Venice, is my partner’s favourite city in the world and we were here for his birthday in February, probably our twelfth visit here and time I thought to correct some of the commonly held myths about the city. The canals do not always smell, the cost of food and drink is not always expensive and of poor quality, and lastly that it is always packed with tourists.
The first one about the canals smelling I suspect may be more likely in the summer however if you visit during the winter then this is not the case, yes there may be a small back street canal that is due to be dredged and may be slightly smelly but that is it.
The answer to the first myth also applies to the last myth, I personally would never visit the city except in the winter, it is quieter, more atmospheric, there are not queues for everything and hotel accommodation is much more reasonable.
The last myth is in part true in that if you sit in St Mark’s square you will pay a fortune even for a coffee and also that in general the closer you eat to St Mark’s the worse the quality, there are of course exceptions but in general that is the case.
How to find where to eat and drink is relatively easy these days by getting a good guide book and also looking on the internet for example for the information on my web site www.cityhaunts.co.uk but I will give you some tips and recommendations from our last visit.
Venice has a great tradition of cicchetti, small snacks similar to tapas or pintxos in Spain, these are available in small bars known as bacaros and it is wonderful to see that there are new ones opening which follow the tradition and are used by mainly locals but also by visitors in the know. In the main these open in the morning and close early afternoon and then re-open early evening but close around 9 or 10pm.
There are many round the Rialto Market which will be in all the guide books and on my site because they are either the originals ones in that area or have opened over the last ten or so years which has made this area not just a daytime or early evening destination. The originals include De Mori and Do Spade which look like they have been there forever, All Arco, Al Merca and Banco Giro are relative new comers.
What is wonderful is to find a recently opened old style bacaro that is already packed with locals, All Ciurma, Calle Galeazza. Their cicchetti are super, some are different from most places such as the prawn & lardo in batter – excellent and some are traditional such as the meat polpette – very good.
All the above have a selection of mainly local red and white wines which gives you a great chance to try some excellent wines for between 2 and 4 Euros. In many places you can ask for an ombra, rosso or bianco, which will be the house wine normally served in a small tumbler and costing from 60 cents to 1 Euro – always perfectly drinkable.
Cannaregio is another great area to try bacaros so check out www.cityhaunts.co.uk for details of ones to try however there are ones to try in most of the areas, sestiere, of the city.
Some of the bacaros also do full meals however a special dinner does not have to cost a fortune in Venice, we recently had three excellent dinners at places not previously tried and in all cases the food was excellent and the prices reasonable.
Ai Mercanti, Calle dei Fuseri, San Marco 4346, an easy walk from Rialto, Academia or St Mark’s, it is in a lane off Fuseri so keep an eye out for the sign. This is highly rated and deservedly so, we booked in advance for a Saturday evening and you have to telephone and reconfirm on the day or will loose your booking. We shared an antipasti of rabbit terrine with blue cheese and spinach, followed by a shared primi of ravioli filled with hen and a celery cream. For mains we had turbot in a caper and butter sauce and braised beef cheeks and baby onions and special polenta. All the dishes were top notch, with two glasses of white wine and a bottle of excellent negroamaro, not local I know. The cost 96 Euros and you would find it difficult to eat as well for that price at home. The setting is modern and makes a change from the traditional look and feel of a lot of Venice restaurants.
Our next choice was Osteria Alla Staffa, Calle Ospedale, Castello 6397a, is a tradition looking restaurant with only 6 tables, however the cooking is a twist on the standard menu. There are more fish than meat choices and unfortunately on the night we went a couple of dishes were finished however what we had was excellent. There is only an Italian menu but the staff are happy to translate if required. Again we had a shared antipasti, a top notch beef carpaccio with rocket and grana pedano cheese, followed by sharing a tagliolini pasta dish with scallops and artichoke cream. The mains were a tagliata of red tuna with capers and tomatoes and mackerel fillets with courgette and pistaccio. With two glasses of red wine and a bottle of very good soave the bill was 90 Euros, another outstanding meal for the quality, service and price. This is another place where you need to reserve.
Lastly somewhere we had frequented in the past but only for an evening drink, however having always liked the owner and staff and finding that it had expanded both the eating area and the menu we decided to give it a try. Impronta Café, Calle Crosera, Dorsoduro 3815, has a highly inventive menu, we shared a primi of small gnocci with duck then two mains, suckling pig with a puree of winter vegetables and lamp cutlets on a pumpkin puree with a lemongrass ice cream in a savoury crisp basket. All the dishes were good although the lamb which was a special was possibly overpriced compared with the other main choices. The bill with a good bottle of barbera d’asti was 75 Euros including the 12% service charge which is added, an annoyance, but would definitely eat there again.
Enjoy good eating and drinking in Venice without breaking the bank.