I admit that Venice is far from my favorite destination in Italy – it feels cramped, touristy, and is overpriced – but Venice is home to a few restaurants that land in my top favorites of all time. Most people’s first thought of Venice is the canals, but my first thoughts are pasta and seafood. Some of the more popular food spots such as Osteria Alle Testiere and Ristorante Alle Corone well-worth the visit, but my three picks are a little less known and off the more beaten path. Make sure to skip the tourist traps with the large pictures on the menu, and eat at any of these restaurants instead.
1) Osteria Alla Frasca – Cannaregio 5176, Corte della Carità, Venice, Italy
In the US, we celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday every fourth Thursday in November. Usually we have turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and casseroles, but this past Thanksgiving I enjoyed a lovely holiday dinner of fresh seafood at this small restaurant in Venice.
Osteria Alla Frasca is cozy and intimate. Maybe not fancy, but elegantly humble. There are 5 tables for 2 (or seating for 10) inside, as well as a few more tables outside. It is tucked away on an out-of-the-way residential block, which adds to its charm and authenticity. It isn’t hard to get to via water bus or water taxi though, as it is only a 2 minute walk from the F.Te Nove boat stop. You’ll find it in the corner of a small square with dim lighting and candles flickering on the tables. The host is happy to greet you and make conversation as well as advise on the menu (which is all in Italian).
From doing my research before I ventured out to find this tucked away restaurant, I knew I probably wanted the sea bass (€22), so when I arrived there weren’t a lot of decisions I had to make. It was confirmed that the fish was sourced fresh just that morning, one of the many reasons this restaurant is a popular choice among locals. I was told that eggplant would be replacing the mushrooms that usually accompany the sea bass, but I actually prefer that so I readily agreed.
While waiting with some bread and a 1/2L of Prosecco (€10) I was able to chat a bit with the owner/host and examine the posters of seafood on the wall. The wait was a short 15 minutes until my sea bass arrived piping hot and fried to a flaky golden crust. And it was everything I had hoped for. Cooked to just the right amount of fried crunch to go with the melt in your mouth flesh full of flavor, it really was prepared to perfection.
For dessert (because what American doesn’t have dessert on Thanksgiving?), I went with my favorite Italian go-to, the tiramisu (€6). It was also amazing as I’d hoped and was the perfect complement to the fine main course. After, I was suggested a shot of espresso (€2) which I agreed to because it goes so well with tiramisu. And let’s be honest, I never turn down espresso, especially in Italy. Again, it was just what I didn’t realize I needed. Finally, I was surprised to learn that every order of espresso is accompanied by a complimentary glass of grappa – a strong grape based Italian brandy. I wasn’t actually sure I’d be able to handle the grappa at this point (it was as strong as anything I’d had since my college days), but he told me I’d be able to walk out into the brisk night without my jacket after, and sure enough he was right. 15 minutes later I walked out into the Venice night with high spirits and my jacket in my hand.
2) B Restaurant – Campiello della Pescheria, 4, 30141 Murano, Venezia VE, Italy
The main attraction of Murano is first and foremost the amazing hand-blown glass art that is everywhere on the small island neighboring Venice. But after taking the 20 minute water bus trip and walking around to see all the beautiful glass shops and studios, you’ll be sure to work up an appetite. Luckily, B-Restaurant is an A+ option.
As a glassblower myself, I probably had more interest than many people and spent much of the day exploring every nook and cranny of the island and talking to as many shop owners as could carry a full conversation in English. By the time I realized what time it was, my stomach was grumbling loudly and I was looking forward to a delicious meal. More than one of the shop owners I had talked to recommended B Restaurant right there on Murano, so I decided to head in that direction.
B Restaurant is more modern and artistic in its approach with the cooking, the plating, and the decor. I opted to sit outside in the fresh air here, and enjoyed the lovely afternoon weather.
The dishes are also a bit pricey (very similar to Alla Frasca), but the portions are huge and delicious. I realized I was going to struggle to finish the Fish Platter that I ordered, and I didn’t even have room left for the tiramisu (shocking for me). The platter was a sampler that came overflowing with two fresh fried fish fillets, prawns, mussels, vegetables, scallions, and cheese. The flavors were fantastic and the service was prompt and friendly – definitely a bit more geared towards the English speaking crowd here. I highly recommend pairing this restaurant with any trip to Murano, but be careful not to overstuff your stomach if you have a tendency towards sea-sickness – remember that you have to take the water taxi back to Venice still!
Here are some other reviews on Yelp:
Just a few minutes beyond the island of Murano is the colorful island town of Burano. When you see the rows of colorful houses lining the canals of Venice, they are usually photographs snapped in Burano. Burano is known for its textiles and its fishing, but it is also becoming more known for the star of its humble restaurant scene – Al Gatto Nero (“The Black Cat”). Don’t worry, there is nothing unlucky awaiting you if you make your way here for a meal.
Make sure that you arrive here early and reservations are recommended (they can be made online or via telephone), as they keep rather short hours, open for just 3 hours during lunch and with an hour-long arrival time slot in the evening for dinner, and they are busy even during the off-season.
Many of the dishes here had a minimum of 2 people required to order the item, so I was lucky to find a lovely young woman who was eager to share the Burano Style Risotto with me. The fish here are also caught fresh from the lagoon and the fish in the risotto was some of the best I’ve ever had. The food came out as beautiful and colorful as the building on the island and I was hooked from the first bite. The flavor of every bite was incredible, and my entire plate was cleared in no time. Having learned my lesson to pace myself from the previous meal, I was able to squeeze in some tiramisu for dessert and it was wonderful as well.
If you’ve eaten at any of these three restaurants, be sure to let me know! What did you think? And if you have any suggestions for other amazing restaurants in Venice, be sure to leave them in the comments.