Gosh, writing this post wasn’t easy. I had to go to all this places in Venice, fill the table with all sorts of delicious antipasti, struggle with heart-wrenching choices- pasta or risotto for today?- pour some wine, make space for secondo (the main dish!) after pasta-induced bloating, pour some more wine…and bring forth my superpower, the secondary stomach capsule meant only for dessert.
Numero Uno according to my humble but discerning palate is…
1. Ristorante Da Ivo
As many celebrities can testify- among them George Clooney and Matt Damon, Maddona, Sting and a plethora of others- this cosy one-room restaurant makes you dream to come back over and over again. I’ll never judge a place based exclusively on food- it’s the vibes man, the VIBES ! Dreamy antique decor, the intimate atmosphere and friendly flawless service. Now for the menu- brightened by blackboard-written daily specials according to the variety of fresh seafood from the fish market- it makes me happy with an array of antipasti (will always order more than one!) and delicious pasta.
What to order: antipasto misto di mare- baccala mantecato con polenta- codfish with cornmeal, fiori di zucca fritti con gamberetti- fried courgette flowers filled with baby shrimp, gamberi di laguna- local bay white shrimp.
You won’t abandon me at dessert, will you? Let’s say you’re in Venice for the weekend…and start claiming you’re on some kind of diet. Why bother, when you’re going to have to fight so much temptation! Take this for instance- warm, freshly whipped Zabaione Caldo, warm egg custard with a generous shaving of prized white truffle. Followed by a cup of palate-cleansing fragoline di bosco, wild berries prepared with red wine vinegar, lemon juice and a splash of black pepper. Because this is how we roll at Ivo’s !
2. Do’ Forni Ristorante
Oh, this is another solid favorite, and the first restaurant I ever tried in Venice. Was impressed on the spot with the soulful atmosphere- it’s what I call a place with a heart: anima, anima ticking like a grandfather’s clock behind the wood-paneled walls, releasing its timeless charm upon its patrons. The service is classic Italian, impeccably executed with a touch of humor: oh boy, these experienced and genteel camerieri have seen it all passing through the restaurant’s doors- therefore highly skilled in people profiling. Yep, they have you squared up at a glance!
What to order: upon entering you are greeted by a beautiful display of fresh fish and seafood: the crudo here is a delight- raw scampi and delicate branzino with a touch of citrus and olio buono, prized olive oil; ruby red tuna and gamberi rossi di Sicilia with their smooth, jelly-like consistency. Granseola- Mediterranean Spider Crab- with parsley and lemon or tossed with buttery tagliolini pasta.
3. Osteria Al Vecio Bragosso
Cheers to more seafood. For you vegans and meat lovers out there rest assured the restaurants listed here cater for everyone- so you’ll find great options on their menu. But back to my gems from the sea- Il Vecio Bragosso- the traditional boat used by fishermen from Chioggia- does superb seafood dishes- go for the raw seafood platter to really infuse your palate with a taste of the sea – delicate scampi, oysters, blood-red tuna, smooth seabass carpaccio, topped with a surprising strawberry reduction- who knew sea and fruit can embrace each other so well !
What to order…next yeah, a true appetite opener that invites you to carry on with a swirling heap of spaghetti allo scoglio (shrimp, mussels and clams in a rich tomato sauce!) or tagliolini alla granceola – tastiest crustacean you’ll ever meet on top of your buttery pasta, the Adriatic Spider Crab. Round it up nicely with a fritto misto – prawns, squid and zucchini flash-fried in a light batter…so tasty and comforting!
4. Trattoria Da Gigio
Ok, this was my neighborhood favorite Trattoria– in Sestiere di Canareggio- my go-to cosy spot where I would obsessively order the same thing: antipasto di baccala matecato e sarde in saor, cod fish with warm polenta and sweet and sour sardines…followed by the ultimate tagliolini al nero di seppia con calamari e mascarpone : squid ink pasta with calamari ringlets in a sauce made extra-creamy by the mascarpone cheese. Every given time the kind owner would approach me with a hopeful smile, thinking the day had come when I would finally order something else- but no, this pasta dish is so good I could eat it every day, I proclaimed.
What to order: if you’re squid ink-shy go for the pasta alle vongole, spaghetti with clams, grilled scampi, fritto misto. Portions are super generous so this friendly trattoria is also great value for money!
5. Ristoteca Oniga: this special ristorante-enoteca (meaning a place with a well-stocked wine canteen!) has earned its place in my top 5 Venice restaurants thanks to its signature dish, the supremely satisfying Bucintoro– once the designated name for the Doge of Venice’s somptuous ship, now a ship-load of seafood tossed in a rich tomato broth, brought to the table with thick slices of toasted bread to soak up the saucey goodness.
Imagine a steaming bowl of mussels, plump shrimp, razor clams, squid and fish chunks that you’re gonna savour with spoonfuls of sauce and warm bread- and now for the best part: halfway through your bowl the waiter will throw in a heap of luscious spaghetti al dente, hailing from the Mancini Pasta artisans, to swirl around your fork for the ultimate foodie pleasure!
What to order: delicious assorted seafood antipasti– they somehow make octopus tender and palatable; fried calamari with balsamic vinegar, Piemonte beef hamburger, sockeye salmon, squid ink risotto. Bonus points for using organic and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible- bio wheat and corn flour for fresh gnocchi and baked desserts, organic eggs and fair trade brown sugar.
There it is dear foodies, my Top Five Best Restaurants in Venice- awarded while taking into consideration taste, creative cuisine, friendly vibes in your dining room and the ultimate satisfaction on your palate, inviting you to come back for more! Yes it’s all very personal and subjective, but I’m willing to bet a full-course meal that my choices won’t disappoint! Buon appetito!