Every year thousands of tourists go to Italy to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Venice. This jewel is located in the north of Italy, built on 118 islands, separated by canals and connected by bridges. Bridges every day are used by citizens and tourists, walking around the city between old buildings, churches and museums. St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace or Biennale are among the most visited places in Venice.
But there’s another thing that Venice is famous all over the world: its prices! Eating in Venice (from one coffee to an entire dinner) can be one of the most expensive things you can experience in your whole life. But don’t worry: this guide is here to help you not to go crazy searching for cheap places where to eat. The best choice is to go to a «Bacaro» (Venetian word for bar) and ask for «cicchetti» (that are kind of Venetian tapas), but also small and hidden restaurants are good, you have just to find them. We selected 5 places (the order will be casual) all over the city, plus 2 extras!
1. Al Bottegon
This is a special bacaro, with the perfect location on the San Trovaso canal in Dorsoduro neighbourhood. Beloved by students from the nearby university and locals. It is a small bar, with no tables, but with an excellent selection of regional wines. A special mention has to be made for spritz, a typical cocktail served after lunch in the region that in this place turns out to be one of the best.
But almost everyone comes for the cicchetti kept behind the glass-topped bar: each day the chef prepares 60 different cicchetti to choose from, at 1.20€ each. If you don’t want to find tourists but only real locals, cheap food and drinks and an amazing atmosphere, Al Bottegon is a must-visit place.
Where: Fondamenta Nani 992, Dorsoduro (VE), +390415227911, closed on Sunday.
2. Osteria ai Osti
Strada Nuova (New Road) — it’s the main way between the train station and Rialto bridge, and in a quiet courtyard near it the Osti used to be an anonymous bar. One day chef Diego Rasetti took it over, renovated the kitchen and turned it back into a traditional «osteria» (typical restaurant), serving local specialities.
The dining room at the back is full of visitors every day, while a colourful crowd all around the bar with glasses of wine and cicchetti in their hands. You have to go between 12 pm-12.45 pm, so you can order the 12€ workers menu (made for workers that have few minutes to eat and don’t want to spend much), but even if you decide to order from the menu, the prices are very reasonable: classic spaghetti with tomato sauce is 6.50€ and the house speciality, a mountain of «fritto misto» (deep-fried fish and seafood) costs 14€.
Where: Corte dei Pali Testori 3489, Cannaregio (VE), +390415207993, lunch only, closed Sunday.
3. La Bagatela
To find this gem you have to pass near the corner between Misericordia and Ormesini, near the Venetian Jewish Ghetto. Near the canal, after sunset, it’s full of people, from students to locals. Slowly it’s becoming the centre of Venice nightlife, but you have to resist that and carry on!
When people start to disappear it’s where you will find La Bagatela, a small osteria with a waterside terrace. 25 years of experience help the chefs to surprise the visitors with incredible cicchetti, club sandwiches and local dishes. There’s no menu, you have to ask what the chefs prepared that day, but the kitchen is open until 1 am.
Where: Fondamenta delle Capuzzine 2925, Cannaregio (VE), +393287255782, open from 6pm, closed Monday and Tuesday.
The Rialto Market zone is one of the hearts of Venice: you can see locals buying fresh fish and vegetables while eating and drinking for a break. In this labyrinth of alleys, if you follow the local dialect and the smell of baccalà (a typical way of cooking codfish) you will arrive at a dismissed warehouse reconstructed as an osteria. Inside it looks like a boat (and from this they called it Ciurma, Crew) and the chef is free to experiment with the fresh ingredients from the near market. With wine at 90 cents per glass and cicchetti at 1€, you will not go out hungry from there!
Where: San Polo 406, San Polo (VE), +393406863561, closed Sunday.
5. Trattoria alla Rampa
Last but not least, at the end of an alley called Garibaldi in the Castello neighborhood, we can find a small boat selling vegetables. It’s one of the last selling boats of Venice, and right in front of it there’s this trattoria, a small typical restaurant.They open at 4.30 am, really early but necessary to serve all the workers that pass from there.
At lunch, like in other places, you will find the workers menu (13€ and different dishes to choose from). Be careful, at 1 pm it’s already full, so come here a bit before or after, if you want to seat down and try their typical dishes!
Where: Via Garibaldi 1135, Castello (VE), +390415285365, lunch only, closed Sunday.
Extra: Bacareto da Lele
The first extra is a place that comes out directly from my heart! This bacaro, in front of San Nicola of Tolentini Church, is special: from early morning serves small sandwiches (1€) and wine (60 cents). There’s no menu, you need to be there and see what they prepared. The sandwiches are small but for me they are the best in the city! After eating 3 or 4 of them the lunch will be done and you can sit on the church stairs to rest (no tables or chairs inside).
Where: Campo dei Tolentini, Santa Croce 183 (VE), closed on Sunday.
Extra: Orient Experience II
The second extra has a beautiful story: Hamed Ahmadi is a refugee from Afghanistan, and he has been living in Italy since 2006. He came to participate to the Cinema Festival of Venice with a film about the situation in Afghanistan, and after that he could not return because of a death sentence made by terrorists. So he asked and obtained the refugee status and started working in the city. After some years he was able to open a small restaurant, the Orient Experience. In few months the success was enormous and he was able to open another one, in a students` part of the city.
This is the one where I used to go when I was a student: every day they prepare different oriental recipes, from Middle East to Central Asia. The prices are affordable and the quality is amazing! Now there’s also the possibility to sit and enjoy the food.
If you want to read his full story, there’s this article (in Italian but can be easily translated).
Where: Campo Santa Margherita 2920, Dorsoduro (VE), +390415200217.
Author: Mattia Fortunati