How to Eat Like a Local in Venice

There are plenty of reasons to visit Venice—including this year’s film festival, which kicked off earlier this week—but if you ask the average tourist who hasn’t traveled far beyond St. Mark’s Square, the general consensus is that the food isn’t one of them. With its labyrinthine canals and alleyways, grand palazzos, and masterful art and architecture, it’s easy to lose yourself in this ethereal city, whether on your first visit or your twelfth. Chances are, though, you’ll come thudding back to earth at dinnertime. 

You may have to work to find a bad meal in other parts of Italy, but in Venice, it’s easy to spend the equivalent cost of an entire day of spectacular eating in Rome on a single mediocre (at best) main course. Simple math can explain the abundance of tourist traps over the sort of high-quality, local spots you’re hoping for: Vacationers outnumber Venice’s 60,000 residents by a ratio of more than 330 to 1.

With so many restaurants catering to tourists, the usual tricks for separating the culinary wheat from the chaff don’t apply—multi-language menus and locations smack in the middle of the most-visited areas aren’t necessarily the dead giveaways they would be elsewhere.

Still, there are gems hiding in plain sight and ways to find them. For starters, if the menu reads like a playlist of Italian greatest hits, keep walking; you’re best to leave culinary stereotypes such as pizza to Naples and Rome (wood-fire ovens are mostly banned in Venice). As with each region in Italy, Venice has its own foodie traditions—many are seafood-based, from tiny prawns fresh from the lagoon to crisp tangles of fritto misto (platters of mixed fried seafood and vegetables), while cicchetti, found in Venetian bacari (wine bars), are a centuries-old answer to tapas. 

Here, find nine great places for dining among the locals.

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