Discover the primary story told in the 12th century mosaics that decorate Venice’s St Mark’s Basilica. Approach Guides founder, David Raezer, walks through the most important images from the church’s mosaic domes, pointing out key features, figures and symbols.
Venice is one of the most architecturally rich, varied, and exceptionally well-preserved cities in the world, but given the high number of tourists visiting the city every day, the restaurants in Venice can really be hit-or-miss. Nevertheless, the best restaurants in Venice offer up some of the best food in Italy.
Top Local Foods to Order in Venice
Seafood is definitely the way to go in Venice. We have pulled out some of our favorite local foods that are typically Venetian. For more tips on the local cuisine, check out our Italian food guide.
- Seppie: cuttlefish, which is basically squid, but a little larger, and with darker ink.
- Cappelunghe: razor shell clams.
- Canestrelli: Venetian scallops.
- Moeche: tiny soft shell crabs, usually fried.
- Branzino: sea bass.
- Razza: ray/skate – although we enjoy this dish (pan sautéed) in the States, sadly, we never found the dish to be appealing in Venezia.
The Wine of Venice
The Veneto produces some excellent wines. However, while we would certainly recommend going with the Veneto’s signature sparker, prosecco (particularly from the Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOC), the region’s vast and impressive red wine repertoire is not going to work with Venice’s seafood-based cuisine. Since the Veneto’s whites are generally disappointing (based on the trebbiano and garganega varieties), we would suggest looking to the nearby Friuli region. Friuli’s whites are probably the best in Italy. Look for the wines based on the friulano, sauvignon, ribolla gialla grape varieties. Keep in mind that the wines from the Collio and Collio Orientali DOC zones set the standard for the region.
If you are traveling to Italy, consider downloading our wine guide app for the iPhone, iPad or iTouch. You will learn all you need to know about Italian wines and be able to order with confidence in a restaurant or a lcoal wine shop. In addition, the app never requires an internet connection so you don’t risk using an expensive international data plan.
- Antiche Carampane. Rio Terra Rampani (San Polo) 041/524-0165. Great seafood, focused on home-style preparation with high quality ingredients. Excellent, slightly out of the way place for dinner, with a solid friendly staff and a classy, casual atmosphere. Best overall. Antiche Carampane is a great experience, one of our favorite in Italy. Closed Sunday and Monday.
- Alle Testiere. 5801 Calle del Mondo Novo (Castello). tel 041/522 7220. Excellent seafood restaurant. Good food, cool vibe, and the best wine list. The most elegant dining of all of the restaurants on this list. The only negative is that the seafood can be a bit over-prepared, meaning that the sauces can sometimes overwhelm the more delicate flavors of the seafood. Only 9 tables, so you have to reserve. 2 seatings: 7:30 and 9:30. Closed Sunday and Monday.
- Al Covo. Campiello della Pescheria (Castello). 041/522 3812. Delicious, very high quality Venetian seafood. Right up there with Antiche Carampane and Alle Testiere, however, we would argue that the energy level and feel are superior at the other two. Further, prices here are at least 10-20% higher than the other restaurants. However, this is the best option for dining on a Sunday or Monday, when the other top two are closed (Al Covo is closed Tuesday and Wednesday).
- La Corte Sconta. (Calle del Prestin, Castello, 3886. Near the Arsenale. tel. 041-522-7024; closed Sunday and Monday; also from 7 January to 7 February, and from 15 July to 15 August. ). An old-school seafood-oriented trattoria, that has a slightly simpler décor than the others on the list (tables topped with butcher paper and red napkins); the seafood quality is like Antiche Carampane and Alle Testiere, but it is more casual and offers simpler preparations. They base their daily menu on whatever the Chioggia fish market has to offer. We do find the service rushed, a bit pushy and prices (food and wine) higher than its peers. Although still a good dining experience, the food is the weakest of the top three.
Get the Guidebook!
Since the founding of the Venetian Republic in 697, it fought to preserve its status as an independent trading center bridging East and West. Explore St. Mark’s Basilica, both a symbol of and justification for the city’s greatness.
In this episode of our Insights series, Jennifer Raezer, Approach Guides founder, explores the eastern influences that shaped the art and architecture of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy, highlighting the church’s domes, floorplan, and mosaics, which were influenced by Venice’s interaction with the Byzantine (Constantinople/Istanbul) and Fatimid (Cairo) empires.
After spending the day touring Venice and exploring its St. Mark’s beautiful architecture and mosaics, relax with the locals at a Venetian wine bar and enjoy an aperitivo of cichetti and ombre.
What to order in an Italian Wine bar
Cichetti (chi-KEHT-tee) are the bite-sized “Italian” brethren of tapas (basically, small snacks). Some of the most popular cichetti include salumi (especially soppressata and prosciutto di San Daniele); crostini topped with baccala (salted cod) and alici (anchovies); and cheeses such as piave, a local cow’s milk cheese similar to parmigiano-reggiano.
Ombre (OHM-bray) are small glasses of wine (ombre translates as “shadow”, apparently where the Venetians traditionally drank the wine). We suggest sticking to the local wines while in Venice, such as a sparkling white prosecco from the Valdobiadenne DOC or a smooth, medium-bodied red from the Valpolicella DOC.
Best wine bars in Venice
Wine bars in Venice are also known as cichetteria. These are some of our favorites:
- Al Marca (Campo Cesare Battisti, near the fish market, just off the Rialto bridge in San Polo). Perhaps our favorite in the city. Good for wine, aperitifs (try the local favorite: spritz con Aperol or Campari), and mini sandwiches with wine in the evening and coffee in the morning. Stand outside in the campo with the rest of the crowd — this bar is just a hole in the wall place.
- La Cantina, 3689 Strada Nuova, Cannaregio; (39-041) 522 8258. Open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday. Very good place, with good wines and probably the best tasty small plates of meats and seafood.
- I Rusteghi. Campiello del Tentor San Marco; 041/523 2205. Just off the Rialto bridge and right around the corner from Alle Botte in the corner of a small campo, it’s a little more upscale than Alle Botte and its less busy atmosphere allows for interactions with the family behind the bar. Drinks and small sandwiches. The frizzante rose is worth a try.
- Banco Giro, 122 Campo San Giacometto, San Polo; (39-041) 523 2061. In summer, open 10:30 a.m. to midnight. Closed Sunday night and all day Monday. Good place, very laid-back and usually not too busy. You can find this bar behind the markets on the right side immediately after you descend from the Rialto Bridge. Banco Giro also serves sit-down dinners in the quaint upstairs.
Explore Venice’s Distinctive Culture
Perhaps no other single monument better embodies the city in which it stands. As the source of the Venetian Republic’s legitimacy, St. Mark’s Basilica increasingly became the symbol of its accrued economic, political, and military strength.
Each region of Italy has local specialties and distinct culinary traditions, and Venice and the surrounding Veneto region offer some of the best. Some of our favorite regional dishes listed in this Guide to the Regional Foods of Italy, include baccala (salted cod), polenta (boiled cornmeal), salumi (especially soppressata and prosciutto di San Daniele), and risi e bisi (rice with peas).