A couple of weeks ago, when the weather was almost as shit here as it is now, I spent a few days in Venice on a job. It was bloody great. I didn’t love Venice when I first visited for work, for the opening weekend of the Biennale last year – too many bridges, too many tourists and infuriatingly unreliable wifi. It was as if it had been built entirely as a theatre backdrop and no-one had actually considered how it might function as a city where you might want to, I don’t know, buy groceries, or send an email, though it is astonishingly well co-ordinated for having an affair. Just FYI.

But then in April, I went back with friends to a rainy city which completely charmed me with its absurdly higgledy-piggledy streets, most of which have one of only about eight names (especially when they’re right next to each other but don’t actually reach the same point), and its cute little restaurants and bars. It helped that I made some new friends who live there, Diana from Mexico and Grazina from Lithuania, who have since introduced me to some of their favourite places, which is the point of this post. So, despite Venice’s reputation for shit food at outrageous prices, here are some really great places to go. NOTE this slightly doubles up with a feature I wrote which came out yesterday in The Times, about Titian’s Venice. If you want check it out, it’s here: http://thetim.es/MH8JTy (£)


Bancogiro, Sottoportego del Banco Giro 122, Rialto Market

A modern, airy little osteria with friendly staff and delicious food at a price that belies its enviable, central location. Within the Rialto Market, which has been a working market since 1097. I had the Venetian antipasti misti for 12E, which is entirely fish-based and DELICIOUS – a sort of creamy baccalau, which is great on bread with a slice of sweet tomato, a very typical Venetian dish of sardines with onions, fresh, steamed squid and anchovies. Venice is famous for fish – it’s really worth visiting the Rialto market to look at the fish mongers there, and the beautiful fruit and vegetables. It’s on most mornings until 1pm.



Ai Promessi Sposi, Calle dell’Oca, Cannaregio

This is a really local restaurant with traditional Venetian fish and meat dishes to die for. If your Italian is up to it, just ask them to bring you a couple of plates of whatever’s good and go with it. My favourite things were some perfect scallops, a gorgeous dish of tiny shrimp, dipped briefly in a very light batter and fried – exactly the same as whitebait, but with shrimp – and a tomatoey moules mariniere which I wanted to drink. I didn’t photograph much, because I was too busy troughing.



La Zucca, Calle del Tintor (at Ponte de Megio), Santa Croce

Vegetarians, especially those who don’t eat fish, get pretty short shrift in Venice so this place is a haven. The sweet and sour pumpkin pie has to be tried to be believed.


Taverna del Campiello Remer, Campiello del Remer, near Campo San Giovanni Crisostomo

Not the easiest place to find but worth it – duck down a completely unmarked, unpromising alleyway next to a shop just off the Campo San Giovanni Crisostomo and then don’t lose your nerve even though it looks like you’re heading for nothing. It’s a friendly little pub which sits on its own little square on the canal, looking across to the Rialto Market. Gather around the well head in the centre of the campiello and have a Venetian classic spritz. There’s a sort of graduation of spritz – the easiest to drink is Aperol, which is the sweetest and a sort of virulent orange colour, then Campari, which is more bitter and pinker, then the real stalwarts go for Cinar, which is like cough medicine and a disgusting brown colour. I love it. Not everyone will.

Timon, Fondamenta della Misericordia (some maps call this part Fondamenta degli Ormesini, it’s the same stretch)

For a really local experience, head further into Cannaregio and far off the tourist trail for cheap drinks and a cordially riotous atmosphere. When it gets busy, in good weather everyone just perches willy-nilly on the edge of the canal. They have really nice cicchetti – Venetian tapas served in almost every bar and Enoteca – the best being the three different types of baccalau on bread. They do the creamy one but also more chunky arrangements – the one with tomato is particularly good.

Alla Vedora (AKA trattoria Ca’ D’Oro), Calle del Pistor, Cannaregio

You can book a table at this famous local place just off the Strada Nove, but it’s more fun to perch at the bar or stand outside with an ombra (a tiny glass of local wine from jugs on the bar, specify rosso or bianco) for 50 cents (I know! I know! that’s like, 40p!) and a plate of their amazing cichetti. They are generally considered to make the best polpette di carne – breaded meatballs – in the city; they are crisp on the outside and cloudy and light on the inside. Don’t expect more than grunts from the staff though; if you’re not a regular, you’re just a tourist.Image

Bar, Campo Due Pozzi, Castello

I have absolutely no idea what the name of this place is. It’s an absolutely ordinary local bar, but far from everything remotely touristy and with a propensity to get pretty busy and raucous and really fun. Diana put it best: “If I’m going to go to a bar where I don’t want to meet anyone I know, then that’s the bar I go to.” Like I said, Venice is well set up to misbehave.