Best New Restaurants
Avogaria Chef Antonella Pugliese and her husband Mimmo Piccolomo spent two years renovating the four-century-old restaurant and its fig-treed garden, modernizing with brushed-steel-and-wood tables, poured concrete and frosted-glass portholes; the space now looks like nothing else in its quiet Dorsoduro neighborhood. The Puglian menu includes burrata (fresh mozzarella with a creamy center) and thumb-printed cavatelli with vongole veraci, Venice's "true clams" (Dorsoduro 1629, Calle della Avogaria; 011-39-041-296-0491).
Il Refolo There's always a crowd at this chipper little pizzeria. Since last year, mother-son pair Mara and Damiano Martin (chefs and owners of the famous Da Fiore) have been designing large, chewy-crusted pies with upscale ingredients like teensy Venetian castraure artichokes, melted lardo di Colonnata (cured pork fat) and roasted figs with prosciutto. Customers sidle their boats alongside the patio on the square to take away pizzas for picnics on the lagoon (open April to October; Santa Croce 1459, Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio; 011-39-041-524-0016).
Mirai Creative Sushi Venetians have seen a lot of fish restaurants, but not the kind that Brazilian-born Akira Nakasuga recently opened. His five-seat sushi bar and the two curvy, wood-paneled dining rooms reminiscent of a stateroom on a luxury liner attract everyone from trend seekers to off-duty chefs. On warm nights, the crowds retreat to the tatami-style tables in the overgrown garden and order pristine raw, local fish sliced and served on the bone, and snacks like sweet-sour salmon tartare with cipolline (Cannaregio 227, Lista di Spagna; 011-39-041-220-6517).
De Pisis At the luxe Bauer hotel, on a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal, chef Giovanni Ciresa, (who made his name at Tuscany's Michelin two-star Enoteca Pinchiorri and its Tokyo outpost) prepares splashy New Venetian dishes such as sesame-coated scallops and wild branzino with ricotta-stuffed leeks. The spritz, a Campari cocktail, is the best-selling drink at the new B Bar (San Marco 1459; 011-39-041-240-6889).
Best New Wine Bars
Cicheti, Venice's bite-size tapas, are available at most casual restaurants. But recently the uniquely Venetian art of cichetare, or social snacking, has extended to the city's stylish new wine bars, which also serve panini, artisanal cheeses and cured meats. The bars are excellent places to drink local wines, like Prosecco, which ranges from still (tranquillo) to full-on bubbly (spumante).
La Caneva Wine merchant Mauro Lorenzon set up this wine bar outpost in a cozy back room at Ristorante Canaletto last year, and it now has over 1,000 bottles, including 100 vini del cuore wines close to his heart. Floor-to-ceiling wine racks surround a few linen-draped tables; snacks include knife-sliced prosciutto with homemade bread (Castello 5490, Calle della Malvasia; 011-39-041-521-2661).
Al Prosecco Like the wine it's named for, this three-year-old enoteca with a small wood bar is fun and increasingly popular. Brothers Stefano and Davide Corrò complement their 600-bottle international wine list with marinated fish and assorted cheeses served with their mother Maria's mostarda, a pungent fruit conserve. The extensive Prosecco selection is full of small-producer finds: Try a traditional, bottle-fermented and unfiltered col fondo, which has a toasty flavor, or any of the fresh arrivals (Santa Croce 1503, Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio; 011-39-041-524-0222).
Cavatappi Young couple Francesca Tegon and Marco Ginapri filled the viticultural void behind Piazza San Marco when they opened Cavatappi (corkscrew), a sliver of a wine bar with outdoor seating. Inside there's a museum-quality assembly of corkscrews on display and regional tastings, of wine and of antipasti, that change daily. The small cucina serves simple, seasonal dishes and overstuffed tramezzini (triangular sandwiches) at bar tables (San Marco 525, Campo della Guerra; 011-39-041-296-0252).
Enoteca San Marco If Venice had a downtown, this urbane new haunt and its four young owners would be at the heart of it. Instead, the enoteca is smack in the center of commercial San Marco, making its marble bar and wraparound dining room a prime midday destination. The list includes 30 well-chosen local wines (try the Gini Soave Classico); older wines are poured from designer decanters into oversize goblets. There are moderately priced cheeses and salumi plates and imaginative recipes like fava bean pudding with cheese fondue (San Marco 1610, Frezzeria; 011-39-041-528-5242).
Best Bake Shop
Marchini Venetians have loved sweets since the republic monopolized the sugar trade a thousand years ago. For the past 60 years, they've been getting their fix at Marchini, which recently moved to a bright new San Marco workshop and emporium and spawned a little sister shop near the Goldoni Theater. Peek through the observation windows to watch artisan Giancarlo Vio craft tiny chocolate confections, Austrian-inspired cakes and dolci tipici Veneziani—traditional cookies like cornmeal zaleti and crunchy baicoli. Ask his daughters who run the shops for a box of fresh fruit gelatine—a.k.a. gumdrops for grown-ups (San Marco 676, Calle Spadaria; 011-39-041-522-9109).
Chefs to Watch
Bruno Paolato at Al Fontego dei Pescatori Fans of Bruno Paolato (from his 15-year tenure at Venice's acclaimed Ai Mercanti) now head to his rustic new restaurant tucked under a shady portico near Strada Nova. Aromatic wild herbs and vegetables are his specialty: He features them in dishes like bigoli (handmade whole wheat pasta) tangled with tiny cuttlefish and mint; scampi and wild hop risotto; and crêpes with dandelion greens. The canopied garden is a charming place to sip Prosecco in warm weather—request the sought-after old-vines selections from Adami (Cannaregio 3726, Calle Priuli; 011-39-041-520-0538).
Davide Stefani at Boccadoro After seven years at Al Covo, Venice's popular seafood restaurant, young, long-haired chef Davide Stefani has a hot spot of his own. Tables spill out onto a leafy patio from the two casually elegant rooms, with Beatles music playing in the background. Try superfresh marinated seafood, simple grilled fish and paper-thin Sardinian flat bread with a crisp Tokai from the winning Italian list (Cannaregio 5405, Campo Widmann; 011-39-041-521-1021).
Restaurateur to Watch: Lucio Zanon
Al Graspo de Ua Longtime Harry's Bar manager Lucio Zanon brought glamour and great food back to this former celebrity stomping ground with a stunning restoration in 2000. The menu includes innovations (grilled Tomino cheese with nuts) and classics (delicate fish stew); the witty, wine-centric quotes on the 19th-century rafters have also been preserved (San Marco 5094/A; 011-39-041-520-0150).
Taverna La Fenice Last February, Zanon revived yet another classic. At the elegant taverna, chef Carlo Lazzaron has an often-changing menu—count on seasonal seafood, like baby scampi with lagoon island greens, and exemplary risottos (San Marco 1939, behind La Fenice; 011-39-041-522-3856).