Finding a worthy culinary experience in Venice isn’t so easy.
Why? Unfortunately, the bulk of restaurants in Venice are heavily focused on two things – tourists, and turning a profit. In my opinion and experience, dining well can be more of a challenge in Venice than in other Italian cities, for this very reason. And, this is why I consider having discovered Anice Stellato, many years ago, a gift from heaven.
Unfortunately, most visitors to Venice aren’t willing to venture too far off the well-worn thoroughfares, where experiences like Anice Stellato await. Instead, people find themselves lured into restaurants with genial hawkers, standing outside touting their fare. And, this leads me to a piece of advice that I stand by:
If a restaurant needs a barker to get you inside, you’d best turn your attentions elsewhere
The best restaurants don’t need to advertise. Anice Stellato is a prime example. Word of mouth is robust for this wonderful osteria – not only with locals, but with visitors who have been resourceful enough to do their research to find the best places in Venice. If you heed my advice to experience the warmth of the service, and the superior quality of the food at Anice Stellato, then I urge you strongly to
Book a table at Anice Stellato ahead of time
This isn’t a huge restaurant. And, Elisa and the staff are not intent on churning out the food or just turning the tables at a brisk pace in order to turn a profit. They don’t need to. They fill up quickly, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched people coming into the osteria inquiring about availability, only to be turned away because the restaurant has been booked for some time. Then, when many people ask about the next day, often times they find out Anice Stellato is already “complete”. So, don’t take chances.
Also, I encourage you, when you make reservations (either yourself and through your hotel), to request a table in the front room (or along the Fondementa de la Sensa, if the weather is good).
Anice Stellato, which means “star anise”, has a beautifully-curated menu
It’s all about quality of choices – not quantity. If you’re looking for pages and pages of choices and courses, you’d best go somewhere else. For me, the mark of a truly extraordinary restaurant is their ability to narrow the selection of dishes to a few powerful choices. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still find plenty of worthy dishes, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself in angst simply over having to make a choice.
For me, the dish I must have every time is the fritto misto di mare. I just can’t help myself. This dish is lightly prepared, with a mix of fried shrimp, calamari, anchovies, onions and carrots. Simone and I inevitably find ourselves sharing a plate (normally a secondi, main dish).
Other personal favorites are the pecorino cheesecake (under starters), the bigoli with anchovies and onions, and the grilled whole fish (usually two fresh choices). On this last outing, my secondi was the duck breast, and I have to say, it was pretty damn amazing.
The Anice Stellato wine list offers many carefully-chosen wines, with engaging personalities.
Unless you’re a wine expert (I’m just knowledgeable enough to be dangerous), put yourself in the hands of the very capable staff. Tell them what characteristics you’re looking for in a wine, and I promise, they’ll deliver the goods – and probably surpass your expectations.
Speaking of the staff… Another mark of a good restaurant is the quality and consistency of the staff. Anice Stellato has a loyal staff, and many have been with the restaurant for years. For us, it’s nice to go back and have them remember us and our particular likes and dislikes. We’re always warmly welcomed, and we leave already plotting our next meal there.
Give yourself ample time to stroll to Anice Stellato
The osteria is in Cannaregio, and alongside the charming Fondementa de la Sensa. Once you leave the main artery between the train station and the Rialto bridge, it’s at least ten minutes. Get familiar with the location using Google maps, so as to give yourself plenty of time to get there. I recommend arriving in the area earlier to have drinks and aperitivi at one of the many places strewn along your path to the restaurant.
+39 041 720744
Fondamenta del al Sensa
Cannaregio 3272 Venezia