Eating Out in Italy: Venice and Its Cuisine

Eating out in Venice can be a very unsatisfying experience for the casual traveler. With a local population of only 60.000 people and several millions tourists to feed each year, most restaurant owners in Venice couldn't care less if you feel ripped-off when it comes the time to pay the bill. Fortunately this attitude, while not uncommon, is not generalized. There are still some 'local' places to eat, and it is possible to eat a good meal while paying prices that are only slightly higher than elsewhere in Italy.

To get a truly Italian experience it is always best to eat where locals eat. This means that the menu will be written only in Italian and you are expected to know what all of the items on the menu are. You should also keep in mind that Venice is a popular destination for Italians as well as foreigners. If you see a crowd of Italian speaking people seating outside of a restaurant, do not assume they are 'locals'. Chances are they are tourists just like you.

As a quick rule of thumb: you should avoid all the places where a 'tourist menu' is advertised as well as those with pictures of the food on the outside. Waiters in bow ties or who tout for customers outside the door are also warning signs. Wine prices are another useful indicator. In an average restaurant you'd expect to find house wine (vino della casa) listed by the quarter and half-liter. Half of a liter should only cost something like 5 Euros. Watch out if they only serve bottles of wine at 20 Euros and above.

Although Venice is not considered to be one of the capitals of the Italian cuisine, it is nearly impossible for a traveler to miss one of the most rewarding holiday experiences: enjoying a good meal in a truly unique surrounding. At the very least, an evening meal represents an opportunity to refuel after a day full of activities. Being in Venice, you have to do your homework. Search the Internet for comments coming from people that has already been in Venice or ask a local contact if you know someone you can trust. Booking ahead is always a good idea, especially for evening meals, at busy times like summer weekends, and if you want a special table.

As for the various kind of food establishments, Venice is no different from the rest of Italy. A 'ristorante' generally indicates an upscale establishment, while a 'trattoria' is a more humble, traditional eatery, serving simple filling dishes. A pizzeria is a place where you can eat pizza; not really a specialty in Venice although there are a couple of decent pizza places. An 'osteria' (or ostaria) is similar to a trattoria, but with a slant towards drinking: instead of a full meal, you might have some wine along with a plate of food or a lighter snack. Like the osteria, a Venetian 'bacaro' offers a chance to eat some food in a less formal context. The busy Venetians frequently eat quickly and lightly, selecting snacks called 'cicchetti' from a display at the counter, then eating them standing or seated on stools.

In Venice restaurants (but this is true for the rest of Italy as well) you should expect to pay as much as 2 Euros per person on top of the price of what you have ordered. This is called 'coperto' and it accounts for the table dressing and the small basket of bread you will be provided. A few restaurants also add on up to 12% as an additional service charge although this is unusual and should be stated in the price list. Italians tend to tip a few euros rather than the 10% or more which is common elsewhere: However, there is no strict rule about tipping and in family-run restaurants where you are served by the proprietors it is common not to tip at all.

As you may expect, in Venice you will find a lot of seafood and lagoon fish on offer. 'Polenta', a coarse ground cornmeal generally made into a mush-like porridge, is a regional specialty, often served with fish, meat, mushrooms or 'gorgonzola' cheese. Seasonal specialties include peas and 'radicchio', both of which used in the preparation of rice based dishes ('risotto'). Pasta is not as widely used as it is in other Italian regions but there are a few typical recipes like 'bigoli in salsa' (thick homemade spaghetti in anchovy sauce). Other local dishes you might see on a menu include 'sarde in saor' (marinated sweet and sour sardines), 'castraure' (baby artichokes), 'seppie in nero' (cuttlefish in its ink), 'granseola' (spider-crab), 'fegato alla veneziana' (calf's liver with onions) and 'carpaccio' (thin-sliced raw beef). Desserts are not usually terribly good in Venice - typically the choice is something like dry local Burano cookies, panna cotta or tiramis?r />

The area around Rialto is chock full of eating places and the most popular food shops and bars are here as well. Needless to say, this is also the area where most tourists use to gather. If you are adventurous enough to wander around, you may be rewarded. Venice lies on an a small island so you really can't get lost and chances are you will bump into the thriving little 'baccaro' where you can get a plate of assorted appetizers for less than 10 euros. Quite often you won't find tables in there and no waiter service as well, so simply go to the counter, have some snacks and a glass of wine, and enjoy the taste of the hidden Venice.

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Hotel venice airport said...

Venice is such a great place for travelling. I hope you enjoyed the food ;)

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