E very two years almost everyone I know heads to Venice. I used to be more involved in the art world (my father was an art dealer and I started out life as an art historian) and so most of my closest friends are art historians, art dealers, professors or artists. Almost all of them go to the opening of the Biennale, and of course they all ask me where to eat while in Venice.
For years I would send them a rag tag list that I’d compiled over the years. But now, happily, I can just refer them to my app, EAT ITALY, which contains all my Venice picks. But if I know my friends, they are still going to ask me things like "do I need to reserve?", "but which ones are your favorites?" and "are there places you like near the fair?"
And so, to answer at least one of these questions, here are a handful of great places that are within walking distance of the Arsenale and Giardini...
Trattoria La Rampa
The holy grail in Venice – at least for foodies – is finding that little hidden away place where locals go. This small restaurant, with a hand painted sign outside, is located in an area of Venice where few tourists venture and opens its doors at 5am to cater for the local police and firemen finishing their shifts. The menu changes daily, but when we visited they were serving spaghetti al nero di sepia: thick strands of spaghetti coated in inky sauce.
Via Garibaldi, Castello 1135, Venice
Tel. +39 041 528 5365
Caffè La Serra
La Serra, or the Greenhouse, was built in 1894, just around the corner from the Biennale gardens. By the 1990s it was abandoned and had started to slowly decay, until the city of Venice realised what it was losing, restored it, and began renting it out for a variety of purposes. One of these was an idyllic little café with a dozen tables scattered in the garden, and a few more inside the antique greenhouse. The menu is very healthy, featuring natural juices, organic salads and sandwiches as well as tarts and organic wines.
Viale Giuseppe Garibaldi, Castello 1254, Venice
Tel. +39 041 296 0360
A cute little no-frills place that serves healthy, organic, vegetarian and vegan food. Everything is sold by weight, and you choose your dish by pointing out what you’d like at the main counter. Dishes include pastas, grain salads, vegetables and usually things like hummus and savoury tarts. If you don’t feel like eating in, they also serve take out, so you can head a block away to the benches
along Viale Garibaldi to have a picnic.
Via Garibaldi, Castello 1341, Venice
Tel. +39 041 523 8173
I love Via Garibaldi. It’s one of the widest ‘streets’ in Venice, and so is never that crowded, making it the perfect place for a passeggiata. El Refolo is an ideal stop for a glass of wine and one of their excellent panini. This tiny spot usually has about 20 bottles open at any one time. And to go with it, their sandwiches — which change daily — are true works of art. The meats and cheeses are all specially sourced, crafted by artisans in small quantities. And if you feel like a spritz, this is the place to have one since they are one of the few places that still use the local and very hard to find Select bitter, instead of the more modern Aperol or Campari.
Via Garibaldi, Castello 1580, Venice
Tel. +39 344 163 6759
If you’d like something slightly more formal, and just a bit further, try the following...
Corte Sconta is many people’s favourite restaurant in Venice, and with good reason. The understated elegant interiors, on a narrow out of the way alley, play host to one of the most delicious fish-centric menus in the city.
Calle de Pestrin, Castello 3886, Venice
Tel. +39 041 522 7024
Ristorante al Covo
Al Covo is no hidden secret, in fact it’s a firm favourite among many visitors to Venice. Everything is freshly caught and often served raw or perfectly grilled. But the attentive owners are also passionate at resurrecting forgotten Venetian recipes, including fish dishes made from local fish that only exist in the lagoon. The side dishes all feature seasonal vegetables from the nearby island of San Erasmus.
Calle de la Pescaria, Castello 3968, Venice
Tel. +39 041 522 3812
Focussing its attention on fresh local produce, the menu of this unexpectedly authentic restaurant (given its location in the central tourist district) features many ingredients from Slow Food’s Ark of Taste. The dishes are straightforward and prepared simply to highlight the incredible attention to quality. Luca the owner’s main passion is wine, so the list is full of surprises
that you won’t find elsewhere in town.
Riva degli Schiavoni, Castello 4161, Venice
Tel. +39 041 522 7463
Other great places to visit around town...
Antiche Carampane (San Polo)
Ristorante Dalla Marisa (Cannaregio)
Gatto Nero (On Burano)
Osteria Anice Stellato (Cannaregio)
For more tips on eating in Venice download my app, EAT ITALY, available on iTunes.