Venetian Gastronomy

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Venetian Gastronomy
Italians take their food very seriously, and so should you. With historic cafés, chic cocktail bars, lively produce markets, immersive cooking schools, and fine dining with even finer views, Venice offers an unforgettable adventure in gastronomy.
By Rocky Casale, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Sylvain Grandadam/age fotostock
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    Wine Pairings
    In Venice, as in the rest of Italy, food and wine are essential to the local culture, and should be expertly paired. Aciugheta, in Castello, is well-known for its wine selection and fresh cicheti (tapas-like small plates). Danieli Wine Suite, in Hotel Danieli, is also popular. Operating under guidance of house sommelier, Enrico Bonaldo, it serves wines from the region, the nation, and beyond, paired with small bites of seafood, meats, and cheeses. The experience is enhanced by the uninterrupted views of Venice.
    Photo by Sylvain Grandadam/age fotostock
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    Historic Cafés
    Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco was opened in 1720, and has been in continuous operation since. It is the birthplace of the Venice Biennale, and has a long history as a hub for artistic luminaries. The nearby Gran Caffè Quadri is almost as storied. Opened in 1775, this was first place to serve Turkish coffee in Venice. Although it almost seems modern next to the previous cafés, Harry's Bar (opened in 1931) is one of the city's most venerated establishments. Frequented by Ernest Hemingway, and said to be the birthplace of both the Bellini cocktail and carpaccio, Harry's has carved its own place in Venetian history.
    Photo by Charissa Fay
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    Cocktails in Glamorous Settings
    Most visitors know to try Cip's Club—at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, just off San Marco Piazza—for a cocktail in a glamorous location. Nearby, Bar Longhi at the Gritti Palace has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation, restoring the space—with its marble counters, Murano glass, and hand-crafted mirrors—to its former glory. If you're looking for a gin and tonic, try the Londra Palace or skip over to the Palazzo Papadopoli in San Polo for a drink in the garden at the Aman Canal Grande Venice. Take a canal-side seat on the terrace at the Centurion Palace, and enjoy a glass of wine from their extensive selection.
    Photo courtesy of Belmond
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    Fine Dining
    For deluxe dining, try the restaurants at the Aman Canal Grande Venice, the Gritti Palace, the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, or other fine hotels. For a more local choice, try Antiche Carampane in San Polo, a trattoria that sources its seafood directly from the Rialto Market. The tiny Osteria alle Testiere is also renowned for its seafood, as is Osteria Campo Santa Marina in Castello. La Zucca has a canal-side door and takes pride in its vegetable creations. Locanda Cipriani was opened in 1938 by Guiseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry's Bar and the Cipriani Hotel. Still run by the Cipriani family, and still serving family recipes, this restaurant is on Torcello island, away from the bustle of downtown. Reservations are recommended at all the above.
    Photo courtesy of Belmond
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    The Markets of Rialto
    Traditionally, Rialto was Venice's commercial center and home to many markets. Even today, it's the best place to sample all manner of fresh foods. The Rialto Market on a Saturday is a riot of vendors selling fresh fish and produce—so, eat, drink, and take part in this centuries-old weekend tradition. At Campo de la Pescaria, a former fish market, you can buy produce every morning, Monday through Saturday; and in the nearby Pescaria, you can choose the catch of the day. If you prefer a prepared meal, head over to San Polo, where local fishermen set up tables and a pop-up kitchen, and serve plates of fried scampi, scallops, and fresh fish.
    Photo by Mary Ann Desantis
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    Rooftop Dining
    Rooftop restaurants are appealing in every city; even more so in Venice, where the views are extraordinary. The Skyline Rooftop Bar and the SkyLunch Restaurant, both at the Hilton Molino Stuckey, offer lunch, dinner, and cocktails overlooking the Dorsoduro sestiere and the Giudecca Canal. Over in San Marco, the luxury Hotel Danieli houses Restaurant Terrazza Danieli, which has an outdoor terrace. Led by executive chef Gian Nicola Colucci, the restaurant serves classic Venetian dishes and Mediterranean fare. Try Settimo Cielo, seven floors up at the Bauers Il Palazzo Venezia, just off San Marco Piazza, for a fantastic breakfast spot.
    Photo courtesy of Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
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    Eating on the Islands
    Many key sights in the region are on the other islands in the Venice lagoon, giving you the perfect opportunity to try something new. On Torcello, reserve a table at Locando Cipriani—choose the garden if the weather is right. Their menu is based on generations-old family recipes. The Venissa Hotel on Mazzorbo was started by the family of winemaker Gianluca Bisol, who is famous for his prosecco. The menu is designed around local and seasonal ingredients, much of which is grown right on the estate. On Murano, restored bakery Acqua Stanca Osteria is a great choice for seafood.
    Photo by Aldo Pavan/age fotostock
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    Cooking Schools and Food Tours
    Venice has a number of great cooking schools, though best of the lot may well be that of Enrica Rocca, an Italian countess born and raised in Venice. Her half- and full-day classes begin with a wander around the Rialto fish and produce market, where she explains how to choose seasonal ingredients. Classes culminate in her private home, where she makes sure your wine glass is never empty as she teaches you how to prepare Venetian and regional specialties. Gritti Palace's cooking school is also good, and if you just want a food tour, Urban Adventures' Cicchetti of Venice Tour takes you to various bàcari to sample small plates and wines.
    Photo by Aldo Pavan/age fotostock
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    Gelato Fantasies
    No matter the weather, there is never a bad time to eat gelato, and Venice has some star gelateri to explore. Gelato Fantasy in San Marco may appear a little garish, but take a leap of faith and try their Viennese Sacher Torte. Italian gelato chain GROM has shops all over the country (as well as abroad). They maintain their popularity based on gelato made the old-fashioned way; if it's hot, try their granita Sicilia, or Sicilian slush. For those seeking something extraordinary, stop in at Alaska Gelateria in Santa Croce for a scoop of artichoke.
    Photo by Stefano Scatà/age fotostock
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