A Wine (and Food) Lover’s Guide to Venice, Italy

Venice might be one of the most visited cities in the world, but it's still easy to avoid tourists and eat like a local. These restaurants have extensive wine lists and menus that focus on local ingredients.
Photo by Susan Wright

Rising out of the Adriatic Sea, romantic Venice is one of the most visited cities in the world, full of beautiful squares, lovely palaces and unforgettable gondola rides down enchanting canals. Many assume it would be difficult to dine well in such a tourist-packed place, but the city offers fantastic options with a clear focus on fresh, local ingredients—everything from simple eateries serving savory bites washed down with Prosecco to elegant restaurants that pair gourmet meals with some of Italy’s top bottlings. Here’s your guide to serenity: the best places to wine and dine in the city known as La Serenissima.

Enoteche (Wine Bars)

Osteria I Rusteghi
Osteria I Rusteghi / Photo by Susan Wright

Osteria I Rusteghi

It may not be easy to find, but this small, vibrant wine bar/bistro near the Rialto is definitely worth the effort. Dynamic owner Giovanni d’Este has created an enviable wine list of nearly 500 celebrated labels. Options include wines from Borgo del Tiglio, Gaja, Oddero, Jermann and Tua Rita as well as highly sought-after offerings from Roagna, Salvioni and Capichera, to name just a few. Osteria I Rusteghi is even the only wine bar in Venice to be elected a Krug Ambassador. Pair the wines with the osteria’s famous gourmet sandwiches or Giovanni’s carefully selected cheeses, salamis and light dishes.

Estro

This is one of the coolest wine bars in Venice. Located in Dorsoduro, the vibrant university district, Estro is the brainchild of brothers Alberto and Dario Spezzamonte. With its wooden furnishings, Murano glass accents and stemware, it’s the perfect setting for gourmet snacks and meals to go with a carefully curated wine list from Italy and France. More than 600 wines are chosen by Dario, based on the producers’ respect for terroir and focus in the vineyards. Names include Brezza, Cavallotto, Il Paradiso di Manfredi and Cà dei Zago. You can also buy bottles to go.

Cantina Do Mori
Cantina Do Mori / Photo by Susan Wright

Cantina Do Mori

Credited as the oldest bacaro (traditional stand-up wine bar) in the city, Cantina Do Mori is your chance to experience authentic Venice. Catering to locals since 1462, this simple, inviting establishment sports copper pots that hang from the ceiling and serves traditional cicchetti (chee-KET-ee), a selection of snacks to enjoy with a glass or two of wine. Be sure to try one of its tiny sandwiches, francobolli (postage stamps), with various fillings. It also has a good selection of wines from Piedmont and Tuscany, many by the glass.

Un Mondo di Vino

A short walk from the Rialto bridge, Un Mondo di Vino is another small bar as popular with Venetians as it is with tourists. Ceramic wine carafes hang from the low-beamed, wooden ceilings, which creates a warm, cozy ambience perfect for a quick snack or light lunch with a glass of wine. Among the vast assortment of seafood cicchetti, don’t miss the baccalà mantecato (whipped salt-cod spread) or the stuffed calamari. Finding the ideal glass of wine is easy here, as more than 80 wines from around Italy are featured.

Restaurants

Chef picking fresh herbs from the garden, at Venissa Winery on the island of Mazzorbo, Venetian Lagoon, Italy.
Chef Picking Fresh Herbs from the Garden, at Venissa Winery on the Island of Mazzorbo, Venetian Lagoon, Italy / Photo by Susan Wright

Venissa

With its walled-in vineyard, waterfront hotel, colorful guesthouses and two on-site dining options, Venissa is a wine lover’s paradise. The wine resort on the island of Mazzorbo has a Michelin-starred restaurant and a more casual Osteria Contemporanea, which serve creative dishes prepared by Chef Francesco Brutto and his team. The restaurant carries approximately 200 wines from around the world, with a focus on the Veneto, Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions. The estate’s mineral-driven, namesake white, however, is the star, made entirely from the rare native grape Dorona that was saved from extinction by the Bisol family, the founders of Venissa and owners of the Bisol Prosecco brand.

Bistrot de Venise

Bistrot de Venise is a must for tourists looking for a memorable meal alongside hard-to-find local wines or one of Italy’s most celebrated bottlings. A combination of Old World elegance and down-to-earth hospitality, it is famed for fresh renditions of Venetian cuisine dating from the 14th to 18th centuries. A great example is bigoli in salsa, which the restaurant prepares using whole-wheat spaghetti served with stewed onions, anchovies and black pepper. Head Sommelier Stefano Cipolato has created a stellar wine list of more than 300 bottles and 60 by-the-glass pours, which also highlights wines made from resurrected local rarities and native grapes like Sciaglin, Rondinella Bianca, Turchetta, Bianchetta, Raboso and Oseleta.

Al Covo
Al Covo / Photo by Susan Wright

Al Covo

Just a 10-minute walk from St. Mark’s Square, Al Covo is a member of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity and one of the benchmarks of Venice’s dining scene. Owner/Chef Cesare Benelli’s cuisine includes fresh fish from the Adriatic and Venetian lagoon, seasonal vegetables and produce from small-scale growers in regional farmlands. Benelli’s breaded, fried fresh sardines “de Alba” and mantis shrimp served with fries, fennel and “rouille” sauce is a classic dish. Al Covo’s wine list has nearly 250 labels from around the globe, with a strong selection from biodynamic producers.

Da Fiore

With lighter versions of traditional Venetian fare, this is one of Venice’s wining and dining gems. Da Fiore is owned by the Martin family, and Chef Mara Martin learned how to cook from her grandmother. Some of the restaurant’s most requested dishes are Venetian classics like bass in balsamic vinegar and fried moleche (young, soft-shelled crabs from Venice’s lagoon). The wine list is phenomenal, from Ferrari’s Perlé Nero and a vast selection of Champagne to top Barolos, Barbarescos and Brunellos, as well as older vintages from classic Veneto producers.

The Volcanic Wines of Italy

Osteria Trefanti

Osteria Trefanti A short walk from the Santa Lucia train station, this small restaurant makes some of the tastiest seafood in Venice. Owned by Sam Metcalfe and Umberto Slongo (also the chef), it serves creative renditions of traditional dishes thanks to chef’s inventive use of herbs and spices to produce unexpected results. The menu changes based on the availability of local seafood, but you’ll often find classics like pasta with clams and mussels, baby octopus and turbot as well as hearty ravioli dishes. And Metcalfe’s vinous passion has resulted in an evolving list that focuses on organic wines and a great selection of local producers. Whatever you choose, save room for the delicious tiramisu.

Osteria Santa Marina

Located in the Castello District, Osteria Santa Marina is a welcoming restaurant and its chef, Agostino Doria, turn out masterfully crafted, artful takes on traditional Venetian cuisine like house-made pasta and saor, a specialty made from cooked-then-marinated fish. Danilo Baldan ensures a memorable experience, thanks to a courteous, professional wait staff and great wine list. The list offers approximately 265 labels and focuses on Italian and Veneto wines, though top names from France and Australia are available, too. You’ll find cult Amarone producers like Dal Forno and Quintarelli, as well as a range of top Super Tuscans like Solaia and Masseto.

Published on March 20, 2018
Topics: Travel
About the Author
Kerin O’Keefe
Italian Editor

Reviews wines from Italy

Italian Editor Kerin O’Keefe reviews all Italian wines for Wine Enthusiast. Previously she wrote regularly on Italian wine for Wine News, World of Fine Wine and Decanter. She is the author of Franco Biondi Santi: The Gentleman of Brunello (2005), Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy's Greatest Wines (2012) and Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine (2014).

Email: kokeefe@wineenthusiast.net.




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