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Need a restaurant by Italy's canals? Try the 'Eat Venice' app

January 28, 2013|By Russ Parsons
  • Going to Italy? The Eat Venice app allows users to search by categories, by neighborhood and by cost/
Going to Italy? The Eat Venice app allows users to search by categories,…

There are few things more frustrating than being hungry in Venice. Yeah, I know, talk about your First World Problems. But for all of its beautiful sights, of all Italian cities, Venice may have the lowest percentage of decent restaurants; being a tourist magnet for several centuries will do that.

Plus, the very canals and winding narrow streets that make that Italian city so lovely are also bound to frustrate the casual visitor -- at least one that hasn't memorized the street maps. Make one wrong turn and you can wind up lost and bewildered, wandering for hours, far from your intended destination (I have the battle scars).

Thank goodness for Elizabeth Minchilli's new Eat Venice app. Minchelli has lived in Italy since 1988 and is one of my favorite food guides; her previous Eat Rome and Eat Florence apps have been terrific.

Of all the amazing things smartphones have brought, these kinds of easily searchable, informed guides are near the top of the list. Unlike most traditional guidebooks, which, admirably, try to be encyclopedic in their offerings, these food apps are highly edited, offering only what the author thinks is the very best. It really is like having an old Venice hand at your elbow as you stroll the streets.

Minchilli's app is very user-friendly. You can search by categories, such as cichetti (the Venetian equivalent of tapas, usually based on local seafood); "caffe," "hotels," "markets," etc. (including a guide to local Wi-Fi hotspots).

You can also search by neighborhood (extremely important in Venice because you must walk almost everywhere); and by cost (whew, you can pay the earth for extremely average food).

The maps are clear (though I wish she'd used another color than hard-to-see pale yellow to show the minor streets) and you can toggle a "show everything" function to reveal all of her favorites within your immediate area.

Best of all, Minchilli's judgments are informed and unvarnished. I quickly found a couple of my old favorites.

Here’s her assessment of the cozy wine bar Ai Do Mori: "It's not that they have the very best cichetti, or even the most extraordinary selection of wines. But they do have one-of-a-kind atmosphere that dates back centuries.”

And the grand splendor of Caffe Florian: "[Piazza San Marco is] today overrun by the worst kind of tourists…. But it is Florian, the oldest coffee house not only in Venice, but probably in Europe, that steals my heart."

At first I was a little puzzled not to find the restaurant Fiaschetteria Toscana on the list -- I had one memorable meal there many years ago. But then I remembered when it was that I ate there, and I figured she was probably right.

And considering what I spent that night, I wish I’d had a smartphone with Minchilli on it then.

“Eat Venice” for iPhone and iPad is available at the iTunes App Store for $2.99.

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