Cheat sheet: 11 spots to eat and drink well while visiting the Venice Biennale

It’s easy to get carried away while at the Venice Biennale. The golden rule is to never eat at the cafeteria’s inside the Arsenale or Giardini (the food is mediocre and terribly over priced). While Venice might be the place to see the forefront of global art, it’s culinary choices leave much to be desired.

If you don’t watch out, you’ll find yourself eating bland spaghetti bolognese, stale pizza and dry paninis for days on end. Here are our suggestions if you find yourself visiting the Venice Biennale and are keen to hang with the locals, or try something off the beaten track. Some spots aren’t always close to the main venues of the Arsenale or Giardini, but you’ll find them as you visit the other national pavilions that are dotted around Venice.

Venice food and drink:

Venice has happy hour from 6pm-8pm. During this time you can grab a drink and they normally serve some cicchetti (pieces of bread/baguette with some topping) as well – sometimes it’s only crisps, sometimes you’ll be able to get some really good snacks. Prices range from EU2,50 to EU5,00 for a spritz and around EU3-EU6 for a glass of wine. We’ve tried to list places that have great cicchetti as well as reasonably priced drinks.

First-up: If you are headed into the Giardini from Via Garibaldi, stop at the Coop on the way in and grab some water and a snack. You’ve got a long day ahead of you, and it’s best to start early. Here are our suggestions for when you’ve finished the main venues (we even have a map for you below or on Google Maps):

Bar Refolo

This place is really close to Giardini – take a left as you head down Garibaldi and you’ll find it on your left. It gets nice and lively during the evening, but is great for people watching and meeting locals and artists who seem to gravitate towards this spot. It’s close enough that you can make this your first stop on the way out of Giardini or Arsenale without stopping at any of the other tourist traps that dot Via Garibaldi.
Nearest Pavilion: Giardini and Arsenale

Bar Da Enzo

Bar Enzo

Enzo has got to be one of the best hidden gems of Venice. The three things we love about it are: 1) that it’s RIGHT off St Mark’s square, so relatively central to just about anywhere. 2) It’s CHEAP! Their spritzes come in at EU2, which would probably make it the best priced spritz closest to St Marks, and they have a rehydrated sun-dried tomato cicchetti that is excellent. Not to mention the fact that they are open till late so it’s very easy to find yourself at Enzo at least once a day. Sometimes twice.
Nearest Pavilion: Zimbabwe and Andorra

La Zucca

La Zucca means “pumpkin” in Italian, which is what you get in almost every dish at this tiny restaurant. It’s on a main walking strip but easy to miss as you’ll find yourself drawn along the crowds and over the bridge. We recommend sitting inside as the interior is old-world charm, and the food’s absolutely great. It’s nice outside too, but if you get an inside window seat you can watch people go by over the canal. But be warned – it’s full. Probably for the next week from whenever you are reading this. La Zucca is also terrible at taking telephone bookings so we suggest finding them as soon as you land in Venice and making a booking face to face. They have a leek gratin that is a must.
Nearest Pavilion: Nigeria

Al Timon

By being a little further out of the main strips of Venice, this spot hits the mark by being in a relatively quiet area, but still bustling. Located in the neighbourhood of Canareggio, it takes a little longer to get there. At Al Timon you can get EU1 cicchetti and cheap spritzes. Once you’ve laden up your plate, you can go sit outside on the boat/pontoon as you watch the sun go down. Their taste in music is also probably the best we’ve heard in all of Venice.
Nearest Pavilion: Kiribati

Cantina Do Spade

There’s no doubting that Do Spade has the best deep fried zucchini flowers in town and they often run out, causing mass panic by the patrons peeling from inside, out onto the tiny street. They have a great wine selection on the board, and if you’re feeling more than peckish then they have a pretty good larger meal selection too. But seeing as it’s right next to Rialto it might just be a place you catch while in transit. Rialto is easily a tourist trap (EU6 spritzes near the market) but Do Spade is affordable and has excellent quality.
Nearest Pavilion: Do Spade is close to Rialto, so it’s more of a transit stop on your way to/from a pavilion

Cantina del Vino Schiavi

This is really three spots close to one another all along the canal in Dorsoduro. You’ll easily spot them as you enter Fondamenta Nani. From 6pm this area lights up with wine and spritzes. It’s said that the best cicchetti can be found in between these three Osteria’s, and judging by the popularity it’s pretty easy to see why. Have all the cicchetti that you can and try a glass at each of the spots. You can get your drink in a takeaway cup, which makes it easier to hop on to the next place.
Nearest Pavilion: Montenegro and Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Piazza al Volo

In 2015, this pizza joint was listed as a pizza pavilion – they had created pizza’s inspired by artists from various nations. We had the Dineo Seshee Bopape pizza and it was divine. It’s now become one of our regular stops when we’re walking through Santa Margherita. While there are loads of cheap places to grab a bite and drink on the square, we recommend getting something from this institution. Beware though, Santa Margherita is close to a university so it’s a student square and can get quite rowdy late at night. If that’s your thing, then stay close. 
Nearest Pavilion: Ivory Coast

Osteria Da Filo

Tucked in a side street just behind the campo with all the kids, you’ll find Da Filo. It’s a small quaint place as most bars in Venice go, but the drinks are great and the clientele excellent. It’s got loads of character from all the literature stuck up on the walls and large tables to catch-up after a long day hitting the art scene. It’s also a pretty good base to start a night in the Santa Croce area too.
Nearest Pavilion: Yeah sorry.. this one is a bit far, but it’s close to About Studio

Alaska Ice Cream/Gelato

Ok. Not really food, but Venetians are all about the gelato. Alaska is special spot and worth a trip out to Santa Croce for. With flavours like rocket, salad and orange (in one serving), celery, ginger and turmeric (all separate) this is one of the best spots to get gelato. All the other places are great, but you’ll end up with another dark chocolate or pistachio. Make the mission this side and you’ll be well rewarded. 
Nearest Pavilion: Nigeria

Pasticceria Rizzardini

Pastry shops and little coffee shops are everywhere in Venice. Don’t settle for crappy day-old croissants. Rizzardini is in the elbow of San Polo and worth a little detour. Start your morning in Rialto and head downwards to Dorsoduro on this side of the canal, stopping at Rizzardini for the quiet patisserie’s excellent coffee. 

Bacaro Risorto

Another nice spot to rest your feet when heading back from The Arsenale or Giardini. It’s located on a walk way and you’ll probably hang out with one of the artists finishing up at Giardini. They’ve also got a Artiginale beer every now and again on tap.

Venice Food and Drink Map

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