Venice for Normal people

written by Raul Betti, Greta Ruffino

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Venice is a magical city, loved by writers, artists and poets from all over the world. Even its name is captivating. This unique city on the water is full of history and charm from the past as well as hopes for the future. It is a bridge between the East and the West.


Venice is also a unique city in the world for its cuisine. Of course, it is important to know where to go. In Venice you can lose yourself and discover hidden places, away from the usual tourist routes. To get around Venice you must keep calm and be patient for this is necessary to enjoy the city. So, when you walk up and down the bridges, near canals and harbors boats, you can always come across an unexpected oasis of calm, and relax just off a busy calle, a narrow lane which characterizes the lagoon city, or solitary campiellos, small Venetian squares.


In Venice you can find places dedicated to convivium (banquet), and live in ancient palaces which used to belong to the noble families, or in former laboratories and workshops. The town is full of historical locations as well as contemporary design which coexist in harmony. Some traditional Venetian dishes are linked to conservation needs dating from the Republic of Venice (known as Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia), introduced to enable preservation of food on ships, as the famous sarde in saor, sardines marinated in onions. Fish specialities are the protagonists of the Venetian cuisine: cod fish, cuttlefish, crustaceans, mussels and clams.


In Venice there are specific rituals that have been consolidated over the years, such as the Aperitivo time, which means much more than happy hour; the tour of Bacari implies small inns or bars where you can drink a glass of wine or the very popular Spritz, a low-alcohol cocktail with Campari and soda or Aperol with Prosecco accompanied by cicchetti (Venetian bites), appetizers generally known as stuzzichini (finger food). During the Aperitivo time you will learn more about places, people and lifestyle.


The destinations chosen for this route are distinguished by the quality of the food and the stories behind the places and their managers. Those are the people who are passionate about their work, and who, more often than not, have travelled the world and then decided to stop here.


Buon Appetito!


Osteria Mascaron


Cuttlefish alla veneta, spaghetti with lobster, maltagliati pasta with Granseola, grilled fish are some specialties to try in the Osteria Al Mascaron. Expect the freshest local seafood, delicious homemade pasta, seppia nero (squid ink), antipasti-style grilled vegetables and panna cotta for dessert. The Osteria Al Mascaron is an old tavern restaurant which has preserved the old traditional atmosphere, just two minutes from the Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Over the door of the bell tower the mascaron stands out, the mask that became the symbol of the inn (The Osteria) that is located in the Calle Longa.


The Venetians used to go to the Osteria Al Mascaron at the beginning of the 20th century when most of the visitors were workers: it was known as a shop where local and southern wines were resold, and where one could eat simple traditional Venetian dishes.


In 1978 Gigi Vianello got back to Venice after years in Paris. So by that time he decided to take over the Osteria. The ambience inside Al Mascaron has a slight French touch, ancient Venetian floorboard are topped with wooden tables. The authentic display cabinets featuring Art Deco style allow the visitors to catch a glimpse of numerous recovered pieces freely displayed on the walls and shelves in the inn. The space and tables are small and you may have to dinner together with other people: artists, actors, painters or ordinary people, all of them with a story to tell. It is a casual, warm and welcoming local Venetian trattoria where it is possible to taste some of the best traditional Venetian dishes. Perfect for a light snack or a long meal. Booking is recommended.


Spaghetti Nero di Seppia


For one portion 150 g of cuttlefish


Cut the cuttlefish, cook with fried onions and a bit of garlic, a dash of white wine half cooked, then add the ink from the cuttlefish, finish cooking, add pasta, sauté with a bit of parsley and serve.


Caffè Centrale


A nice surprise in Venice offering many dishes and is overrun by tourists. The Caffè Centrale is located in the heart of the historic center of Venice next to La Fenice Theatre, within the Palazzo Cocco Molin, an ancient dwelling that dates back to the 1500s. It reflects the spirit of the Caffè Concerto, another place on the mainland which has become a cult. So why change something that works and tastes good? The owner, Gigi Penello continues here his journey which began over thirty years ago. Recipes are based on fresh food prepared with simplicity and innovative techniques.


The interior design is modern: crystal tables, Murano glass chandeliers and some paintings of the stars of music and cinema.


The menu is full of interesting reinvented dishes based on meat and fish: soft foam potato with sausage, beef fillet and foie gras, beef tartar with cold mustard powder or the famous ice-cream Magnum with dried fruit, served on a stick. There are famous snacks: the Tonda classica, a Pita bread with mozzarella, cherry tomato, taggiasche olives & basil, Rotolone al peperoncino, hot bread rolls with homemade ham, mozzarella, tomatoes, lettuce, chilli and salsa rosa (mayonnaise with ketchup and brandy). Do not miss excellent homemade desserts: for example fragolata with Greek yogurt strawberry ice-cream with fresh strawberries. Really excellent. 


Campiello del Remer


Two travellers, Emilio Farinon and Angela Cook, who fell in love and were enchanted by Venice, decided to open a restaurant in a former 15th-century warehouse, transforming it into an amazing tavern. The Campiello del Remer is located in the heart of Venice, near the Rialto Bridge, at the Campiello Remer, famous for several companies that used to manufacture oars for gondolas. From the shores of Campiello, on a small square, you can admire a beautiful panoramic view of the Grand Canal, which includes part of the Rialto Bridge, the Palazzo Camerlenghi, the Campo dell’Erberia and the long building of the Fabbriche Nuove.


Although you can have lunch and dinner, it is an ideal place for an aperitivo. During the summer you can drink sitting on the pier and in the coldest season on stools near the bar. The location is perfect, the interior is rustic but at the same time very nice, distinctive and strikingly beautiful and romantic: rustic brick floor, doors from Tuscany, old windows, old lamps and wooden ceiling beams, wooden tables lit by chandeliers. Everything has been restored. It feels like a meeting place for old friends even though people who come by or work there are from all over the world: the old waiter may be from Venice, the chef from Pakistan, the barman from Argentina...


Food is simple and prices are good. At midday, the restaurant serves buffet meals which include fish, meat, vegetables, soups, served with water and wine. Daily happy hour is from 5.00 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. and includes Aperol/Campari Spritz, wine or prosecco wine. In the evening, the chef serves fish, grilled meat and homemade desserts. There is also live music, mostly classical music and blues.




Spritz is a famous cocktail in Venice. It is fast and easy to make.


Put in glass and mix one third (1/3) of each ingredient: 1/3 prosecco, 1/3 Aperol or Campari (for bitter Spritz select Cynar), 1/3 sparkling water. Do not forget a slice of orange and an olive.


Bacaro alla Vedova


The best way to have a low-cost meal in Venice is to visit very typical bars called bacari. The word derives of the Roman God of wine Bacchus.  Venice is full of bacari, you’ll find one on every corner. So do as the locals do and enjoy an unusual meal in a laidback atmosphere; a giro per bacari is a definite way of experiencing the real Venice. Bacari are the landmarks of the city and so is an osteria where you can drink un’ombra of wine or a Spritz, with cicchetti (finger food). The traditional venue is a bacaro, a typical Venetian bar with simple furnishing of wooden tables and benches, a perfect place for a relaxed meal or a quick snack with friends.


Venetian bacari serve traditional local meat or fish dishes. You can eat cicchetti like sarde in saor (marinated sardines), baccalà mantecato (creamy dried cod), folpeti (baby octopus), meat or fish balls and fried fish. In the Strada Nuova you’ll find the Osteria Ca’ D’Oro, better known as the Osteria Alla Vedova (The Widow’s Place), one of the city’s oldest bacari furnished with bare wooden tables, where you can enjoy a range of cicchetti including delicious polpettine, allegedly the best meatballs in Venice. The real action takes place among the locals that stand around the marble bar. If you want to have a dinner, do not forget to book... finding a place is really hard.


Meatballs alla vedova


Ingredients: ground beef, mortadella, potatoes, garlic, eggs, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper.


Put minced beef in a bowl. Boil potatoes and when they are cooked, mash them. Chop mortadella and add garlic, parmesan cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs (enough, but not too much to avoid chewy dumplings), parsley, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients, shape the mixture into balls and roll them in breadcrumbs. Fry in hot oil, preferably in a deep fryer. Meatballs should not touch the bottom of the pot.



ABC Quadri


The ABC Quadri is an informal restaurant located in one of the most beautiful squares in the world, with the Basilica of San Marco and the Correr Museum. On the ground floor, you can admire the San Marco Square and flocks of tourists, and you can taste traditional Venetian dishes and some creations by the chef Max Alajmo, the young European 3 Star Chef. At the ABC Quadri (ABC is an acronym for Alla Base della Cucina, which literally means in the basis of cooking) you can eat some different local appetizers called cicchetti: sardines with onion, chicken salad, cooked egg with anchovies, capers and chives, rice ball with mozzarella and pesto sauce, breaded sausage and polenta with creamed cod.


Open for lunch, dinner and late-night snacking, the ABC Quadri is a casual restaurant located inside one of the Venice’s oldest coffeehouses. The elegant interior on the ground floor is decorated in exquisite Venetian stuccos and large windows overlooking the Piazza San Marco, allowing diners to enjoy the sight of one of the most fascinating places in the world. The menu offers traditional Venetian and Italian dishes, prepared with high-quality ingredients by chefs Silvio Giavedoni and Denis Mattiuzzi, who put into practice the concepts of Max’s cuisine. What to try? A little bit of everything, from simple spaghetti with tomato sauce or clams, to fried fish or steak tartar. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert. Definitely tiramisu, the most famous Italian dessert in Italy and the world. It belongs to the category of layered cakes, like trifle. The originality of tiramisu lies in its ingredients: eggnog, coffee, mascarpone cheese and biscuits.


Lorenzo Gastronomia


If you plan to live in Venice in the truest and most authentic way, for example in a friend’s house or a rented apartment, and you decide to try Italian tradition products, the deli shop Lorenzo Gastronomia is the place for you. It is located in the Calle dei Fabbri, a few steps from the Piazza San Marco. In 1993 Lorenzo De Zorzi decided to take over this grocery store and give it a new life. Thanks to his passion for good food and quality products, over the years this place has become one of the landmarks of Venice for assorted ingredients.


Even though it is small, in Lorenzo’s deli you can by different delicacies: cheese and ham, wine from Italian and foreign cellars, craft beers, fragrant pasta sauces available in different formats and also coffee and milk, which the owner selects with care and attention. As regards cheese, you can buy goat cheese, sheep cheese and vaccino from Veneto and from other Italian regions. Do not miss culatello di Zibello (cured meat from Zibello), lardo di Colonnata (curing strips of fatback with herbs from Colonnata), prosciutto from Parma, prosciutto from San Daniele and ham from Montagnana; they are perfect for a tasty appetizer. You can also buy famous Alba truffles, foie gras, wild salmon, fresh Iranian caviar, fish roe from mullet or tuna, a wide selection of Italian, Spanish and Greek olives. A large selection of Italian wines, sparkling wines and champagnes. The same applies for extra virgin olive oils. By imposing fast shopping, supermarkets have taken away the pleasure of buying good food. At Lorenzo’s you can rediscover the pleasure of shopping.