The general rule of thumb when eating out on vacation in Europe is - do not eat in places near the main tourist attractions. These places generally are geared towards convenience and sightseeing appeal, and not focused on quality or taste. I am sure or hope that there are exceptions to this rule, but safer to go off the beaten path when it comes to grabbing lunch or dinner. There was one night in Venice when I broke this golden rule because I was so hungry and it was so late that I sat myself down at one of these establishments, hoping that this would be one of those exceptions. It wasn't. Eating that dinner that night made me remember a conversation with an American duo who claimed Venetian food was the worst - clearly they had eaten at one of these places.
I did not leave Venice with the same conclusion though. Asking locals for a recommendation is usually a good call so don't be afraid to go beyond your comfort zone as a visitor to a new city. Even before this very bad experience, I had already been lucky to have two amazing meals at Impronta Cafe, which is not a traditional, hole-in-the-wall type of place but a more modern cafe experience. The lunch, aperitif and dinner experiences at Impronta Cafe were all very good - great food, very well done and presented and great service.
|Spinach and ricotta ravioli in pesto. This was beautiful. Grazie, Impronta Cafe.|
|Impronta Cafe's roast suckling pig with purple potato mash and apple puree. The pork was decadent.|
The best meal I had in Venice was in one of these hidden gems off the beaten path - a place recommended by Damiano, my B&B host. One needed to make a reservation to dine at La Zucca - a small, intimate place not too far from the San Stae vaporetto stop. I completely loved this dining experience. If you are looking for that romantic Hollywood setting for dinner, then no - you will not find it here. There were no tourists, no romantic view of the Grand Canal - in fact it is located on a back street and the view was of graffiti on the opposite wall. But from the moment I sat down to the moment I bid the owners a good night, it was an amazing evening. Great food and service that was so warm that you almost felt like family. You want to feel that when you are away from home. I appreciated it. This was a great, great, great recommendation!
|I had an outside table so I could people watch. Check out the graffiti wall view in front of me.|
|It was so fresh. So fresh. No description needed. But La Zucca's pesto was 'burst in your mouth' fresh.|
|Grilled pork cooked in marsala wine with baby onions at La Zucca. This was everything!|
|La Zucca dessert - panna cotta in chocolate sauce. Possibly the best panna cotta ever.|
I also enjoyed a couple gelatos from Gelateria White - a very slick and contemporary gelato establishment, where the gelato was self-service and sold based on weight and mix of toppings from candies, to fruit. You basically create your gelato fantasy yourself and it is pretty good gelato as well. Great stop while walking the streets of Venice after hours.
And while I can surely not make a sweeping conclusion on who had the best aperol spritz in the land, I will recommend this aperitif to any visitor. Aperol, prosecco, sparkling water and an orange slice - so simple but so wow. It was my drink of choice for my entire stay in Italy (and even beyond) and the best ones I had at Da Sandro Bar. and Al Todaro. I did try the Hugo aperitif as well but while it may be all the rage, it did not do it for me like the tried and tested aperol spritz, but we still took a photo!
|Hugo aperitif - champagne, elderflower syrup, lime juice, mint and a view of the Grand Canal.|
While Venice may not be Bologna, Naples or Florence when it comes to the foodie excitement, if you do your research and due diligence, you can leave the city with super fond memories of a great dining experience.
But up next...we move on to my fave Italian city (so far) and my second visit to Florence. Love.