Venice is one of those cities you have to visit in person. Today, it can be overcrowded, but it’s still a magical place. Come for the romatic canals and bridges, stay for the food. Here’s my guide on not only where to eat in Venice, but where to find the best cicchetti in Venice!
I nearly didn’t return to Venice. I had visited the floating city once back in 1996 on my very first trip to Europe after college. It was magical and mesmerizing. But after hearing repeatedly about the hordes of tourists that now clogged the tiny lanes and bridges (The city hosts up to 60,000 tourists per day) , I was turned off and pretty sure I did not want to return. I had already just returned to Rome for the fourth time, but actually had found more local pockets of the city which I enjoyed.
But my partner had never been and wanted to experience that magic that I once did. So I relented and I’m glad I did.
Venice is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. Part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the major reasons for such over-tourism is the massive cruise ships that dock here creating overcrowding and environmental problems for Venice’s ecosystem. An all out ban of the ships failed in 2013 and currently the local government is working on at least re-routing the ships to only dock on the mainland and not near the Grand Canal.
If I can tell you ONE simple tip to visiting Venice it would be to stay far from Rialto Bridge. That’s just what we did and it was mostly quiet and normal. We also visited in the shoulder season in October, which also helped.
We stayed in Cannaregio not far from a smaller canal-street called Fondamenta della Misericordia. This quieter district is now perhaps my favorite area of Venice. It felt more serene, more local, and nothing like being over on the main canal. It was relaxed and atmospheric. It didn’t seem touristy at all yet there are all these great, canal side little eateries with indoor and outdoor seating. In fact, the whole street is full of bars, restaurants, ice-cream shops and bakeries.
The best part? We were also near a string of cicchetti places…and of course, that was why I was really here!
What are Cicchetti?
So what are cicchetti (chi-ket-tee) ? Think of it like Italian tapas. They are very small plates of tiny taste bombs – things like crostini — a small toasted bread topped with anchovies or cheese or ham, tramezzini – little triangular sandwiches, or polpette — little fried meatballs. The good news is they are typically right under the counter in a glass case, so you can just see what makes you salivate, point, pay and eat! They are a few euros each and you can try a couple at one spot and then move on.
They are served everywhere but mainly in bacari, small, local casual wine bars and restaurants. You can eat them anytime of day…or night. So when you are thinking of where to eat in Venice…you should first think about where to find the best cicchetti in Venice!
I made it my mission to wander the main lanes and back alleys in search of Venice’s best cicchetti. Here’s what I found.
Best Cicchetti in Venice
A great place to start is on the Fondamenta della Misericordia. There are several places one right after the other, many with outdoor seating right along the small canal.
Vino Vero (Fondamenta Misericordia, Cannaregio 2497)
This small wine-bar offers natural, organic wines and gourmet crostini. Some of the little toasts are topped with octopus, or greens and anchovies or homemade baccalà (codfish). It’s lovely to sit outside just next to the canal with a fresh spritz sampling some of the best cicchetti in Venice.
Al Timon (Fondamenta dei Ormesini 2754)
Al Timon is a lovely wine bar, cicchetti, and meat restaurant. In summer, locals will be sitting on the wooden boat anchored just in front of it drinking their wine spritz.
Ai Promessi Sposi (Calle dell’Oca, Cannaregio 4367)
This is a typical Venetian tavern. Ai Promessi Sposi was recommended by a local. It’s a typical neighborhood joint with just a few tables. They have very good classic cicchetti and also good traditional cuisine for lunch or dinner.
Torrefazione Cannaregio (Fondamenta dei Ormesini 2804)
For a break from the food sampling, try Torrefazione Cannaregio, a great indy coffee shop (more modern than others), with tiny table areas and stools. They roast their own and also serve up delectable pastries and cakes.
Cantina Do Mori (Campo San Polo 429)
When thinking about where eat in Venice, this place is a must! One of the oldest cicchetti bars in Venice, Cantina Do Mori opened in 1462 as a cantina. It’s been a wine bar for last 80 years. The dark, woody interior still gives off an old vibe. It’s not far from Rialto bridge and typically crowded at peak times, but was empty when we were there late one afternoon.
Osteria all’Arco (Campo San Polo 436)
This is a popular authentic osteria for what some say is the best cicchetti in Venice. Open for more than a century, it’s located in the maze of narrow lanes behind Rialto fish market. They typically have a variety of about 30 cicchetti which rotate and change with the day’s ingredients.
Osteria Santa Giustina (Calle Seconda de la Fava 6553)
This newer, local wine bar is a welcoming spot. White-washed walls and wood-beamed ceiling welcome you inside. They offer up authentic little cicchetti in a friendly setting.
Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso (San Marco 5495)
Tucked away not far from Rialto, is Bacarando in Corte dell’Orso. Dark and cozy, they have a wide selection of tasty cicchetti.
I Rusteghi (Corte del Tentor 5513)
I Rusteghi is an intimate bacaro tucked away in a courtyard. You’ll find more than 450 types of mini panini filled with things like pate, truffles, smoked fish and pickled or roasted vegetables.
Basegò (San Polo 2863, Calle del Scaleter)
This new-school bacaro, offers a modern twist on cicchetti with fusions of sushi and even Mexican flavors. Even the décor is not the dark, cave-like atmosphere. White-plaster walls and natural wood make it bright and inviting.
Gelatoteca Suso (Calle della Bissa 5453)
Okay, it’s not cicchetti, but we had to stop here once we saw the enormous line snaking around the corner. Locally made and free of artificial colors, Suso has so many flavors, the hard part is just choosing.
Where to Eat in Venice (beyond cicchetti!)
Here are a few picks for some other good restaurants in Venice that are not necessarily bacaro, but often still serve some cicchetti. The majority on this list were recommended by Chef Debora of cuochincasa.com, a chef in Rome who was also our dinner host one night with EatWith.com.
Magazen (Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina, Cannaregio 5402)
This was my favorite little neighborhood place that we just came across zig-zagging our way back to our hostel one evening. The rustic yet cute place is small and cozy with just a handful of tables, whitewashed brick walls, and wood beams. Magazen serves up reasonably priced local wines, a mixed cicchetti plate and some pastas and fish. It felt just right.
Reccos from Chef Debora:
Osteria Da Rioba (Fondamenta Misericordia, 2553)
“My favorite restaurant in my favorite fondamenta (the foundations of Misericordia). In summer I recommend eating outside. It’s a lovely and special kitchen.”
La Zucca (San Croce, 1762)
“A wonderful vegetarian restaurant Venice (it also offers fish dishes). Delicious place, kitchen and area of Venice. It’s always busy, so book in advance!”
Antiche carampane (Rio Terà de le Carampane, 1911)
“One of the most highly-ranked Venetian restaurants for seafood. They take care with every detail. Also highly recommend reservations here.”
CoVino (Calle del Pestrin, 30122)
“In a tiny little alley in the Arsenal area; the owner is a young, extravagant, competent and son of another chef.”
Estro (Dorsoduro 3778 Crosera, Calle S. Pantalo)
(Tasting menus) “A small space, a well-curated wine menu, and creative cuisine. It’s run by young guys but with a very precise idea of quality.”
Spending more time in Venice and want to do more than eat?! Check out this great guide to things to do in Venice.
Where to Stay in Venice
Combo Venezia (Campo dei Gesuiti 4878)
We stayed in this former 12th-century monastery turned hostel in the Cannaregio district. The enormous place has a beautiful courtyard, back balcony on the canal and a cute little bar. It’s just a 5-minute walk from the Fondamenta Nove Vaporetto waterbus stop.
We had a decent yet spartan single room, which served its purpose just fine.
Venice Facts & Useful Information
Timezone: CET, Central European Time Zone (GMT+1)
Currency: European Euro (€)
ATM Withdrawal: For the best exchange rate, use an ATM (automated teller machine) at the airport and reputable banks to get money. Check wth your bank before your trip to make sure your card will work abroad, what fees will be charged ($2-5 fees are typically on both ends), and also what the daily max withdrawal might be.
*TIP*: Be careful at ATMs – best to use ones indoors and if possible try to make sure there isn’t an ATM skimmer attached on it. Check card slot for any removable parts and always cover keypad with your hand when typing your code.
Credit Cards: Credit cards are accepted at most stores and restaurants. Some smaller, independent shops may only accept cash.
Language: Italian is the local language although most people, especially in the hospitality industry, speak a decent amount of English. It is always good to learn a few words in Italian.
- Hello = Buongiorno or Ciao
- Thank you = Grazie
- You’re Welcome = Prego
- Do you speak English: Parla Inglese?
- Yes = Si
- No = No
Electricity: In Italy the standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. USA appliances are 110V, so make sure your chargers are all rated for 110-220 as most are. But be careful of things like hair dryers, shavers, etc., these are usually not and you’d need a voltage converter to use. Outlets are the European-style two-pin round plugs, so you will need an inexpensive adaptor to plug anything in.
Internet Access: Most hotels and many restaurants offer free WiFi. For data and/or making calls, I advise you to get a local SIM card. Verify with your type of phone (GSM or CDMA) before leaving home. In the United States, Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular use CDMA. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Most of the rest of the world uses GSM.
Seat 61 – Thorough Info on Train Travel
Trainline.com – Buy train tickets online here!
Rome2Rio.com – Great maps showing routes and also ticketing option