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Dining in Venice

Historic Cafés
Dining in Venice
With historic cafés, chic cocktail bars, lively produce markets, immersive cooking schools, and fine dining with even finer views, Venice boasts an unforgettable adventure in gastronomy, where the focus is usually on local ingredients and produce, especially fish and seafood.
By Becca Blond, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Charissa Fay
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    Historic Cafés
    Historic Cafés
    Caffè Florian in Piazza San Marco was opened in 1720 and has been in continuous operation ever since, earning the title of Italy's oldest café. It's the birthplace of the Venice Biennale art exhibition and has a long history as a hub for artistic luminaries. Opened nearby in 1775, Quadri is almost as storied: It was the first place to serve Turkish coffee in Venice. Although it almost seems modern in comparison, 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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    Fine Dining
    Fine Dining
    For a modern take on traditional Venetian seafood, Da Fiore is one of Venice's most famous restaurants and the recipient of a Michelin star. Il Ridotto Restaurant, also awarded a Michelin star, is an imaginative seafood eatery with just nine tables, creating a romantic, exclusive dining vibe. The top hotels offer some fantastic fine dining choices, too, such as Ca'Sagredo's L'Alcova Restaurant, a favorite serving a traditional Venetian menu that changes daily. 

    Photo courtesy of Belmond
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    Wine Pairings and Bars
    Wine Pairings and Bars
    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). Enoiteca Mascareta is a neighborhood wine bar that's become a bit of a Venetian institution, known for its wine-by-the-glass menu (changing daily) that's chalked up on a blackboard on the wall. The food is also very good, and there's a relaxed vibe. Also pay a visit to Ostaria Boccadoro, which pairs wine, appetizers, and stunning Grand Canal views from its ground-floor bar, and there's a more formal dining room on the second floor.
    Photo by Sylvain Grandadam/age fotostock
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    Venetian Comfort Fare
    Venetian Comfort Fare
    If you're just looking for an old-fashioned Venetian-style meal—where the food is delicious but uncomplicated, the service is friendly, and the environs attract more locals than tourists—a number of restaurants will indulge your desire. For Venetian classics like canastrelli scallops and grilled orata with zucchini sauce, homemade pasta, and plenty of fresh fish and seafood, try Ostaria Boccadoro. Another option for fresh, creative Venetian is Antiche Carampane, a trattoria in San Polo that sources its seafood directly from the Rialto Market.
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    The Markets of Rialto
    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 della 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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    Cocktails in Glamorous Settings
    Cocktails in Glamorous Settings
    Fans of the Bellini will want to make a beeline to Harry's Bar in San Marco, which is where this prosecco cocktail was born. It has been entertaining the literati for more than a century and is still popular with Venice's movers and shakers. Also in the area is the Belmond Hotel Cipriani's Cip's Club, another glamorous spot for a cocktail. Bar Longhi, at the Gritti Palace, has been beautifully restored to its original grandeur with marble counters, Murano glass, and handcrafted mirrors. And 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 Venice. Take a canalside seat on the terrace at the Centurion Palace and enjoy a glass of wine from the extensive selection.
    Photo courtesy of Belmond
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    Cooking Schools and Food Tours
    Cooking Schools and Food Tours
    Venice has a number of great cooking schools, though the 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. The Gritti Palace's cooking school is also good, and if you just want a food tour, Urban Adventures' Cicchetti & Wine Tour takes you to various bàcari to sample small plates and wines.
    Photo by Aldo Pavan/age fotostock
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    Gelato Fantasies
    Gelato Fantasies
    No matter the weather, there is never a bad time to eat gelato, and Venice has some star gelaterias to explore. Gelato Fantasy in San Marco may appear a little garish, but take a leap of faith and try its 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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