destination for gelato fans and has artisanal gelaterias all over the city.
We love the gelato in Venice so much that we created a separate Venice Gelato Guide. Check it out!
Coffee lovers rejoice! In Venice, a caffè is both a meeting place and drink. And there’s a lot of both in the City of Canals.
The Venice cafe concept is not new or trendy. Venetians have been congregating at local bars to drink espresso and eat pastries for centuries. In fact, Venice’s oldest cafe, Caffè Florian, has been a popular meeting place in Piazza San Marco since Floriano Francesconi opened the prolific cafe in 1720.
You’ll want to start each morning in Venice with coffee and pastries at the best Venice cafes. Visit a different one every day until you find a favorite. We recommend starting your caffeinated journey at the following spots:
Torrefazione Cannaregio is an anomaly. Eschewing burnt-tasting commodity coffee served throughout much of Italy, this specialty coffee shop brews locally roasted beans for a sophisticated coffee-loving clientele in Venice’s Cannaregio neighborhood.
Although open since 1930, Torrefazione Cannaregio is a thoroughly modern coffee operation. The cafe sources arabica beans from countries around the world and roasts them in the nearby town of Mestre. Brewing options include espresso, V60 and Aeropress.
As third wave coffee fanatics, we felt at home drinking flat whites at Torrefazione Cannaregio. Beyond flat whites, friendly baristas prepare cappuccinos and lattes as well as local specialties like the macchiatone, a hybrid drink that marries a macchiato with a cappuccino.
As a disclosure, Torrefazione Cannaregio will ruin you for every other cafe in Venice if you’re also a fan of specialty coffee. Except for pastries. Every cafe in Venice serves amazing pastries.
Torrefazione Cannaregio is located at Fondamenta dei Ormesini, 2804, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy.
Pasticceria Rosa Salva
Only open since 1879, Pasticceria Rosa Salva can’t claim to be Venice’s oldest cafe. However, the bakery has been making Venice sweeter for over a century.
Thousands of tourists flock to Piazza San Marco every day and the smart ones know to stop for a coffee break at this cafe while in the neighborhood. The absolute smartest (including us) order local specialties like Budino di Semolina with raisins and curved Bussola cookies.
Pasticceria Rosa Salva has multiple locations. We ate pastries at the original location at Sestiere di S. Marco, 950, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy.
Caffè del Doge
Located on a narrow street near the Rialto Market, bustling Caffè del Doge has a rustic decor dominated by a big bar filled with locals enjoying espressos and cream-filled pastries. This Venice cafe roasts beans both for its own use as well as for global distribution.
Discerning customers can order single-origin espresso with beans sourced from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and India. Everybody else can indulge in coffee drinks flavored with ingredients like whipped cream, cinnamon and chocolate shavings.
Caffè del Doge is located at Rialto, Calle Cinque, 609, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy.
Don’t expect to sit when you visit Pasticceria Rizzardini in Venice’s San Polo neighborhood. Dating back to 1742, the family-run pastry shop serves a colorful display of cookies, cakes and assorted Venetian pastries. However, this cafe doesn’t offer any sort of table service.
We were initially confused when our coffees came to us in cups with Caffè del Doge logos. As we soon learned, Pasticceria Rizzardini sources its beans from nearby Caffè del Doge.
We weren’t confused by the pastries. Ordering a cream puff pastry called a krapfen was a no-brainer. Eating it was a pleasure.
Pasticceria Rizzardini is located at 30100 Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy.
Mercato di Rialto (Rialto Market)
Eating local is tradition in Venice where the Mercato di Rialto (i.e. Rialto Market) has been selling fresh produce and even fresher seafood for centuries. Famous around the world for its location at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, the market sells local products to Venice chefs and housewives.
Tourists are also welcome to this Venice market both to shop and take photos. Some market vendors sell spices and magnets that make for great souvenirs.
The market’s pescheria (i.e. fish market) is a fascinating place to visit even if you don’t have access to a kitchen. Here, fishmongers set up shop in an open-air, neo-gothic building to sell fish both mundane and exotic.
Depending on the time of year, tables display the likes of swordfish, tuna, scallops, eels and octopus. Some with clear eyes and others still wiggling, the Rialto Market’s seafood selection is among the freshest in the world.
Who knows? You may even see your future dinner before it’s served to you on a plate with a side of polenta.
Equally fascinating, the market’s erberia (i.e. vegetable market) features rows of outdoor stalls with seasonal fruits and vegetables available for purchase. Veneto producers bring their best produce to sell at this busy shopping mecca.
During a morning market stroll, our eyes bulged at the colorful bounty on display. Highlights were ribbon-like purple radicchio from Treviso, giant porcini mushrooms and baby artichokes almost too pretty to eat.
Mercato di Rialto is located at Campiello de la Pescaria, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy.
Things To Do in Venice
Venice has so much to offer food travelers. We’ve already recommended taking a Venice food tour. Here are some other ideas for ways to explore the culinary side of Venice and its lagoon:
- Eat your way through the city on a Cicchetti and Wine Bar Tour.
- Sip your way through the city on a Venice Wine Tasting Tour.
- Indulge your sweet tooth on a Venice Bakery and Dessert Tour.
- Step into the past via a Jewish Ghetto and Cannaregio Food and Wine Tour.
- Learn how to prepare Venetian food during a Venice Cooking Class.
Plan Your Venice Stay
Book a Venice Tour
Venice is a city that demands exploration. Click here to find an awesome Venice tour or try one of these tours:
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.