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The thing to keep in mind with Venice restaurants is that there are really 2 types: Restaurants that target locals (repeat customers), and restaurants that target tourists (not repeat customers). The restaurants targeting locals live & die by the quality of their food and whether it’s a good value. Reputation matters. Those targeting tourists tend to worry less about the quality & pricing, since there’s always a steady stream of tourists to fill their tables.
When I stay in Venezia, I hit the osterias and enotecas targeting locals. While they tend to be located deep in the local neighborhoods and can’t offer canal-side tables, I find the food, quiet ambiance & pricing to be excellent.
If you really want the romantic canal-side table or a view, by all means find one that fits the bill and enjoy. Focus on fresh fish dishes, since all the restaurants in Venice pretty much get it from the same sources.
Here are a few to consider. Remember that dinnertime kicks in around 8PM, and at my favorites you really need to book a reservation or you risk being turned away. All of them speak English since this is Venice, of course. Just call them and ask for a table at a specific time, or have your hotel do it for you.
I’ve marked the restaurants I would hit on a 3 day stay in Venice, either lunch or dinner, with an *asterisk.
Osteria al Mascaron* – Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, Castello 5225, Tele: +39.041.522.5995, website
This is a Venetian institution, and while it tends to fill with tourists, the quality is usually very good and it’s just a fun environment to sit and have a classic Venetian meal. I always take a meal here while I stay in Venice. Odds are good you’ll be asked to share a table with another couple. This place always fills up, be sure to make a reservation.
Nice Enoteca option for late-night drinks & snacks: Enoiteca Mascareta – TripAdvisor link
About 100 feet from Osteria al Mascaron down Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa is the sister enoteca of al Mascaron. They’re open late, usually to 2AM, making this a great place to get late-night drinks or snacks. They build outstanding salumi & cheese boards right in front of you. It’s possible to make a light dinner with wine out of their antipasti boards.
Dalla Marisa* – 652 B-Fondamenta San Giobbe, Cannaregio 652, Tele: +39.041.720.211, TripAdvisor Link
This is the quintessential Venetian trattoria catering to locals. Located in the Venetian Ghetto zone, it’s popular with local students & workers of the area, and lunches are particularly good value – about 15 euro. I’d go for dinner and enjoy the local fish, though they have meat dishes from inland as well. Reservations are a must.
Osteria Anice Stellato – Cannaregio 3272, Tele: +39.041.720.744, TripAvisor Link
This small & very-local place run by a couple of brothers is located far from the tourist bustle & serves very nice local dishes. Teresa and I dined here many years ago, and from recommendations of others they still serve up nice local dishes to locals and tourists in-the-know. Did I mention that you need to make a reservation? Yep, you need to make a reservation here too.
Alle Testiere* – Calle del Mondo Novo, Castello 5801, Tele: +39.041.522.7220, website
This tiny Osteria (22 seats) is right in the heart of Venice near San Marco Square, and has a great reputation of serving exceptionally high quality local dishes. The only issue is that it’s much more expensive than your usual Osteria – probably 50-60 euro for a meal. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my list of places to check out – let me know if you go, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Vecio Fritolin* – Santa Croce Calle della Regina 2262, Tele: +39.041.522.2881, website
I like this place because they serve up classic Venetian dishes at fair prices, and the service is very kind. My buddies Roberto and Piero over at Hotel Guerrato turned me onto this place. It’s not far from the Rialto bridge & just around the corner from the fish market, but far enough away from the tourist track to attract mainly locals. Order the sarde in saor & the fritto misto – all from the nearby the market. Reserve in advance, or course.
Da Fiore – San Polo Calle del Scaleter 2202a, Tele: +39.041.721.308, website
Okay, if you’re looking for a romantic place with 1 Michelin star, this is it. The food is purely Venetian with an artistic flair. It’s a bit tight in there, but you’ll receive excellent service. Expect to pay a pretty penny when dining here – probably 100 euro/head if you go for a full meal. As always, you’ll need to book a reservation.