Considering that Italy is pretty much one big restaurant, there’s never any difficulty finding somewhere to eat. Whether it’s an osteria, trattoria or pizzeria, there are plenty of places to choose from. In our experience, the overall quality of food in Italy is generally good to very good.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Meal planning…
Unless you like to snack throughout the day, you can pretty much calculate that during a 2-day city trip you will need 4 meals: 2 lunches and 2 dinners. This is assuming that you have breakfast included with your hotel. In Venice, we were staying at the centrally located Ca ‘Fortuny hotel, which offered an excellent breakfast for 2 in the room price of €59 per night.
Of all countries in the world, for us a trip to Italy is all about eating – and eating well (we’ll deal with the calories afterwards). In Venice, however, when choosing a place to indulge ourselves we found that we needed to be on our guard – to avoid paying way over the odds .
Before going to Venice, we spent some time online, checking out restaurants and cafes that suited our taste and budget. For a lunch for 2, with wine included, we were prepared to pay somewhere in the €30-40 range. For dinner, our budget was in the €70-100 range. These prices are marginally more than we would pay at home in Malta (also a holiday destination). But this is Venice, after all – and possibly the most over-priced city in Italy.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Where to eat (and where not to eat)
Online, we found and short-listed around half-a-dozen places to eat that seemed to fit our budget. These eateries were dotted around the city, but all fitted into the routes we were planning to follow. Unfortunately, as it got closer to our departure date, we discovered that some of these places were closed for refurbishment or not open on the day we required.
Our first find was the Rossa Rosa. This restaurant was very close to our hotel, on the Calle della Mandola, and has very high visitor reviews. It was also frequented regularly by Johnny Depp when he was in Venice filming The Tourist. The owner made an amusing video about this experience which you can see here. If it was good enough for Johnny Depp it was good enough for us. (More on movies made in Venice in The Venice of “Don’t Look Now”).
A week before our trip, we sent the owner of Rossa Rosa a message via Facebook requesting a reservation. Unfortunately for us, the restaurant would be closed for refurbishment during our visit. If anyone is planning to go there after they re-open, please let us know how it was: The place seems great from the pictures and reviews.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Bacareto da Lele
Our second find was the Bacareto da Lele. This is a small corner cafe on the Campo dei Tolentini, not far from Piazalla Roma. This suited us perfectly for a late morning snack, since we arrived by bus in Piazalla Roma from the airport just before lunchtime. This tiny place gets incredibly busy, which is always a good sign. On offer, they had a variety of crisp freshly made panini and small glasses of local house wine.
We chose 2 prosciutto and sun dried tomato panini plus 2 mozzarella paninis (with a tasty brown chutney). These together with 2 small glasses of red wine came to €5.20. We enjoyed our meal standing by the canal in the morning sun.
What a great introduction to this fascinating city.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Impronto Cafe
Our next port of call was the Impronto Cafe. This place also enjoys rave reviews, and was on the route we planned to take to our hotel. Our idea was to check the place out as a possible contender for our evening meal later. We found the Impronto Cafe quite easily, on the Calle Crosera.
The menu was varied enough and reasonably priced (for Venice). However, unlike the photos we had viewed online, this appeared very much like a modern cafe, lacking any real character. We decided to keep it in reserve, in case we were unable to find someplace more suited to an authentic-feeling Venetian dinner. We could also come back here for lunch the following day, if we had the time.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Al Vaporetto
By the time we reached our hotel in the San Marco district, we had already scouted out a good part of San Polo and San Marco on foot. The distances were much smaller than we anticipated: Venice is a really compact city. Nevertheless, we had worked up quite an appetite: It’s difficult not to – wherever you go you smell the delicious aroma of freshly cooked fish, meat and pasta, and then the sweet smell of waffles, coffee and croissants.
So our next port of call was the Al Vaporetto Ristorante – Pizzeria on the Calle della Mandola – very close to the Rossa Rosa. It’s easy to find since there is a large boat (Vaporetto) in the window that lights up at night. This was a spur-of-the-moment choice. We were cold and hungry and the place looked warm, colorful and busy enough, with red chequered table cloths.
We ordered spaghetti con frutti di mare and gnocchi alla quattro formaggi, to be washed down with a liter of sparkling water and a liter carafe of red house wine. As it was a late lunch, we ordered these dishes as Primo Piatti, which ensured we got smaller portions (we didn’t want to overdo it before dinner). The service was prompt and friendly, and the food was really very good. If there weren’t so many other eateries to choose from, I’d happily eat there again. The final bill came to €38 – nicely within our budget.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Trattoria Pizzeria da Gioia
Originally, we had planned to try out the Rossa Rosa for our first evening dinner in Venice. However, this place was closed for refurbishment, and we didn’t have any alternative venue planned. So we decided to wing it: There is an abundance of restaurants in Venice – how far wrong can you go?
The first novice mistake we made was to be drawn into a restaurant by one of the staff who was standing in front of the entrance. The place was the Trattoria Pizzeria da Gioia, on the Calle dei Fabbri 1016 in the San Marco district. It was a bitterly cold evening and we’d already been cruising for a restaurant for around half an hour. This Trattoria was located on a narrow street and looked cozy enough from the outside. As we hesitated, the elderly waiter offered us a 10% discount voucher. This alone should have sent the alarm bells ringing, but we took the bait and entered the lair.
The next worrying sign was the beaming smiles as three different waiters descended on us, offering wine lists, speciality fish of the day and other off-the-menu items. I quickly became annoyed with the effusive, over-familiar attentions of the staff and the apparent hurry to get us to make our order. The on-menu prices were not so terrible, but when you add on the 15% tax, service and cover charges, I could see we would have to make our choices carefully.
What can we order?
I ordered a half liter of red house wine. Our Egyptian waiter returned with a half bottle of Bardolino. I said I simply wanted a carafe of red house wine: “This IS our house wine”, he insisted.
Taking my time now, I flipped through the menu and found 4 set menus at the very back. All 3-courses, they seemed good value. When the waiter returned I told him we would take 2 of the menus, priced at €35 and €45 respectively. “Please let me advise the ladies and gentlemens, don’t order these menus…” cautions our waiter, “… the food is not fresh”. Clearly, he was still hoping to sell us the unpriced speciality fish of the day.
“What? You’re serving food here that’s not fresh?” I was getting properly hacked off now, and didn’t care who knew it. People were looking around from the next table.
“Wait… I go check” says the waiter, who quickly retreated, to return a few minutes later with the revelation that the chef was going to prepare the items in the menus – fresh – especially for us. We were very close to leaving at this point – everything was wrong about this place. After a glass of the Bardolino I calmed down a little and we decided to stick it out to see how the food would be.
For starters we had carpaccio of meats. The main course was a choice between lasagne and pasta with mushroom sauce, or a thin low-quality steak or wiener schnitzel, both with fries.. We needed another half bottle of Bardolino to wash this down together with a bottle of mineral water. The food was edible but dull. At least it wasn’t the total disaster I had been anticipating. We tried a single, decidedly unfresh tiramisu for desert, which was our last mistake.
The proof of the pudding…
And the final bill, including the vaunted 10% discount, came to €130. Easily our worst and most expensive meal experience in Venice.
Usually, it pays to do your homework in advance. If we had read the Travelers Reviews for this place – describing the over-familiarity of the staff, poor food and criminal pricing – we would never have considered it. If just one person reading this article avoids wasting his time and money here, then we’ll be very happy.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Osteria Carmini
On our second day in Venice we scouted out the Dorsoduro district. This made a pleasant change from the much busier tourist areas of San Polo and San Marco. We took a vaporetto to San Basilio and walked from there. Around lunchtime, we found the Osteria Carmini down a small alleyway off the Campo Santa Margherita.
This restaurant has a very warm and cozy feel, and was quite busy serving locals. Here we ate starters of sardines with marinated onions (a Venetian speciality), and mixed meats and prosciutto with fresh crispy bread. We then shared a pasta vongole. This together with a liter carafe of red house wine and sparkling water came to €48.
Food, service and ambiance were all very good – We would definitely eat here again.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – La Bar Scuela Osteria
Later in the afternoon, we traveled across to the Castello district, and got lost while trying to find the Palazzo Grimani (the location of the final scary scenes in the movie “Don’t Look Now”).
I was also dying to take a pee (all that red wine and sparkling water…), which is how we discovered La Bar Scuela Osteria, on the Salizada De Le Gate, 3183/A, Castello. Here we paid €5 for a couple of glasses of red wine, and got directions thrown into the bargain.
If you’re peckish, you can get some tasty-looking bar snacks here, and the place seems to be very popular with the locals. Here again you are a good way off from the touristy places, and this is a nice bar to relax and takes things easy.
Venice Osteria and Trattoria – Osteria Barababao
For our final evening in Venice, we had planned the venue well in advance. We were really looking forward to visiting the Osteria Barababao, not far from Rialto. This restaurant was easier to find than we thought, and looked bright and attractive from the outside.
The service here was friendly and inobtrusive. To start, we ordered the Fish soup and the Octopus salad. Both were fresh and absolutely delicious. The Fish soup was a masterpiece by itself – crammed with a rich variety of fish and shellfish, with a mouth-watering base sauce.
Next we chose a mixed grill and lamb chops with salad and potatoes. Again, the meat was cooked to perfection, and served in copious portions.
Though by this time we were pleasantly stuffed, we went for deserts and ordered chocolate fondant and ice cream with sour cherries. A scrumptiously sweet way to finish off a tremendous meal. Together with a liter of red house wine and a bottle of sparkling water, our bill came to €106.
This gastronomic experience was worth every cent, and provided a perfect finale to our last evening in Venice.
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