Venice is notorious for overpriced restaurants, bland tourist menus and poor customer service. The daily crowds of visitors, over 60,000 of them daily, provides a constant stream of customers for restaurants, no matter how bad the food is. However, the more I visit Venice, the more I realise that the influx of day trippers and cruise ship passengers doesn't mean you can't eat well while staying in La Serenissima. Over the last few years, I have been compiling a list of good reasonably priced places to eat, many of them recommended by Venetians. Here are a few tips and addresses for eating well in Venice without spending a fortune.

Fill up on cicchetti

Cicchetti, traditional Venetian style snacks and nibbles, can make up a satisfying meal without breaking the bank. Local bars and osterie (called bàcari), serve a wide range of cicchetti throughout the day, however, you will have the best choice just before lunch or early evening, during the aperitivo time. Locals eat cicchetti washed down with a small glass of wine, ombra de vin”. Prices vary from €1.50 to €3, slightly more for small hot side dishes. Get a a mixed plate of chicchetti, add a glass or two of local wine priced from €1 and you will have an inexpensive tasty meal. True Venetians never sit down while consuming cicchetti and ombra. In most places sitting down is reserved for full meals or costs extra.

Alla Ciurma (San Polo, Calle Galeazza, 406A), Do Colonne (Cannaregio, Rio Terà del Cristo, 1814/C), Al Portego (Castello, Calle De La Malvasia, 6015) are some of the best places for filling up on cicchetti.  

Follow local workmen

If you want peace and quiet (yes, it is possible to find in Venice!), head to the beautiful residential areas of Cannaregio or Castello. Here, away from the maddening crowds Venetians go about their daily lives and you can join a few of them for a simple lunch. Last time I ate at the Osteria Bea Vita (Cannaregio, Fondamenta Delle Capuccine, 3082), two Venetian workmen in paint-stained overalls at the table next to me were bad-mouthing their boss. At the table behind me sat an American family of four. We were all enjoying the fixed price menu of the day: a pasta dish, meat or fish served with a side dish of vegetables, bread and a bottle of water, for a total of €13. A beautiful view over the canal was included in the price.

Another atmospheric place for a reasonably priced lunch is the Trattoria Alla Rampa (Castello, 1135) famous for its cheap hearty workmen’s lunch that is offered strictly between 12.00 and 12.45pm, which costs €13-15 (includes two main dishes, wine and coffee). If you arrive early and find a free table, you can order from the same menu as locals, just make sure to ask for the“menu operai”. From 1pm, when the workmen leave, starts à la carte service, naturally, at a higher but still reasonable price. In both places prices are higher in the evening.

Enjoy street food

Venice is a paradise for street food lovers. Mozzarella in carrozza, fried mozzarella cheese sandwich, is an old time classic. It arrived to Venice in the 1800s from Naples and has become typical Venetian street grub sold in various fry shops and wine bars. It comes plain or with a choice of such fillings as anchovies, ham or stockfish. Rosticceria Gislon (San Marco, Calle de la Bissa, 5424) has been dishing out reasonably priced fast food since the 1930s. On the ground floor you will find the deli and take-away with only a few tables where crowds of locals and tourists alike gobble up mozzarella in carrozza, arancini (rice balls with various fillings), supplì (rice balls with mozzarella). Fritoin del Gondolier (Cannaregio, Campo S.S. Apostoli, 4544) is another great place to buy mozzarella in carrozza for €2,50 as well as a plate of home-made pasta for €5-7 to eat standing outside.

Locals love tramezzini, triangular sandwiches made with two slices of soft crustless white bread and different types of fillings.  Although Turin is the birthplace of tramezzini, Venetians will have you believe that the best ones are made here because, they say, the city’s humid air renders the bread slices softer. A typical Venetian tramezzino is thick, shaped like an upside down smile with the top slice of bread curved around the generous mound of filling and inexpensive. Prices vary from €1,70 to €2 depending on the filling. Eating at the bar counter is always cheaper. Head to the Bar Alla Toletta (Dorsoduro, 1191) where you can choose from their 30 types of sandwiches.

The archetypal street food “scartosso de pesse fritto”, deep-fried mixed fish served in paper cones, is a must-eat in Venice. The Acqua&Mais (San Polo, Campiello dei Meloni, 1411) hole-in-the-wall take-away sells a great range of fried fish with slices of grilled polenta for €5-6 a portion.

Take a coffee with locals

One of my favourite places to gorge on Venetian desserts is the unassuming Pasticceria Alla Bragora (Castello, Salizada Sant'Antonin, 3604) with non-touristy prices. Do as Venetians do: take a cup of coffee and one of their mouthwatering desserts, sit at a table and chill out. The girl at the counter told me that locals go crazy for the nascero, small cakes with layers of ricotta mixed with raisins soaked in rum. I also love their puncetto, mini-portions of chocolate salami coated with roasted nuts. On sunny days, I sit outside listening to a canary singing from one of the windows above and watching people go by, mostly locals, with a few tourists in between.