Venice is a very touristy city with many restaurants, yet it often gets a bad reputation for the quality of its food. In fact, Venetian food is fresh and delicious, but the key to finding good restaurants in Venice is to get away from the main tourist sites and major thoroughfares and to heed the advice of those who know Venice and its cuisine well. In Venice, things are often not what they seem. The tiniest crowded places with basic furniture and minimal decor often turn out to be the most gastronomically delightful in this mysterious city. What follows is our hand-picked list of the hidden culinary gems, where you can eat like a local in Venice, including Murano and Burano islands.
Trattoria Corte Sconta
Well-known among locals and tourists alike for its exceptionally fresh seafood, Corte Sconta is a reliable choice for quintessential Venetian dining – relaxed, authentic, and always anchored in the seasonal fresh sea-to-table ingredients. Every early morning when the seafood market opens the cooks personally select the best catch and create the menu based on the freshest most flavorful seafood of the day. The seating and decor inside is no-frills, but the highlight of this restaurant is a vine-covered hidden courtyard (which gave it its name). The courtyard is a wonderful place to eat and enjoy when the weather is nice.
Calle del Pestrin, 3886, 30122 Castello, Venice, Italy
Situated in Castello district not too far from Piazza San Marco, Al Mascaron is a no-frills traditional Venetian Osteria, which for over 30 years has been a favorite place of local workers and fishermen. Al Mascaron’s symbol is a scary mask hanging above its door, and the osteria is so called thanks to the scary faces that were sculpted on the doors of the neighboring church to ward off evil spirits. Venetians have been gathering here to spend time in good company, drink lovely local wines, and have hearty meals of local specialties such as sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines), polenta, baccalà mantecato (creamed cod), linguini al nero di seppia (linguini in squid ink sauce), and many other traditional Venetian dishes. The decor is simple, rustic yet cozy, with wooden tables and chairs, and walls covered with Venetian-themed drawings of local and international artists. Al Mascaron tends to be busy, especially during the tourist season, yet oftentimes you can still get a table after a short wait, especially for early lunch or late dinner.
Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5225, 30122 Venice, Italy
Another gem in Castello district, this restaurant has a wonderfully romantic atmosphere and quiet candlelit elegance and features a canal view. The restaurant is situated in an ancient seven-hundred-year-old building and has been a favorite place for Venetians and tourists alike for over 60 years. When you arrive, you’ll be served a glass of fine local Prosecco, and will be able to choose from a good selection of traditional Venetian dishes, which are always fresh, flavorful, and authentic. The best-kept secret of this restaurant is a table for two that stands in the large window, which fully opens to the canal. If you are lucky enough to get that table, you will be literally seating a foot above the water, with an unobstructed view of two bridges, and amazing people-watching with all of Venice passing or floating by you.
Calle del Paradiso 5746 30122 Venice, Italy
Continuing a culinary tour of Venetian sestiere Castello, CoVino is one of the top choices in Venice for fresh and flavorful Italian cuisine creatively prepared and artfully presented. The menu is a 3-course prefix. There is a choice of several dishes for each course, which are crafted from only the best ingredients sourced from small Italian farms. The wine list is exceptionally good, featuring many unique selections from small vineyards, and even some great organic wines. It’s a tiny place with only a few tables, and the dishes are prepared right next to you, with the most appetizing gourmet smells filling the air. CoVino is the embodiment of the “slow food” concept, with only two seatings each evening. This is a must-try restaurant, but reservations are essential and should be made at least a week in advance.
Calle Pestrin Castello 3853 30122 Venice, Italy
Situated in a lively Venetian district of Cannaregio, Algiubagio exists in the same place since the 1950’s, when it was just a simple small neighborhood trattoria. Today the space is larger, brighter, and more sophisticated, with the atmosphere of elegance highlighted by beautiful Murano Glass Chandeliers. The menu has choices for all tastes, from fish and seafood to meat and vegetarian dishes, and cooking is a mix of traditional and contemporary influences. The restaurant is located on Fondamente Nove, the northern side of Venice, facing the Lagoon and the islands of San Michele and Murano. The bonus is a large wooden terrace above the water, where you can dine in warm weather and enjoy gorgeous views and fresh wind from the Lagoon. Even on colder days, you can often still sit on the terrace warmed up with the special heating lamps and reflect on the eternal beauty of Venice.
Fondamente Nuove, Cannaregio, 5039, 30125 Venezia Italy
Al Bottegon aka Cantine del Vino già Schiavi
Al Bottegon is not a restaurant but it’s a Venetian staple that cannot be missed. It’s an “Enoteca”, which means a wine bar. Here is Dorsorduro district across the Grand Canal from the hustle and bustle of Piazza San Marco life is more slow and authentic, and the locals often stop for a glass wine and cichetti and a chat on their way home from work or during an evening stroll. Along the walls of the long narrow room are bottles of wine stocked on floor-to-ceiling shelves. Here you can find wines from every region of Italy, very cheap and extremely expensive, very well-known and really rare, from all grape varieties and for all tastes. However, Al Bottegon is not merely a wine shop. Besides the wine, it serves a wide variety of Venetian cicchetti, or tiny open-faced sandwiches with Venetian and Italian delicacies, from fish and seafood to vegetables, cheeses, smoked and air-dried meats (“salumi”), and many other inventive and delicious options. The atmosphere is convivial and cheery. Patrons young and old from all walks of life typically stand inside with a glass of wine in hand or spill out into the street next to canal Rio San Trovaso to get fresh air and canal-view – a completely authentic Venetian experience.
Fondamenta Nani 992 Dorsoduro, 30123 Venice, Italy
Buso Alla Torre, Murano
A go-to place for those in the know on Murano island, Busa Alla Torre is a gem of a restaurant known as much for its wonderful cuisine, as for its owner, Gabriele or, affectinately, Lele. A big personality with a warm welcoming smile, Lele is omnipresent in his restaurant and likes to chat with the patrons while making sure that everybody is having a great time. Busa alla Torre is so called for its location on Campo Santo Stefano next to the famous Clock Tower or Torre del Orologio with the much-photographed huge blue Murano Glass comet at its foot. The restaurant is simple inside but its cuisine is sophisticated and refined, inspired by Lele’s love of gourmet Venetian food based on local fresh ingredients and seafood specialties from the Venetian Lagoon. A special draw is the piazza seating next to the Torre del Orologio and with a view of the canal, which the restaurant offers on warm days. Here you can have a wonderful light or hearty meal, stay for as long as you want, and watch Murano’s daily life unfold in front of you.
Campo S. Stefano, 3, 30141 Murano (Venice Italy)
Acqua Stanca, Murano
Unlike many other restaurant choices listed here, Acqua Stanca is a newer restaurant, opened in 2012 on Murano Island, where the old and the new mixes perfectly and where those in the know increasingly go for fine authentic dining at reasonable price. Frequented by the locals and resourceful tourists alike, this restaurant has beautiful boho-chic-meats-Venetian-tradition interior design artfully combining the warm appeal of wood and exposed brick, the sophistication of Murano Glass sculptures, and the toned down luster of old Murano Glass mirrors. The food is sheer delight, inventive and beautifully presented. The choices include the seafood delicacies from the Venetian Lagoon, such as the soft-shell crab, clams, and squid, perennial Italian favorites such as Mozzarella di Buffala, artichokes, tomatoes, and other vegetables, as well as a combination of traditional and modern touches in the pasta dishes.
Fondamenta Manin 48, 30141 Murano (Venice Italy)
Al Gatto Nero, Burano
If your travels take you to Burano island, be sure to visit this tried-and-true local favorite. Al Gatto Nero, or “The Black Cat” has been under the same ownership since 1965 and has earned its fame by serving the freshest Adriatic fish and seafood and a wide variety of traditional Venetian and Italian appetizers, complemented with an extensive list of hand-picked wines from Veneto, Friuli, Alto Adige and many other Italian wine-growing regions. The highlights of the menu include capesante (scallops), cannolicchi (razor clams), granseola (soft shell crab), and gamberi (small shrimps) and vongole (clams). The fritto misto (mixed fried seafood) may be the best option to try all of these seafood delicacies, but the menu is full of grilled, fried, and sauteed options for every taste. The location of this restaurant is unbeatable, not far from the ferry stop and right on the canal lined with colorful houses. You can dine inside or out, the latter being the best choice for people-watching. You’ll see tourists walking by and the Buranese going about their business, or sitting on benches and chatting, just the way it has been here for hundreds of years.
Via Giudecca, 88, 30142 Burano (Venice Italy)