Eating Out In Venice

There are so many good reasons to visit Venice. History, architecture, art, the waterways....oh and of course, the food. As a self-confessed foodie much of my research before my recent visit was around what and where to eat.

Venice fruit market, Rialto Market #withGalaxy

I was only in the famous Italian city for three days with my husband, son, the FDiL (Future daughter in law) and four friends as a treat for my 50th birthday, but I was determined to make the most of it.

Just a short time after arriving and checking into our hotel our party headed towards the Grand Canal where we selected a waterside restaurant, Cafe Saraceno on Riva del Vin, at random like a gang of naive first time tourists instead of the seasoned travellers we all are.

Cafe Saraceno, Rialto Bridge, Venice

It was such a beautiful spot in the sunshine however that we ignored all our knowledge about not eating in touristy areas, outside or sitting down (to avoid the price being ramped up vastly) and ended up spending €25 a head for one alcoholic drink, bottled water and a selection of shared platters.

To be fair my alcoholic drink was a cocktail and the platter of continental meat, bread and olives I shared with my husband was the perfect light lunch after a busy morning but still...

continental meat platter, Venice

madmumof7 and friend in Venice with cocktail at Grand Canal cafe

My friends (one of them sitting next to me in the pic above) were braver than us and opted for the dubiously named "tepid seafood platter" which turned out to be a lovely selection of seafood, again served with a selection of beautiful bready items.

After lunch all went our separate ways in couples for a while to explore. Me and my husband took the opportunity to try a Venetian speciality we had heard about- takeaway fried fish and seafood in a cone. We got ours from the dubiously named Fried Land tucked down a side street, Calle Dei Fiori just off Strada Nova.

Venetian street food, fried fish cone from Fried Land, Venice

The takeaway was tiny, with only room really for two or three people to wait for their takeaway and nowhere to sit in and eat.

However at just €6 for a generous portion of whole battered prawns, white fish and calamari  topped with a slice of lemon, and with a choice of sauces to squirt over the fried goodies this is a real treat, especially eaten canal-side in warm Italian sunshine as we did.  Fried Land serves takeaway pasta dishes too and everything is freshly cooked and delicious.

When it came to dinnertime we were all exhausted after an early start at the airport so we chose a mid-range restaurant, Ristorante Pasqualigo, just a short distance from our hotel on Strada Nova.

One of our group has to avoid gluten and this restaurant could cater for her and since we were away from the main tourist drag the prices were lower than places closer to the Rialto bridge and St Mark's Square.

Interestingly Italians offer a wide range of gluten free foods and restaurants offering gluten free options were quite plentiful. The supermarkets we popped into offered gluten free options too ranging from sandwiches to beer.

gluten free ice cream and cone, From, Venice

The FDiL was particularly excited by the gluten free ice cream and cones from GROM  which has outlets across Venice. We found there were dairy free choices too. She ate many, many ice creams.

Anyway, I digress. Back to Ristorante Pasqualigo.

We sat outside perusing the menu then our waiter strolled out with a live lobster in his hands. He proudly told us how fresh the crustacean was and then, bizarrely, informed us the lobster's name was Fernando!

We declined his kind offer to cook our new friend Fernando who was plonked back on his icy bed. Some time later we heard a "clonk" and spotted that Fernando had made a break for freedom and had made it to the restaurant floor where he was frantically scuttling towards the door and freedom.

Sadly the waiter spotted him and once again he was returned to the ice bar. As we left we saw he had shuffled himself to the edge again - I like to imagine he got down and away unseen and made it to the nearby seawater canal.

Fernando the lobster, Venice

Our meal passed in a blur of chat, wine and laughter as we watched the world wander by. Our visit coincided with the start of the Biennale Art Exhibition, an international showcase of art, so there were plenty of interestingly dressed people walking past.

Breakfast was provided by our hotel (Hotel Tintoretto) albeit in a room out of the actual hotel only accessed by walking through reception, out in to the street and into the next square along. An unmarked black door proved to be the entrance adding to the feeling that holidaying in Venice is an exciting adventure.

Breakfast consisted of the expected continental offerings - salami, ham, cheese, croissants and breakfast rolls. There was also a choice of cereals, cake and of course coffee and fruit juices. I admit I ate far too many of the croissants which were topped with crunchy cubes of sugar.

Tables near the window had a canalside view and the rest of the room (which at night transforms into a cool little bar) was lined with rather interesting paintings. We call this one "Girl with Cat on Head."

painting, breakfast room Hotel Tintoretto, Venice

For lunch we decided to grab a quick budget friendly lunch and opted for a cheeky McDonald's. I know, I know but we like Mcdonald's and always enjoy checking out what different products are on sale in other countries.

My husband was delighted to discover he could order dirty fries and there was a selection of local beers available to go with his lunch.

McDonald's dirty fries, Venice, Italy

 I opted for a portion of barbecued chicken wings which you cannot get in the UK. (Sort it out Mcdonald's!)

The other reason we chose McDonald's is because they offer a burger in a gluten free bun which delighted the FDiL who usually has to eat a deconstructed burger served in a pancake box with no bun.

We sat outside but what we didn't realise is that your McDonald's meal in Venice comes with a compulsory side order of aggressive pigeons. Probably because some idiots feed them, they prey on unsuspecting tourists acting in a spookily organised fashion launching sudden and seemingly coordinated attacks scavenging food practically out of your hands.

Passing tourists actually took photos as the FDiL leapt from her seat protecting her precious GF burger from the marauding birds. The rest of us tried clapping and shooing motions but these are seasoned thieves and it took actually physical contact to get them off the table.

pigeons on tray at McDonald's Venice

My son lifted the tray they were standing on and they held on for dear life. Grudgingly I felt they'd almost deserved the few chips they pinched given their levels of bravery and dedication to the raid.

Saturday night felt like a good excuse to up our game so we headed across the canal from our hotel further into the  Cannaregio area (16th century Jewish quarter ) where it's cheaper and it feels more authentically Venetian with lots of locals out for their evening "spritz" or as we call it, Aperol Spritz.

Wandering along the Ormesini canal soaking up the atmosphere it was really difficult to choose from the many lovely characterful restaurants so we ended up at one where my friends had enjoyed a drink earlier in the day. Turned out it was a venue The Guardian, Forbes and other prestigious publications have previously highlighted as one of the places to eat in Venice. We only found this out after our visit.

Al Timon Brogozzo on Fondamenta degli Ormensi is hugely popular with locals to drink, enjoy the Venetian evening ritual of eating tapas style cicchetti made up of small plates of tasty food, or like us, a more substantial meal.

We sat outside drinking and enjoying the lively atmosphere along the canal for a short while until a table became available and then enthusiastically agreed to a tasting menu suggested by the chef, possibly rather foolishly not asking how much it was going to cost!

The menu our waiter described sounded so delicious we couldn't resist it. My friends had decided to make this my 50th birthday celebration meal so it was lovely to be able to enjoy something really special.

seafood platter, Al Timon, Venice
We had baskets of breadsticks and sliced bread along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar then embarked on three courses of Italian loveliness including beautifully presented fresh seafood, more Venetian fried fish and seafood in a slightly more upmarket bowl this time, chargrilled vegetables and the most delicious risotto (mushroom) that I have ever eaten.

Fried fish platter Al Timon, Venice

It ended up costing around €60 each including quite a lot of good wine - a bargain for a fabulous night none of us will ever forget.

We rescued the budget the next day by shopping for lunch in the most spectacular minimart I've ever been in, buying packaged sandwiches, snacks and drinks for the day ahead as we had a day touring the islands via waterbus planned.

DESPAR (part of the SPAR group) is based in the former Teatro Italia building on Calle de le Pignate, a former cinema which has been sympathetically restored so shoppers can admire fabulous frescoes and gorgeous ceilings.

DESPAR Teatro Italia building, Venice

The lighting and storage in the store has been designed to protect the artwork and there's a gallery upstairs used for exhibitions.

Unlike many of Venice's historic building this one's free to enter and you can pick up local salami, olive oil and balsamic vinegar at great prices while you are there.

The clue to eating out well at a decent price in Venice is to shop around and be prepared to move out of the most densely populated tourist areas. Avoid anywhere with picture menus, look for signs which say they include cover charge and be prepared to pay a lot more for a view or music.

Bear in mind an Aperol Spritz can vary in price from €3.50-€12 depending where you buy it and coffee can range from  €1.50-€10. Everything is generally cheaper if you are prepared to stand up - we found a fabulous little bar, Al Pesador Osteria on Calle Del Scaleter near the Rialto Market, with a  fantastic view of the Grand Canal.

Peach Bellini and Tequila Sunrise in Venice

We enjoyed cocktails (including Venice's most famous Peach Bellinis) and coffee for four for under €20, just because we chose to stand resting our elbows on a high bar next to the window rather than sit at a table. The Osteria had an amazing range of cakes, pastries and macarons too.

You'll notice I didn't mention eating pizza. There's a lot of places selling pizza by the slice and calzone out of hatches and they are great if you are starving and want a cheap bite on the hoof, but for safety reasons wood fired ovens are largely banned in Venice so you don't get that extra special flavour.

I hear there is one restaurant with a wood fired oven but have no idea how they avoided the ban! The pizzas obviously are not made fresh to order from the takeaways so if you must have pizza wait to have one that is at least freshly cooked in a restaurant. However with seawater all around you I'd opt for fish and seafood instead.

Fishmonger at Rialto Market, Venice

Also don't miss cannoli, tasty tubes of fried pastry dough filled with flavoured creamy fillings,  normally containing ricotta cheese.

Cannoli and Italian PastriesCannoli, Venice

You can also pick up tubes of ready-mixed risotto and pasta flavourings and dried pasta in all shapes, sizes, flavours and colours.

coloured dried pasta in Venice

Rissotto and pasta flavourings, Rialto Market, Venice

Lucky enough to have self catering facilities?  Don't miss the fruit, veg and fish markets near the Rialto bridge. Worth a visit just to enjoy the atmosphere and to admire the beautiful fresh produce.

fruit at Rialto Market, Venice, Italy

Fishmonger, Rialto Market, Venice

Fancy a luxurious gift for the foodie in your life or a treat to take home? Head to  the stunning department store, Fondaco dei Tedeschi, beautifully restored historic building just a few steps from the Rialto Bridge where you can taste test and buy gorgeous chocolate, oils, vinegars and more. 

Stop for a coffee in the uber-chic coffee bar and don't forget to head to the top floor where there are screens for you to book a slot to view the city from the rooftop terrace - it's free but books up very quickly. It's also weather dependant and was closed due to rain when our slot came round.

Apologies for the longer than usual post - I hope it's useful for anyone heading to this stunning, historic city. You can read more about visiting Venice in my post about how to get to and around the city.

NB: Most of the pictures in the post were taken using the fabulous Samsung Galaxy S10 which was loaned to me by ThreeUK for this trip. #WithGalaxy #ad