Sure, the city of canals is filled with fancy, creative, and unique restaurants. Translation? Watch your wallet! Here, the author of the best-selling Eat Venice app shares the locals-only lowdown on where you'll eat extremely well—and affordably!—in between gondola rides. PLUS: An easy recipe that lets you bring a taste of Venice to your kitchen any time!
Osteria da Alberto
Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina (just before the bridge)
Alberto is simply an unassuming, relaxed restaurant located between Campo San Giovanni e Paolo and my favorite church in Venice, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli. It's not new, and you're not going to find any modern twists on classics. Instead—especially if you go at lunch—you're likely to find regulars (tourists and well as locals) tucking into heaping plates of the daily pasta.
Fondamenta al Ponte Piccolo 448
The island of the Giudecca, though easy to get to, remains firmly off the beaten tourist track. One of the best ways to enjoy it is to stop by La Palanca for lunch. Make sure you reserve though, since it's always full of locals. Perched at the edge of the Fondamenta al Ponte Piccolo, the views out over towards the Zattere are like sitting within a Canaletto. Recent daily specials included linguine with local carciofi violetti and big, firm chunks of coda di rospo (monkfish). Perfectly cooked pasta, with massive amounts of both fish and artichokes. And their special: linguine al nero di seppie, They don't do dinner, but you can stop by for great cichetti and a glass of wine.
Trattoria la Rampa
Via Garibaldi (right in front of the market boat)
The Holy Grail in Venice—at least for foodies—is finding that little hidden away place where locals go. In a city like Venice—which makes its living from the hoards of tourists who come here each year - these simple places are a dying breed. But Trattoria alla Rampa is the exception. The small restaurant, with a hand painted sign outside, is located in an area of Venice where few tourists venture. Just north of the Biennale gardens, the small streets leading off of the wide Via Garibaldi are hung with laundry belonging to the mostly working class families that live here. La Rampa opens its doors at 5 a.m. Yes. You read that right. They open that early because that is when the men who live in this neighborhood - police men, firemen, garbage men and other workers - head off for the day. They stop by La Rampa for a quick breakfast and the place remains open for the rest of the day until just after lunch.
Castello San Lio 6014
This little baccaro is a good stop for both cichetti (of which they have a lot of) or else a real sit down meal. Like a real baccaro the place opens in the morning, at 10:30. If you just need your first ombra of the day, that's fine. But if you're feeling in need of a snack, the selection is terrific. Go up to the counter, and choose yourself. The top shelf is taken over mostly with thick crostini topped with things like bacala, sardines, anchovies, tuna and salami. If you want to be truly Venetian, stop by at the end of the day, before dinner, for a glass of wine and a few cichetti. It's all cheap and cheerful, paper plates and plastic glasses.
Fondamento Cannaregio, Cannaregio 652B
Be prepared to sit back and enjoy whatever comes to the table at this very rustic trattoria, in Cannareggio, not far from the train station. . It will either be "meat night" or "fish night," but that's about all you'll be told in advance. At lunch time this place fills up with workers: gondoliers, construction workers, etc. Big portions of hearty and filling home style cooking. At night things are a bit more sedate, with multi course meals being enjoyed by tourists as well as locals.
Ready to bring home a taste of Venice? Try this slightly adventurous but super-easy recipe:
Spaghetti con Nero di Seppia
One of the iconic dishes of Venice, the easiest way to make it is to buy squid ink packaged and ready to go.
For 4 to 5 servings:
About 1 pound of squid cut into small pieces
1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves sliced
1 pepperoncino crushed
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 tomatoes without the skin and seeds puree (pomodori pelati)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound spaghetti
Heat olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet until hot but not smoking. Saute garlic and pepperoncino, stirring, until fragrant (gold) about 30 seconds. I discard the garlic pieces or I leave in a couple of pieces.
Add squid pieces and saute, stirring one minute. Add the wine and let simmer for two minutes (stirring). Cover and let simmer until squid is tender, then remove pan from heat.
In a small bowl, empty packaged squid ink. Add two tablespoons water and stir the mixture. Add this mixture to the pan while stirring (let the pan cool before adding the mixture because it may solidify). Add the pureed tomatoes, cover, and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Add the parsley a few minutes before the end of cooking.
When the pasta is cooked and drained keep 1/3 cup of water just in case the squid sauce is dry. Add the pasta to the pan and stir, adding a bit of the pasta water as well. Serve immediately with crusty bread and a fresh green salad.