Do locals dine at restaurants in Venice?

Apr 2nd, 2002, 06:41 PM
  #1  
Dawn
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Do locals dine at restaurants in Venice?

Just returned from a 2 week trip to Milan, Venice and Florence. This was my ninth European country and I like to be immersed in the local culture as I travel.

While in Venice, I also cancelled my reservation to Da Fiore. The conceirge at my hotel looked at me with just amazement. He explained to me that there is a huge wait for this restaurant and that it was very very good. Yes I know but I think I cancelled with good reason. After further inquiry, he quietly admitted that only Americans eat there.

Let me explain. We went to Al Covo the night before for dinner assuming the same criteria and spent $250 for a meal for two that was good but not extraordinary. The service and food was so so - nothing to rave about. I was surrounded by customers with a Texan accent (yes I know about Diane's roots) and other Americans and was quite surprised to find that only Americans eat here. I was under the assumption that this was a 'local' place. As a matter of fact, my husband and I asked a few locals in Italian where the restaurant was and they didn't know (we were wandering and got lost a bit and it was just around the corner). I just don't want to travel to a foreign country and eat next to people that don't speak the local language.

I'm from NY and learned that Da Fiore opened up a restaurant here in the Big Apple. I consider myself to have a very experienced palate and didn't think that any restaurant in Venice warranted such a large sum of money to dine there (my husband was the only person in the restaurant with a jacket and tie). For that amount of money, I expect to be pampered and I think I would be in any other European city.

Did I miss out on a good time? Are there other Fodorites out there who were not 'blown away' by the local restaurants?

Venice was beautiful. We enjoyed our time there. I am just saddened that we didn't really experience any locals out. It seems that they hang out for a bit in wine bars and then scurry home. I felt that Venice was so overrun with tourists. I saw more touristo menus than I cared to ever see.

I have not experienced this in any other country. Comments please.
 
Apr 2nd, 2002, 07:04 PM
  #2  
DB
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Dawn, I have been to Venice twice and have not had the same experience. I ate at many restaurants and was always surrounded by locals. Some places had more tourists than others, but all had a fair share of locals. One great place in Castello was totally locals and they spoke almost no English which made the experience a lot of fun in a way. You cannot go to Venice, one of the most visited cities in Europe and not be surrounded by tourists! Those Texans are no different than you are they? And you should stay out of Al Covo since it is mentioned in every guide book out there. If you want locals only in Italy, you'll need to drive out to a farm somewhere and work the vineyards.
 
Apr 2nd, 2002, 07:33 PM
  #3  
Capo
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Any city as unique and gorgeous (and accessible) as Venice is going to be overrun by tourists. Just no way around that. Attractive places attract people, lots of 'em.
 
Apr 2nd, 2002, 07:36 PM
  #4  
Dayle
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Hi Dawn! Sorry you didn't enjoy dining in Venice. Surely you know Venice is a city almost completely devoted to tourism. I'm sorry I can't remember the exact source, but I read an article a few months ago that stated the ratio of visitors to permanent residents. It was something like 50/1? So, if you want to dine with the locals, about your only chance is to visit during the winter months.

I had a wonderful dinner at Al Covo, the best of a 3 week trip. The service was excellent, attentive but not obtrusive. Personally, I can't stand a waiter who interrupts or hovers.

The reason you may have been surrounded by Texans is because the owner (a native Venician) & his wife (an American) met while working at one of Houston's major hotels. He creates the menus & oversees the kitchen, she is responsible for the to-die-for desserts.

Anyway, better luck next time. Venice may be full of tourists, but it's still a unique & magical place.
 
Apr 2nd, 2002, 10:09 PM
  #5  
to_the
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tip top tip top
 
Apr 3rd, 2002, 04:58 AM
  #6  
elaine
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I ate at Da Fiore last fall, I'm also from NYC, I've traveled a bit, I love great restaurants, and I thought Da Fiore was one of the best meals of my life.
We were seated in a nook in front of a window overlooking a small canal. The table nearest to us was an Italian family, probably regulars as they kept addressing the waiters by name. We in no sense got the feeling that the place was full of Americans, even if there were many tourists there. The concierge at your hotel was not 100% correct. On the other hand, in some other touristed cities like London and Paris, I have on occasion felt as if I've been seated in the "American section" of the restaurant. In Paris that might be because they want to seat me in the area served by the only English-speaking waiter, but I speak enough French, so I don't think so.

On the other hand, even in NYC in the top-drawer restaurants, there are also usually many out-of-towners, don't you think?

I'm glad you enjoyed your trip, but sorry that you missed Da Fiore.
 
Apr 3rd, 2002, 05:23 AM
  #7  
dean
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Like so much is Venice, if you want to get away from the "tourist hordes" all you need to do is get away from the famous an from the famous areas like San Marco, around the train station, the accademia etc.

We went into many a place where Italians abounded. Do Mori, Da Pinto, Alla Testerie, Alla Frasca to name a few. All of these places had as many or more Italians than tourists. In a place where there are so many tourists, its ahrd to completely get away. Our favorite restaurant in Venice is Fiaschetteria Toscana. The crowd is equally split between American, Germans and everyone else. There are a small number of Italians in there (judging from the languages spoken by the waiters). However the food experience here is simply amazing. I have been in the food and wine industry for almost 30 years and this place is amazing. The quality of the seafood and the basic simplicity with which it is handled is self evident. They ahve a cheese tray that is the best selection I have ever seen. It has cheeses that I have only seen at places like Volpetti in Rome. The point is that great restauraants can be those that cater to the local crowd or, much less often IMO, those with an international crowd. The experience will be different but it is the passion for food that sets off a great restaurant, not who dines there.
 
Apr 3rd, 2002, 05:51 AM
  #8  
Gigi
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Dawn your post is exactly why my husband and I have a motto, "If a restaurant is posted in here, it's TOO American". That is why we ALWAYS explore and find our own wonderful restaurants where ever we travel.

We are rarely disappointed with our choices, and if we are: that's the fun of travel, adventures, learning and exploring.......

Most restaurants post their menus. You eventually learn to sort the duds from the greats. We have gotten wonderful recommendations from B&B owners, locals and other retauranteurs.
 
Apr 3rd, 2002, 06:38 AM
  #9  
Dawn
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Thanks everyone for your tips. Dean - Wish I knew about these restaurants before I left! Thanks - I'll keep them for next time.

On a happier note, we are walkers, like to explore, ventured away from the tourists and did find some good quality restaurants up in the ghetto area and also near the theatre in the San Marco district. Nothing that anyone has talked about on this forum though.

The food and service was very good and the restaurants were filled with mostly Europeans. We did enjoy our meal - I tried cuttlefish in a black ink sauce for the first time. An acquired taste.

The hardest part for me while travelling through Italy was that it was diffcult to distinguish a posh restaurant from a casual restaurant in terms of food. I love food and grew up making pasta with my Italian grandmother earlier than I learned how to ride a bike! So I am very adament about not eating the same ole same ole when I travel. Most of the menus posted outside of the door seemed to offer the same selections. For example, when I am in Paris, it is easy to tell a 4 star restaurant from a bistro. In Venice and in Florence, I found the dress to be quite casual so unless you know 'where to go', it really is the luck of the draw when picking a place. I would not say that the decor in any Venice or Florence restaurant we peaked into was elegant - but we did find more locals in Florence which was great. It helps me brush up on my Italian.

By the way, why isn't anything in Italy served at the correct temperature? For example, my expresso was always lukewarm and my white wine was never served chilled. Even when ordering a bottle of white wine, it was put on the table warm. No wine buckets? I wanted to ask every waiter but didn't want to seem ignorant.

We ended up switching to some wonderful Brunellos instead.
 
Apr 3rd, 2002, 07:44 AM
  #10  
bill yost
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Dawn: I doubt that you ate at every expensive restaurant in Venice, or even a fraction of 1% of them. So your statement that you "...didn't think that any restaurant in Venice warranted such a large sum of money to dine there" is nonsense.

Yes, locals in Venice do go out to eat at local restaurants, but to find those restaurants you have to get away from the security of the tourist crowds that swarm the area from the train station to the Rialto Bridge and on to P. San Marco. We've been to Venice during the tourist season twice (my wife's a teacher, so summer is it for our travels) and were able to find very good nontouristy restaurants just by using our feet.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 08:47 AM
  #11  
topee
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to the top
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 01:18 PM
  #12  
j
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Dawn, Just got back from Venice and had a wonderful time - tourists and all! Being a New Yorker myself, and used to very good food (particularly Italian), I also questioned whether we should keep our reservation at Da Fiore. Glad we did - it was delicious, not pretentious, and not as unreasonable as we might have expected (about 2/3 the price of Florence's Ennoteca Pinchiorri, which we decided to skip). Now, my question is: WHERE/WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE NY RESTAURANT OWNED BY THE OWNER OF DA FIORE???! Thanks!
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 01:39 PM
  #13  
Sue
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Dawn, we had the same experience in Venice. We dined at a restaurant near our hotel on the first night that was outrageously expensive and not that good and we were surrounded by Americans. The second night we just walked and walked until we found an area that looked very residential and there was a very lovely outdoor restaurant. I saw a small dog under a woman's chair and it just hit me that this is probably a place where locals eat and it sure enough was. We had a great meal and were treated so well for a very reasonable price. The best meal I ever had.

I don't recall the names of these places and I'm making a pledge to record them on my next vacation.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 01:49 PM
  #14  
xxxxx
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Talk about your ugly american. If you want to eat like the locals, get off your high horse and venture into the more seedier parts of town, and quit complaining about the temperature of your food.

So you can't tell the difference between a "posh" and a "casual" restaurant. Maybe you should go in and let your "experienced palate" decide for you.

The sad part in this is that you don't know the first thing about the "travel experience." You've had your nose so far up in the air you've missed it.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 02:19 PM
  #15  
localwannabe
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Just my humble opinion, but shouldn't the fact that your dinner for two cost $250.00 clue you in that the restaurant isn't a local hangout???

Also, why do so many folks on this board come back from vacation and then gripe and complain about how the "whole place was just overrun with tourists!" Do they really mean that the place they visited was overrun with the "wrong kind" of tourist?
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 03:12 PM
  #16  
Dawn
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In answer to your comments:

J - I don't know where Da Fiore opened up a restaurant in NY. I would love to know as well.

Sue - I couldn't agree with you more. That's how I found most of the little out of the way bistros in Paris!

localwannabe - Yes you're right. The problem is that my husband ordered the fish of the day which is sold by weight and then filleted. We had no idea that the meal was going to be that expensive until we got the bill. No bones though! Venice was overrun with tourists - we travel off season to places to avoid this for this reason. I think putting up with cooler temperatures to see the locals is fair. I like to see a city with the local flair - why do you think my comment is wrong?

x - don't know where to start with your comments so I guess I'll just say that you are entitled to your own opinion. If you read my comments as 'snooty', then you misinterpreted what I was intending to say.
 
Apr 4th, 2002, 04:30 PM
  #17  
Kurt
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Dawn,

Having visited Venice five times over the past 15 years, including each of the seasons, it is cerainly one of the most magical places on earth. Our visits are not complete without dinner at Harry's Bar, one of the most famous restarants - worldwide. Not only is the restatrant filled with Italians, owner Harry Cipriani consistently serves the most fantastic meals anywhere. I can't believe your research didn't take you there!
 
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