Five best restaurants for Biennale people-watching

Treat yourself to a gourmet meal in these and you may get a side order of celebrity


Ristorante Quadri

Two historic cafes face each other across the Piazza San Marco - Caffe Florian and Caffe Quadri. Although Florian is the more famous, and the favourite of Venetians themselves, the Quadri has recently become the hottest address in town. Cooking in his nearby Padova restaurant, Massimiliano Alajmo is one of the world’s youngest three- star Michelin chefs, and his recent move to take over the mythical Quadri was the equivalent of a gourmet earthquake for Venice, not a city renowned for fine dining options. In less than a year, Quadri gained his first Michelin star, and the elegant, first floor dining room, with the ultimate view over San Marco, has quickly established itself as the place to be seen in. All this is at a price though, as the tasting menu is a cool £170, without wines, while main dishes like suckling pig or rack of lamb are priced at £55.


Piazza San Marco 121

Enq 00 39 041 5222105,

Cip’s Club

The exclusive Hotel Cipriani is the favourite Venice bolthole of A-List celebs checking in for the opening parties of the Biennale. While there is a gourmet restaurant inside the hotel and fine dining poolside, the spot to reserve is the ultra-romantic Cips Club, an alfresco terrace sitting over the water on a wooden pontoon with to-die-for views over the Salute Church, Palladio’s Chiesa di San Giorgio and across to the Doge’s Palace. Don’t expect too much creative cuisine, but chef Roberto Gatto takes classic Italian favourites to the highest level - even traditional cannelloni in a rich Bolognese sauce is out of this world. Prices are as serious as the cuisine - £25 for the cannelloni. And remember that one of the palazzi just by Cip’s is Elton John’s private home when he brings the family to Venice.

Fondamenta Zitelle, Giudecca 10


Enq 00 39 041 5207744,

Osteria alle Testiere

Hidden away in the narrowest alleyway, a few minutes walk behind the Piazza San Marco, is the real insider address when it comes to getting a sought-after table during the Biennale. The dining room is miniscule, with just nine tables, so each evening sees two services - be sure to reserve for the 9.00pm late session to avoid getting turfed out with the tourists before the really interesting clients arrive, plus you can always stay on late for grappas and gossip.

The chef, Bruno Gavagnin, sticks firmly to seasonal seafood and vegetables from the Rialto market, but adds innovation and creativity to the usual Venetian recipes served up over the city, with dishes like a gazpacho with grilled baby octopi, or scallops with wild fennel. His partner, the sommelier Luca di Vita, effortlessly charms the chic, international clientele - Russian oligarchs, New York gallery owners, French art critics - and has assembled a great selection of wines. Don’t expect ‘osteria prices’ though, as antipasti, pasta and main course comes to around £60.


Calle del Mondo Novo, Castello 5801

Enq 00 39 041 5227220,


Il Nuovo Galeon

The Galeon is an institution when it comes to traditional, gourmet Venetian cuisine, and its prime location just by the Biennale Gardens means it is a crucial venue for power lunches and dinners by the movers and shakers of the art world. While there is a sunny terrace outside on the bustling Via Garibaldi, the real celebs avoid the stares of passers-by and intruding lenses of the paparazzi, heading inside to the cosy dining room, whose long bar is in the form of a wooden boat. The genial owners, Giorgio and Donatello, serve the freshest seafood dishes - tiny prawns, succulent soft-shell crabs, wriggling lobsters - accompanied by a wine list that stretches from a local Prosecco to some of the greatest Italian vintages - Sassicaia, Tignanello, Gaja - at stratospheric prices. The minimum for a meal without wine is £42. During the Film Festival in September you may even see the likes of Bono and Rihanna dining here.

Via Garibaldi, Castello 1309

Enq 00 39 041 5204656,

PG’s Restaurant

Ever since Johnny Depp took a long-term suite here when he was filming in Venice, the luxurious Palazzina G has become the hippest place for partying, with its funky restaurant the favourite venue for exclusive private parties, that often last till dawn. During the Biennale it has the perfect location, right next door to the landmark contemporary art museum, Palazzo Grassi, owned by French millionaire Francois Pinault, which houses artworks from the likes of the Chapman Brothers and Jeff Koons. The restaurant is like an avant-garde museum, too, with cutting-edge decor by Philippe Starck. Chef Paolo Businaro cooks theatrically for diners seated alongside the bar of his open kitchen. If the restaurant is closed off for an invitation-only event, remember that you can always sit out on the Grand Canal at their Krug Terrace, though a glass of bubbly costs £34

Ramo Grassi, San Marco 3247

Enq 00 39 041 528 4644,

Photos: John Brunton

For all you need to know about the most star-studded event in the art world calendar, see our Insider's Guide to Venice Biennale.

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