We really love visiting Italy, however, it’s one country that has perfected the art of separating a tourist from his/her money, and Venice is one city where you’ll really feel the drain on your wallet. While here, you’ll get hit the hardest in restaurants and hotels. So, to help alleviate some of the strain on your budget, we’ve put together a list of decent eateries as well as a few tips on how to minimize costs and hopefully avoid getting ripped off.
In general, sit-down restaurants throughout Italy charge a coperto or ‘cover’ charge, a per person fee for getting to sit at a table; some places call this the ‘bread charge’, for the little basket of bread they put on your table and for which you’ll pay regardless of whether you eat from it. And in Venice there are plenty of places that charge an inflated coperto, which when added to the already high prices, means you’ll probably pay too much for a meal that’s not really worth it. So, keeping in mind that a high cost menu won’t necessarily buy you a good meal, we’ve searched out some of the cheaper eats in the city.
To avoid the coperto of a sit-down restaurant, look for places that have stand-up tables or bars, or even places with meals you can take to go. Some of the best of these are the ciccheterias, places that serve cicchetti – small bites of various items like marinated vegetables, fish, olives, cheese, meatballs, and small sandwiches. These are very similar to the tapas and pintxos in Spain, and are usually ordered and eaten at the bar as an accompaniment to a small glass of wine.
Venice may not offer the culinary experience you expect in Italy, but there are a few places to consider for cheap and decent meals. Here are our top picks:
Pasta to Go
Dal Moro’s Pasta to Go (formerly Alfredo’s) – This is an interesting and very tiny pasta shop known for their fresh, homemade pastas, served ‘to go’ with your choice of sauce (menu items are known to change). Here’s how it works:
1. Choose your sauce (meat or vegetarian, spicy or mild)
2. Choose your pasta
3. Pay for your order
4. Wait while they prepare your meal
5. Listen for them to call your ticket number
6. Pick up your order inside at the counter or outside at the handy pick-up window
7. Search out a bench or canal wall where you can sit to enjoy your hefty carton of pasta, or join the group that’s probably already outside leaning against the passage wall.
We ordered the orecchiette with zoccola (chicken bolognese and green olives) and rigatone with panna e prosciutto (cream and ham). The pastas and sauces were okay, the portions were generous, and the prices were fair. Note: At the time of our visit Dal Moro’s was called Alfredo’s Pasta to Go. We hope the change in ownership/management hasn’t changed the quality and service. Dal Moro’s Pasta to Go is located at Calle de la Casseleria 5324, about 3 minute’s from St. Mark’s Basilica.
Rosticceria San Bartolomeo – this cafeteria-style restaurant, located near the Rialto Bridge, has a wide variety of dishes on offer. We stopped in for a quick snack, late in the day, and much of what was displayed didn’t look all that appealing, so we opted for the very inexpensive, yet tasty and piping hot mozzarella in carrozza con acciuga (fried cheese and tuna croquette). If you find yourself in the area, this fried ‘pie’ is perfect for a quick and cheap snack. Rosticceria San Bartolomeo can be found at Calle della Bissa, 5424 (San Marco).
Boutique del Gelato
Chocolate and Amarino Cherry
Chocolate and Banana
Ricotta-Pear and Vanilla
La Boutique del Gelato – Most gelaterias are tourist traps serving poor quality, overpriced gelato, but this one is the real thing and it’s very popular with the locals. It was by far our best dessert experience in Venice. We stopped by late in the evening for an after dinner treat and there were no lines. The place doesn’t look like much, but their gelato is really good and the portions are generous. La Boutique del Gelato is located at Salizzada San Lio (5727 Castello), about 5 minute’s from the Rialto Bridge.
Ca d’Oro Alla Vedova
Osteria Ca d’oro (alla Vedova) – This is a popular neighborhood eatery. We stopped by just to try the fried meatballs (served at the cicchetti bar just inside the entrance). Lightly battered and fried, these were not like any meatballs we’ve had in the U.S. and they were very good! An added plus, at 1€ each for the meatballs and little glasses of wine, they made a really good cheap eat. Since we didn’t dine in the restaurant, we can’t vouch for their full menu, but we can vouch for these polpette fritte. Service is brusque, so it helps to be decisive when ordering. Ca d’oro is located just off of Strada Nuova (Cannareggio, 3912 on the map), a 15-minute walk from our recommended hotel.
Cantine do Mori
Cicchetti & Vino
Cantina Do Mori – A cute little place with historical ambience (Casanova is said to have been a frequent customer) serving decent cicchetti at moderate prices. Do Mori, featured on Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’, is located a short distance from the Rialto Bridge, but off the beaten tourist path, and hidden in a maze of alleyways. There are two entrances at opposite ends of the dining room; one on Calle Galiazza and one on Calle Do Mori. Find Cantina do Mori on the map at Sestiere San Polo, 429.
Cantine del Vino Già Schiavi
Making our Sandwiches
Panini and Wine
Enoteca Cantine del Vino Gia Schiavi – We found this nice cicchetti/vino bar to have the best variety, highest quality, and lowest prices. They have a great selection of cicchetti, but for a really good value and more filling option, try one of their simple sandwiches, made right in front of you (price with a small glass of wine = ~5€). We enjoyed the panini con porchette (pork roast with garlic and mustard) and the panini con baccala (a creamy spread traditionally made with salt cod), both served on crusty bread rolls. You can enjoy your meal standing inside, or alfresco, standing or sitting canal-side (they’ll even give you a to-go cup for your wine). Gia Schiavi is located at S. Trovaso 992, (992 Dorsoduro). You’ll know when you’ve found it, just look for the clusters of diners standing/leaning/sitting along the canal wall.
Black Pasta with Seafood
Spaghetteria-Pizzeria 6342 a le Tole – We chose this place for its location right around the corner from our recommended hotel, and for a sit-down meal in Venice, it was better than we expected and the service was good. Certainly not cheap, but not a complete rip-off either, and though not too impressive taste-wise, it wasn’t bad. We tried the ravioli carciofi con ricotta (ricotta stuffed black ravioli with red mullet sauce) and the spaghetti neri (black spaghetti with scallops and asparagus); both dishes were rather artistically presented. Find 6342 a le Tole at 6342 a le Tole in the Castello neighborhood.
InCoop Supermercato – Conveniently located just steps from the vaporetto stop at Ospedale and our recommended hotel, this supermarket is a great place to stock up on picnic items in preparation for a day spent island hopping. The deli in InCoop has cold cuts, cheeses, pre-made salads, etc…Getting there requires you to pass through a main gateway and walk through a boat yard/boat club before reaching the supermarket entrance. Look for the InCoop signs.
Where to sleep in Venice
We chose our recommended hotel based on a number of factors that really make a difference in a city like Venice. It’s a given that you’ll have to do some walking here and with all of the bridges and dead-end lanes, it’s easy to get lost. So, to avoid trekking through the maze, at night, with luggage in tow, we looked for a reasonably priced hotel outside of the main tourist center; one that would be easy to reach with public transportation.
Hotel Alloggi Barbaria
Hotel Alloggi Barbaria – Situated in the Castello neighborhood outside of the tourist area, this quiet hotel is just 3 minute’s walk from the Ospedale vaporetto stop, which makes it very easy (and much less frustrating) to get to from Marco Polo International Airport on the mainland (especially if arriving at night). The rooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable, and rates, which include a simple breakfast, are reasonable for Venice. Alloggi Barbaria can be found on Calle delle Cappuccine (6573 Castello), a pleasant 12-15 minute walk to most of the major attractions.
Just minutes away from Alloggi Barbaria you’ll find a convenient fruit market and a kiosk selling chilled drinks.