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  • Do Forni (Venice): Though the menu is vast, they seem to devote equal attention to every single dish, making this one of the best restaurants in Venice (though also the most eyebrow-raisingly expensive). The bulk of the place is done in a vaguely rustic style, but the best room is the front one, fitted out like a car from the luxurious Orient Express.
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  • La Cusina (Venice): One of the few hotel dining rooms worth singling out. In warm weather, this becomes one of the most romantic dinner settings in town, the tables set on terraces that hang over the Grand Canal. The location alone makes it worth booking ahead, but happily the cooking is as delicious as the view is stunning, offering an inventive take on Italian cuisine based on Venetian and Veneto traditions and using the freshest ingredients.
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  • Le Bistrot de Venise (Venice): The menu at this upscale bistro is split three ways to satisfy your appetite (or at least, make your choice harder): Venetian/Italian, French, and ancient local recipes culled from historic cookbooks and documents. They attract hip artistic types by turning the back room into a coffeehouse-style performance space most nights, hosting poets, acoustic musicians, art exhibits, and cabarets.
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  • Al Covo (Venice): Texan Diane Rankin makes the pastries and chats with guests while husband-chef Cesare Benelli watches over the kitchen at this always-popular restaurant that mixes a warm welcome and excellent fresh seafood dishes with relatively reasonable prices (especially on the quality wine list).
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  • Trattoria Milanese (Milan): In a city with many fine restaurants whose stars rise and fall almost as soon as they make it onto the map, La Milanese is a stalwart survivor, a traditional trattoria that has never stopped offering typical Milanese dishes, smart service, and moderate prices, a formula that has kept it successful for over 70 years now.
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  • Antica Hosteria del Vino Buono (Bergamo): This cozy restaurant is spread over two floors of a corner palazzo on the market square. The food is mountain-style, rib-sticking good, heavy on the game meats and thick polenta accompanied by hearty red wines.
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  • Ochina Bianca (Mantua): Mantuan cooking is somewhat more complex than most northern Italian cuisines, and the Venturinis put their own innovative spin on it at the "White Goose," marrying local ingredients with fresh fish from the Mincio and game in this elegant restaurant.
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  • C'era Una Volta (Turin): That you have to ring the bell and climb to the first floor gives this place a clubby air, but owner Piero Prete will instantly make you feel like a longtime member as he greets you warmly and comes back around to help you select your wine. The cooking is traditional Torinese, excellently prepared.
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  • Lalibera (Alba): Franco and Manuele reign over this stylish dining room on an alley off a pedestrian shopping street, with Marco in the kitchen crafting excellent variants on Piemontese cuisine by using only the freshest of ingredients, all locally produced, from the cheese to the fruit to the meats.
  • The Best Countryside Eateries

    • Al Camin (outside Cortina d'Ampezzo): This barnlike structure lies along the rushing Run Brigantine mountain stream, 10 minutes outside town, serving hearty Alpine food in a woodsy dining room around a stone fireplace. Some regional specialties that are hard to find elsewhere these days are staples on Al Camin's seasonal menus.
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    • L'Osteria del Vignaiolo (La Morra): This place is sophisticated rustic, with simple rooms with pale-gold walls expanding to tables outside in summer. It's set amid the vineyards that produce its excellent wines and provide the excellent views. The cooking, in the hands of chef Luciano Marengo, samples from the varied bounty of Piemontese regional cuisines, accompanied by choice cheese platters and, of course, some of the best fine wines in Italy.
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    • La Maison de Filippo (Entrèves): This is the never-ending meal to beat all feasts. I honestly tried to keep track of the courses, but after the seventh appetizer, I had to give it up. But it's not just quantity (two words: pace yourself): The food actually manages to be fantastic as well, and it's served in an archetypal rustic-countryside dining room of low wood ceilings and open kitchens. Sometimes there's even a dog under the table. Book here and then plan to spend much of the next day merely digesting.

    The Best Down-Home Trattorie & Osterie

    • Vino Vino (Venice): Antico Martini is a pricey but good restaurant near La Fenice opera house; Vino Vino is its worst-kept secret, an inexpensive osteria branch that serves simple but tasty dishes that come out of the same kitchen. You choose from the daily chalkboard menu, stake out a table, and then carry your meal to it along with a wine from their excellent and extensive shared wine cellar.
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    • Ai Tre Spiedi (Venice): Although this place recently changed ownership and isn't the hidden gem it once was, you'll still find a great Venetian meal at reasonably low prices -- not the cheapest in town, but some of the best value for your money. The owners are jolly, and the food is excellent, including the fish (which is often dicey at the more inexpensive places in Venice).
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    • Cantina do Mori (Venice): Notwithstanding the change in management (and a slight price hike), the Cantina do Mori has remained one of the best bacari in Venice, a wine bar that serves exquisite cicchetti (tapaslike snacks) to a crowd of regulars nightly under the low-beam ceilings that seem unchanged since the joint opened in 1462. After all, this is the place where even Casanova supposedly came to tipple between affairs.
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    • Toni del Spin (Treviso): Seventy years of satisfying Trevisani diners has imparted a patina of reliability to this down-home trattoria of crisscrossing beams, swirling fans, and chalkboard menus. The choices are limited, but each dish is excellent, mixing local traditions with experimental cooking and some international dishes. The wine list is stellar -- they also run the wine shop across the street.
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    • La Taverna di Via Stella (Verona): The Vantini brothers and their buddies run this newish, laid-back osteria that feels as if it's been around for centuries. Here the local volunteer fire squad shows up to hang out in uniform and hit on girls, and office workers troop in to unwind over traditional Veronese dishes and wine (of their some 180 bottles, 10 varieties are opened nightly so that you can sample by the glass).
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    • Osteria del Duca (Verona): The ladies bustling around this old fave of a trattoria know to double-check with foreign visitors who have inadvertently ordered one of the many traditional Veronese dishes made of horse or donkey meat. The setting is romantic in true Verona style: It's on the ground floor of a medieval palazzo that most likely belonged to the historical Montecchi family, immortalized by Shakespeare as the Montagues, whose son Romeo fell in love with Juliet of the enemy Capulet clan.
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    • Vineria Cozzi (Bergamo): Leonardo Vigorelli's wine bar is the turnstile around which Bergamo's upper city spins, a requisite stop for locals and visitors alike who enjoy his hospitality, good wine selection, and yummy panini, meat and cheese platters, and simple dishes.

    Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.