Tastemakers: An Italian Chef on the Secret to Experiencing the Best of Venetian Dining

best restaurants Venice Italy Nicola Ronconi

Welcome to The Latch Tastemakers, where we sit down with people who know a city’s scene like the back of their hand to ask their must-try restaurants, cafes and bars. Dive into our Tastemakers series and curate your ultimate hit-list, whether you’re exploring your own city or venturing somewhere new.

Italian food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. But for many visiting Italy, that fact can be overwhelming. One thing to know to help you navigate the food in the country is the general difference between food in the north and south.

“In the north, they use more meat, vegetables, rice and polenta,” says Chef Nicola Ronconi, chef and owner of Sydney restaurant Nico. “In the south, they use more seafood and fresh cheese, like mozzarella, provolone and ricotta, and cook almost exclusively with olive oil.”

Ahead, Ronconi shares what to expect from the dining scenes in the main parts of Italy, along with some of his favourite places to go. From a restaurant in Venice with no address, let alone a website, to Ronconi’s favourite beach club on the Amalfi Coast, this is his guide to eating in Italy.


Ronconi grew up in Vicenza, a city between Verona and Venice, in Italy’s north. He says the best advice for visitors keen to experience the best restaurants in Venice is to get away from the tourists.

best restaurants Venice Italy
Image: Getty Images

“As soon as you see those bars crowded with tourists in Piazza San Marco and Rialto, get away,” he says. “Discover the city by yourself. Get on the ferry. Don’t get too much in the gondola because they’re going to rip you off. And with a couple of Euro, you can go all around Venice and see everything.”

Ronconi also suggests you visit a ‘bacaro’ in Venice. According to Visit Venezia, they’re typical Venetian taverns, small in size, characterised by simple and rustic furniture, usually made of wood, where you can enjoy red wine — ‘ombre’ in Venetian — or spritz, alongside snacks — ‘ciccheti’.

Two Doors

In English, Due Porte means Two Doors. It’s the name Venetians have given to a corridor with a couple of bacari next to the market Mercati di Rialto. Ronconi says it’s one of his favourite places to visit for good food and wine, aged up to 100 years, in Venice.

“You’re there with all the Venetian people speaking dialect and you just get lost in that beauty,” he says. “There is no address. It’s one of the hidden gems you need to find yourself. That’s why you need to discover Venice. You can ask a local, however, Venetians, they’re not helpful with the tourists, I’d say.”


Also, near the Mercati di Rialto is another place Ronconi recommends: All’ Arco, a wine bar. He suggests you go for a long lunch and stay for sunset.

“They have this beautiful cicchetti that’s Venetian Baccala [salted cod] with a little bit of polenta,” he says. “You can also find lots of deep-fried cicchetti, like zucchini flower. A meat croquette. Taste everything with a glass of wine.”

Amalfi Coast

Some of the most scenic areas of Italy are on the Amalfi Coast, including Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento, says Ronconi. Food-wise, the coastline is known for its lemons, which you can taste in lemon ice cream — ‘limoncello’ — sold at stalls and restaurants.

“[The Amalfi Coast] is full of tourists and very expensive,” he says. “However, you can find amazing food and drinks for all budgets. It has [everything from] small restaurants to big luxury hotels. Spend your time in a beach club — there are so many around the area.”

Amalfi Coast
Image: Getty Images

As with eating in Venice, Ronconi suggests you discover the cities by simply wandering and avoiding places with long lines of tourists. While Google can help, it’s best not to put too much stock into reviews or recommendations.

La Zagara

Ronconi’s preferred part of the Amalfi, often skipped by tourists, is Capri, an island in Italy’s Bay of Naples. His go-to venue in Capri is La Zagara, a restaurant and wine bar on Via Guiseppe Oralndi in Anacapri.

“You walk into this garden full of lemon trees,” he says. “Sit under one and enjoy beautiful Amalfi food and wine. It’s going to be a place you’re always going to remember. Order something with lemon — the lemon pasta or some fish marinated in lemon.”

Conca Del Sogno

One of Ronconi’s favourite beach clubs in the Amalfi is Conca Del Sogno in the village of Nerano. The beach club is surrounded by natural sea caves and paths winding through gardens. Guests at the beach club are regularly treated to orange and purple sunsets.

“During lunchtime, there is a show from the front of house [waiters],” says Ronconi. “The waiters jump on chairs, smash some bottles of Champagne. Best service ever. [A visit here is] going to be definitely fun.”


In Rome, Ronconi recommends you head to the Trastevere area, which is filled with atmospheric restaurants and ‘osteria’, which serve homecooked meals in rustic settings. The city, he says, specialises in three pastas: cacio pepe, carbonara and amatriciana. Other specialty dishes include trippa alla romana, Roman-style tripe, and Antalya pizza, a square-shaped pizza.

Rome Italy
Image: Getty Images


In Rome, Ronconi always heads to Roscioli, an eatery with a bakery, deli counter and wine shop on Via dei Guibbonari. Walking into Roscioli, you’ll be greeted with a wall of wine bottles on the right and the deli counter, displaying the likes of prosciutto, mozzarella and anchovies, on the right.

“Order the Italian delicatessens to start, and then after that, go straight away with the classic cacio pepe, carbonara or amatriciana,” he says. “[The restaurant is] a must-try.”

La Gattabuia

Another of Ronconi’s recommendations for Tastevere restaurants is La Gattabuia, popular among Italian actors and actresses. “You’re going to have the best carbonara made at the moment [fresh] with no cream,” he says. “Definitely, you need to try the Roman-style artichoke, which is an artichoke stuffed with herbs, and then often deep-fried.”


Another Rome restaurant recommendation of Ronconi’s is Bonci, by well-known Italian pizzamaker Gabriele Bonci. The restaurant serves pizza by the slice and its specialty suppli di’ carbonara. Traditionally, ‘suppli’ in Italy are fried rice snacks, like arancini, but shaped like an egg and with mozzarella in the mix. Bonci’s suppli di’ carbonara has the flavours of carbonara.

“Bonci is this little shop – they make the best suppli,” says Ronconi. “It’s something different to try for sure.”


In The Dolomites, a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, Ronconi says to expect dishes using herbs, vegetables and wild game found in the area, including polenta, mushroom, venison and hare, Much of the meat dishes here are slow-cooked, particularly in winter when temperatures can drop to -10 degrees Celcius.

Dolomites best restaurants in venice italy
Image: Getty Images

“In the summer, you’re going to have a lot of charcuterie, like speck, a lot of cheese and still polenta, of course,” he says.

El Molin

One of Ronconi’s favourite Dolomites’ venues is fine-dining restaurant El Molin in Cavalese, a commune in Trentino with roughly 4,000 residents.

“It was my first Michelin-star restaurant [that I worked in] when I was young,” he says. “The chef and the team go to the mountain and they pick all the herbs. They do a lot of research. It’s not just a normal restaurant, it’s a connection with nature.”

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