Venice has a bit of a reputation for being a foodie’s heaven capable of lifting your taste buds up on the song of a harp. It can, however, be hell for your bank balance, with a cup of coffee on St Marks Square costing as much as £15.
If you’re looking to be a bit frugal with your Euros, but still want to sample some Venice’s culinary triumphs, this little guide to inexpensive food in Venice may be just the ticket.
After pounding the Venetian back streets while following my nose (and advice from Trip Advisor) I managed to unearth some of the city’s lesser known and lower priced gastronomic gold mines. Two in particular stood a tall chef’s hat above the rest: Enoteca la Mascareta and Antica Birraria La Corte.
For lunch or an early dinner the Antica Birraria is an excellent choice. Inside the bar and restaurant have very cool antique industrial feel with lots of open brickwork; chunky, scarred wooden tables and big brass pipes and vats. While the interior is impressive, the outside tables are the place to be. The Antica Birraria sits at the Northern end of the City’s San Polo square: an excellent spot to relax and watch Venetian life pass by. If you want to sit outside and have an al fresco continental dining experience you may have to wait for a while in the bar and partake of a glass of wine or two while chatting with the friendly staff.
Based on the things I read about the restaurant I was expecting the food to be pretty decent, but I wasn’t getting carried away. This was after all a restaurant, in a central area of a seriously expensive city, which offers main courses in the 8 to 15 euro price range. My expectations were met and then swept aside as I sampled the Antica Birraria’s terrific food. My buffalo steak was a lovely-jubly piece of meat cooked to perfection and served with a beautiful sauce, but enough with the buffalo, this place is really all about the pizzas.
This place has the best pizza I’ve had in my whole… entire… life. It was magnificent. To this day, I still dream of the perfectly baked thin base, the delicately balanced flavours and the lovely big slices of Italian ham. It has however ruined me and caused me to look on all other pizzas with a mix of pity and scorn.
For a late night bite in a warm, vibrant and authentic Venetian enoteca look no further than la Mascareta. An enoteca is basically a late night wine bar which serves a selection of food. La Mascareta is pretty different from the trendy wine bars you find in the UK; it’s got a very rustic, natural, feel more in line with a welcoming local pub. The staff are tremendous too, my girlfriend and I popped in early to check the place out and reserve a table, as we’d heard it could get very busy. The proprietor Ivan couldn’t have been better, he booked our table gave us both a small glass of wine and offered us a few samples of beautiful Italian hams and cheeses to try, all at no charge!
The food was pretty good too, I had a very nice duck leg with an excellent sauce and the girlfriend went for a tasty seafood concoction complete with tiny octopuses. However, the real highlights were the wonderful wines, excellent staff and friendly atmosphere.
Both la Mascareta and the Antica Birraria were busy establishments which had a lot of local customers: always a good sign when you’re looking for quality food at reasonable prices. While Venice can be a frighteningly expensive city, a little research can help you to find some hidden gems which won’t cost you the earth.
Have you ever eaten out in Venice? Did you find anywhere you would recommend? Tell us about it in the comments box below.