Once an exotic trading empire, the ancient city of Venice remains one of the most beautiful and historically significant in the world. Enchanting canals teem with vaporetti and iconic gondolas, while around every corner is evidence of the city's glorious past.
Venice owes part of its rich and illustrious heritage to its proud gastronomic traditions. Delighting travelers with an abundance of wonderful places to eat, drink, and be merry — from palatial dining establishments fit for a Doge to quirky osterias and rustic wine bars filled with hungry locals.
To eat well in Venice, a few rules apply. Avoid the most touristy areas and places that advertise "tourist menus" or that seem to be catering to the tour bus and cruise ship crowd.
Read on for our picks for the best restaurants in Venice, Italy.
If you're looking for a contemporary take on typical Venetian specialties, check out Linea D'Ombra. Perfectly situated canal-side across from the splendid 16th-century Church of Il Redentore by Palladio, its interior is a blend of rustic and industrial-chic design. Among its best features, weather permitting, is the outdoor deck jutting out onto the water. Sophisticated travelers and local gourmands flock here for their menu of fresh fish, traditional pasta, and stunning views, all of which don't come cheap.
Along the winding backstreets of Castello — one of Venice's six sestieri or districts — is restaurant Corte Sconta. Topping the list of places to get the freshest fish and seafood, its atmosphere is authentic trattoria, with a shady summer courtyard that's home to a century-old grapevine. This place is extremely popular, so if you book ahead and show up late, expect your table to be given away. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
To get to Trattoria al Gatto Nero (the black cat) hop on a vaporetto (nos. 9, 12 or N) to the colorful island of Burano — the lace-making capital of Italy. Well worth the trip across the Lagoon, al Gatto Nero is a family-owned and operated treasure that began as a simple inn after the end of World War II. In 1965, al Gatto Nero was purchased by Ruggero Bovo, who soon turned it into an island institution. The menu is fish-centric, although there's a wide array of pasta and vegetables in the mix. You can be sure your meal will come with an excellent glass of wine thanks to the proprietor's son, Massimo, who is a certified sommelier. An on-site shop sells porcelain dishes and other artisan products made by Burano natives. Closed in the month of November.
One of a handful of places with a salad bar in Venice (or Italy, for that matter), Impronta Cafè serves morning coffee and cornetto, gourmet sandwiches for a quick lunch, and prepared hot meals at dinnertime. The chalkboard menu has an extensive selection of fresh pasta, hearty meat dishes, classic desserts, and tasty cocktails. Whether you're looking for a grab-and-go situation or would like to linger over a glass of wine, this cheery spot in the San Rocco area, is an ideal pick. Closed Sundays.
When you think of Venice, pizza doesn't usually spring to mind, yet the owners of Antico Forno are working on changing that perception. Overcoming strict safety rules for operating wood-fired ovens on the island, this pizzeria (located inside the Rialto Market) crafts soft and chewy focaccia pizzas, rustic style pies by the slice, and whole sourdough pizzas for takeaway. They also have an impressive list of artisanal beers on tap.
Best Wine Bar: Bar Puppa
In a city filled with wine bars, it's tough to pick a favorite, but we're partial to Bar Puppa, a cozy little hole-in-the-wall in the cool Cannaregio district. This budget-friendly, 1960s retro "barcaro" (Venetian for wine bar) serves little plates of exotic cicchetti (snacks) and interesting main dishes that include several vegetarian options. Enjoy a bubbly glass of Prosecco or a citrusy Aperol Spritz, along with wonderful house reds and whites.
Opened in 1931, Harry's Bar, with its quayside position at the mouth of the Grand Canal is the stuff of legends. Founded by Giuseppe Cipriani with the help of an American investor named Harry, this iconic watering hole is where writer Ernest Hemingway was reported to have spontaneously tended bar. Harry's has been mixing their famous Bellini cocktail (a combination of Prosecco and peach purée) for the Hollywood elite and distinguished heads of state since the mid-20th century. Open for dinner and lunch, seven days a week.
Historic and elegant Caffé Florian, established in the early 18th-century, is considered to be the oldest cafe in all of Europe. Expect to pay a pretty penny for an envious spot under the Procuratie Nuove on the iconic Piazza San Marco, but if you're in Venice for the first time, we recommend splashing out for this unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Best Place for Lunch: Trattoria alla Rampa
Discretely located along a scruffy canal, Trattoria alla Rampa is famous for serving neighborhood workers on their lunch break plates heaping plates of "spaghetti al nero di seppia" (pasta with the black ink of squid). Cheap and good eats wait for no one, so get here early before the dining room fills up.
Over the years, plant-based dining has become mainstream and Venice has kept pace with this healthy trend. La Tecia Vegan is a pretty restaurant in the Dorsoduro district, featuring unusual ethnic dishes and old-school local specialties all made with only the freshest organically grown ingredients and products. Highly rated among non-vegans too, La Tecia Vegan has outdoor bistro seating in warmer weather. Closed Mondays.