Where to eat in Venice

For all its extraordinary charms, Venice is not a serious food town.  There are many explanations for this but it does not help the cause that Venice has been a tourist haven for centuries and the overwhelming majority of customers eat and leave, never to be seen again.  To be sure, there are real, working sections of Venice protected by the confusion of blind alleys and obstructing canals, which keep a large fraction of the tourist traffic on the few sign-marked through streets.  But the sheer pressure of numbers means information disseminates quickly and the chance of the secret neighborhood eatery staying either secret or neighborhood for very long is close to zero.  As a result, the same small cluster of well-known names — Da Fiore, Ca’ d’Oro, Alla Zucca, Alle Testiere, etc — are passed around with a wink and a hush as if the hidden Venice is being revealed.

If there are any truly great unknown restaurants to be found in Venice I did not find them.  But distinguishing the known and worthy from the known and undeserving is no small part of eating well, so here are a few that proved themselves worthy on a visit in November 2010.

DA RIOBA

Situated on a particularly sincere stretch of waterfront in Cannaregio, Da Rioba is unexpectedly good and the place I returned again and again when I was unprepared to risk (almost inevitable) disappointment elsewhere.

Cannaregio 2553, Fondamenta della Misericordia

Telephone: 041 524 4379

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I RUSTEGHI

The improbable location redoubles its charm: you wouldn’t think a bacaro of such quality and unselfconscious authenticity could exist in such close proximity to the Rialto bridge.

San Marco 5513, Corte del Tentor 5513

Telephone: 041 523 22 05

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BACARETO DA LELE

Granted, just a student bacaro (small even by bacaro standards, hence the diminutive in the name) with tasty panini and cute little sip-sized wine glasses but it overflows onto a particularly beautiful piazza — these are Venetian students, after all — and is preferable in almost every way to, say, Cantinone (già Schiavi).

183 Santa Croce, Campo dei Tolentini

Don’t bother to phone them, it’s too busy for them to pick up.

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