Ah, Venice. As Anthony Bourdain describes it, it’s “the most extraordinarily beautiful city in the western world.” But also, Venice has changed – Venice is always changing – and it can be hard to find the true Venice, the one where Venetians live and work and eat.
“Venice [also] has a reputation for crap food at high prices,” Tony says, which makes it tough for a prospective traveler to find the good stuff. Luckily, most of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Venice are still around over a decade later – so you can at least eat confidently in those places.
Anthony Bourdain visited Venice in Season 5, Episode 2 of No Reservations; this was his only on-screen visit to the City of Bridges… or City of Canals… or City of Water. (Venice has many nicknames.)
No matter what you call it, Venice is well worth a visit at least once in your lifetime, preferably before it sinks too much further. If you’re planning a trip and want to dine at the same places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Venice, read on for a complete list of those spots as well as the dishes Tony tried at each one.
Where Anthony Bourdain ate in Venice
Before jumping into the list of each restaurant, I always like to start with a quick introduction and map of each place – to help you get oriented. This is especially handy if you’ve already planned other parts of your trip and know where you’re staying; you can then use the map above (click to interact with it!) to decide which of these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Venice that you want to visit also!
Cantina do Mori
Anthony Bourdain kicks off his time in Venice with a visit to Cantina do Mori, one of the many little restaurants in Venice famous for cicheti (or cicchetti in Italian). These are small plates, like pintxos in Portugal or tapas in Spain, and delicious any time of day. Cantina do Mori is one of the oldest (or maybe the oldest) bacaros (taverns) in Venice, founded in 1462. He visits with chef and Venetian local Gigi Vianello; some cicheti they try include egg with anchovy and spicy coppa sausage.
Pronto Pesci (CLOSED)
Next they head to another spot for more cicheti, Pronto Pesci, which has unfortunately closed in the intervening years. (It also seemed to change names at some point to Lino Fritto, to clear up confusion if you try searching to confirm its closure.)
While you can’t visit this spot for cicheti, you can seek out some of the small bites they tried, which include swordfish with artichoke, crispy fried sardines, and baccalà mantecato, a famous Venetian salted cod dish. They pair each dish with an ombra which mostly translates as aperitif, but also just usually means a small glass of wine.
Il Diavolo E L’acqua Santa
Next, Bourdain and Vianello head to another spot for traditional Venetian cuisine – but with strong influences from their German neighbors to the north. The episode calls the restaurant “Osteria Diavolo E L’acqua Santa,” though Google points me to this name: Il Diavolo E L’acqua Santa, near the Ponte di Rialto.
There, the two chefs dive into some of Tony’s favorite foods: boiled calves head, tripe, and museto (a sausage that translates as “little animal face”). All are served with German-style mustard, and the two chefs enjoy the protein-rich meal with gusto.
Trattoria da Romano (Burano)
Next, Tony leaves the main islands of Venice to visit colorful Burano. He is joined by an originally American, now Venetian food writer for several meals, including one at Trattoria da Romano. This restaurant dates back to the 1800s and has been run by five subsequent generations – they make what they make, and they make it well.
Over their meal with the proprietor and his son, they enjoy a course of cuttlefish roe, sea snails, baby octopus, and manus shrimp, followed by grilled polenta with vinegar-cooked sardines. The grande finale is the dish that da Romano is most famous for: Go Risotto, a risotto made with the small goby fish that Bourdain raves about after trying.
After learning more about the other industries that support Venice, Tony takes lunch with several Venetian locals at Trattoria Borghi, a working-class lunch spot. Don’t let that turn you off though: the dishes look awesome and are enjoyed by all, including sardines and onions, more baccalà mantecato, grilled vegetables, and pasta with clams, mussels, garlic, and olive oil that seems perfect after a long morning of labor.
Antica Locanda Montin
Next, Anthony Bourdain meets up with a Venetian transplant, artist Geoffrey Humphries, who has called Venice home for almost 60 years. They visit Antica Locanda Montin, a spot famous for accepting art as credit in the past. While that form of currency is no longer accepted after a meal, you can still visit and eat some of the same dishes; the two artists share mantis shrimp, followed by pasta in red tomato sauce.
Finally, Bourdain meets with Chef Cesare Benelli at his restaurant Al Covo. Here, Tony has what I would wager is his favorite meal of the trip – and one of the few that has so much food that he actually gets full. Their meal together includes wild sea bass carpaccio with pink peppercorn, chives, and basil oil; spider crab with roe, fried zucchini and baby softshell crab with wild fennel on a bed of crispy potato; and an entire plate of seafood.
If you have to put one place in Venice on your must-try list, Al Covo gets my vote!
Local Dining Experiences in Venice
While some episodes of his shows focus heavily on what I call “local experiences” – i.e. not restaurants or experiences us fellow travelers can reproduce – Tony only had a few local dining experiences in Venice compared to his restaurant experiences.
- First, he heads to the island of Sant’Erasmo (with chef Binelli), known for its incredible produce, to try Fragolino, or “Forbidden Wines” alongside a meal of fresh figs, grapes, eggplant, tomato with olive oil, salami, cheese, and fresh bread. It’s the perfect Venetian picnic and one you could replicate yourself in one of Venice’s parks.
- He also has a garden lunch on Lido Island with one of his location fixers. This family-style meal is prepared by the family matriarch – one of Bourdain’s favorite cooks – and includes bigoli with salt-cured anchovy sauce, lagoon cuttlefish cooked in its own ink with slow-cooked polenta, and Fegato alla Veneziana (liver and onions) that Tony describes as a “sour, sweet, savory symphony of offal.”
Food Tours to Try in Venice
There are a lot of food tours in Venice, as you might expect from a popular tourist city in Italy. However, it can be hard to choose a good one, and wade through the ones that risk “crap food and high prices,” as Tony says. Here are three tours that look to me like a great opportunity to sample true flavors of Venice with a “traveler” (not tourist) approach to seeing the city.
There you have it: a complete guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Venice, as well as suggestions for how you can have your own delicious experience. Have any questions about following in the footsteps and forkfuls of Anthony Bourdain in Venice? Let me know in the comments below!