Top 5 “Cheap Eats” in Venice
Everyone says Venice is expensive … but that’s not my experience, at least not for eating and drinking. My advice for enjoying one of my favourite cities is to go in winter when it’s relatively tourist-free, stay in the best hotel you can afford (preferably on the Grand Canal) and eat in the cheapest, out-of-the-way, holes-in-the-wall you can find (often in Cannaregio at the back of the island where many of the real Venetians live). Usually called bacari (bars) or osterie, they are everywhere, but to get you started here are five of my favourite finds.
Osteria da Carla (San Marco)
Tucked away off fashionable shopping street Frezzeria, just a stone’s throw from Piazza San Marco, this crowded osteria is a favourite with locals. Try Venetian classics such as sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines) and creamy baccala mantecato with polenta; the tiramisu is the real deal too.
Al Mercà (San Polo)
This gem is perfect for a late breakfast/early lunch after visiting nearby Rialto Market. A hole-in-the-wall with a few stools, excellent coffee, grappa and tiny panini (meltingly sweet lardo on crunchy little rolls is my pick) – don’t let the time of day stop you from enjoying a glass of local red – when in Venice …
Trattoria Dalla Marisa (Cannaregio)
Named for Madama Marisa, a well-known 1930s prostitute (and sporting some of her advertising as decoration), the staff at this tiny, out-of-the-way spot simply serve antipasto then offer a limited spoken menu of pasta and secondi, finishing with whatever dolci they have. Great value, great experience.
Vini da Gigio (Cannaregio)
Several adjoining rooms, with ancient-looking walls, packed with locals every night, this family run restaurant is slightly more formal (so dearer) than the local bars and osterie, yet still friendly and great value. Have the crudo (raw seafood) and razor clams from the lagoon, and explore the wonderful wine list.
Harry’s Bar (San Marco)
While it isn’t exactly cheap, a bellini and croque monsieur at the bar is an affordable way to experience this Venetian institution, opened In 1931 by the Cipriani family, declared a national landmark by the Italian government, frequented by royals, artists and celebrities, and open Sundays when many others are closed.