Distinct networking hubs exist during La Biennale: Close to the action on the Lido, in the bars and boites of key hotels and out-and-about in Venice’s picturesque neighborhoods.
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Within the Hotel Excelsior (41 Lungomare Guglielmo Marconi, phone, +39 (0)41 526 0201) the hotel’s Blue Bar is a charming, Art Deco time capsule with pricey cocktails and the main meet-and-greet spot for industryites. A close second is the Lion’s Bar (31 Lungomare Marconi) directly across from the Excelsior. Look for the busy terrace out front, typically populated with media types.
“Venetian cuisine is unique to the Italian peninsula,” says Dana Klitzberg, a private chef who splits her time between Gotham and Rome. Preparations are unusual due to Venice’s place as “a center of the world spice trade from the 12th century going forward, so a lot of restaurants play with interesting riffs on Italian classics, most of which feature seafood from the Venetian waters, using spices and preparations not commonly found in Italian food.”
The family-run Valentino (81 Via Sandro Gallo, phone +39 (0)41 526 0128) specializes in local seafood. Starters include crudo, lagoon-caught garlic shrimp and polenta (schie con polenta), and risotto with scampi. (Venetians use vialone nano, a shorter grain than the classic Arborio rice, resulting in a soupier risotto, Klitzberg says.) There’s an extensive northern Italian wine list and outdoor seating.
A traditional trattoria, Favorita (open for dinner only; 33 Via Francesco Duodo, phone, +39 (0)41 526 1626) offers well-priced selections of seafood pastas. Limited seating and a small outdoor patio means it is necessary to book ahead.
Atop the Hotel Danieli (an elegant merger of three exquisite ducal palaces), the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli (4196 Riva degli Schiavoni, phone, +39 (0)41 522 6480) has suitably rich choices that befit the setting. The ample breakfast buffet, at Euros 52 ($64) per person, comes with prosecco and free wi-fi. Reservations are required at Sunday brunch. The artisan cheese course showcases Northern Italian produce such as a traditional wine-soaked cow’s milk cheese from Friuli.
George Clooney is such a regular at the Hotel Cipriani’s Gabbiano Bar (10 Giudecca, phone, + 39 (0)41 520 7744) that bartender Walter Bolzonella has created two signature drinks as tribute: Nina’s Special, named for Clooney’s mom, blends elderflower and passion fruit; while the vodka-and-cranberry-based Buona Notte salutes “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Sip Pommery-Vranken Champagne beside the Grand Canal throughout the fest at the Westin Europa & Regina’s (2159 San Marco, phone, +39 (0)41 240 0001) terrace champagne lounge. A DJ will spin from noon on.
With ties to the nearby Peggy Guggenheim Collection and frequented by high-profile talent during the fest, Ai Gondolieri (366 Dorsoduro, phone 011 39 041 528 6396) is a quiet, serious spot known for its grilled steaks, an all-Italian wine list and selection of grappas.
Fiaschetteria Toscana (5719 Cannaregio, San Giovanni Grisostomo, phone, +39 (0)41 528 5281), close to the Rialto Bridge, is the place for typical Venetian fare such as spaghetti with squid ink and lobster sauce. To sample ciccetti, Venice’s version of tapas, drop into the Al Prosecco wine bar (1503 Santa Croce, Campo San Giacomo da l’Orio, phone, +39 (0)41 524 0222), open from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., for a quick bite and to taste regionally made, small-production wines.