On a hot summer’s evening in Venice, there’s only one thing to do – find a bar. Having just flown in Helsinki’s coldest summer in 50 years, the heat in this amazing Italian city was welcome but enervating. Something cold to drink, in the shade, and a few snacks was called for.

They say that getting lost walking in Venice is not only likely but advisable – it’s how you find little treasures. That’s all well and good when you’re sauntering along with no particular goal in mind; with suitcases in tow, lots of stairs and clambering over bridges, getting lost is less fun. Happily, we eventually found ourselves on the right side of the grand canal, dumped our bags at the hotel and hit the streets relatively unencumbered.

Pretty much anywhere you go in Italy, you’re offered snacks to eat with an aperitivo, as we found in each of the cities we visited on this tour – Venice, Bologna, Rome, Florence and Milan. Some are fairly basic, and included in the cost of your drink while others are more elaborate. In Venice, virtually every bar serves cicchetti – snacks to have before you go to dinner. For Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband, they were a godsend. Having not eaten much in transit and struggling to get acclimated, drinking in the hot sun was potentially disastrous. Walking through the throngs of holiday makers and locals blowing off steam on a Friday night, we were thrilled to stumble across La Cantina.

Greedy Girl is often asked how she finds her spots. It’s a combination of research (both independent and through her social media network) and the time-honoured practice of asking wait staff at places we’ve enjoyed where else they’d recommend. But sometimes you just stumble across somewhere good.

We’d actually seen La Cantina featured on a TV cooking show but had no idea how to find it. Having passed lots of places that looked like tourist traps, complete with annoying spruikers out front, we pressed on, just hoping to find a comfortable spot. About to give up, especially having passed American (McDonald’s) and pseudo-American  (Old Wild West) outlets, we glanced up to take in the amazing architecture and … ta da! The outdoor seating was in the shade, not everyone was smoking (a real bonus in Italy) and between Greedy Girl’s rudimentary Italian and the wait staff’s English, we got ourselves a little feast.

Where to eat Venice: La Cantina

Pretty much all the menu you’ll get here

One of the important things about eating and drinking in Italy is just to go with the flow. If you’ve got a laundry list of things to tick off before you’ll sit down somewhere or you want big variations to what’s on the menu, you may be seriously disappointed. At La Cantina, we were trying to work out what was on offer; some bars have the cicchetti displayed on a counter. This one, we had to rely on the wait staff or read the totem pole of signs at the entrance. Settling on a delightfully cold prosecco for Greedy Girl and a ‘Morgana’ beer for gluttonous husband (a craft beer from nearby Treviso that the owners of La Cantina had a role in creating). We ran through the list, settled on a few dishes to eat and sat back enjoying the vista, the passing parade and the warmth.

First up was a ‘platter’ of three treats served on crostini. There was a beautiful salmon with slivers of almonds, soft and tangy gorgonzola with walnuts and some incredible pata negra. Not only were they a delight to eat in their own right, but perfect with the drinks.

Where to eat Venice: La Cantina

Beautiful bites

It was such a beautiful evening, we decided to prolong our lease on the table with another round of drinks and another couple of treats. Gluttonous husband contented himself with some local oysters, served just with a squeeze of lemon. These were quite small and that was just the way he preferred them, saying smaller oysters are ‘sweeter’.

Where to eat Venice: La Cantina

Local oysters

Greedy Girl decided to take the spreadable sausage, n’duja, which was topped with fresh garden peas. This was enjoyable, but very spicy. The peas helped to cut through the heat.

Where to eat Venice: La Cantina

N’duja with peas

We struck up a conversation with the family next to us; she was from Sydney, he was locally born and bred. He told us the owners were known to be somewhat eccentric, particularly late in the evening when, if you catch them on the right night, it’s open slather from the kitchen, with food going everywhere and the drinks flowing. It would be worth seeing but perhaps they’re not often in the mood at the height of the tourist season. While they headed off to their dinner, we were drooping from sheer weariness (admittedly, we had stopped at another venue earlier for a few other snacks) and couldn’t face eating anything more, so retraced our steps back to the hotel and the very good air-conditioning.

If you’re walking in the Cannaregio area, following the signs from the railway station to the Rialto, there’s a very good chance you’ll walk past La Cantina (on Campo San Felice). Stop for a few minutes or a few hours. It’s a great spot.

La Cantina

Campo San Felice, Venice


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