We just returned from a wonderful 2 weeks in Italy, concluded with a few days in Venice. We planned almost our entire trip using TA recommendations and advice, so I thought I should contribute a bit of a warning to the community.
First off we loved Venice and (almost!) all the restaurant experiences we had there and throughout Italy. I'm thinking now I should have written down a few names of the best so I could recommend them - it would come in handy now as well to warn against a couple. Anyway...
Our one bad experience was in Venice, and at the string of little tourist restaurants on what I believe is the west side of the Grand Canal, on the south side of the Rialto Bridge.
We'd spent a long, enjoyable day touring and decided to eat at one of these restaurants, as they are situated in a very nice location. Eating early (around 5) we figured we could get a nice table and refresh ourselves.
We walked along the first three, seeing an occasional open table by the canal, but each time we asked to sit there we were told they were 'reserved' . My wife and daughter were hungry, however, so we finally settled for an interior table.
Our joyless waiter took his time serving us, and made it difficult to get the simple plate of plain spaghetti my daughter wanted and which we saw other children eating. He finally agreed, but charged us 4 euro to get butter to put on the pasta and the bread we had - for some reason I agreed. I had to ask specifically for a seperate pizza menu, though on the menu they had at the entrance it was part of the 'regular' menu.
Once our food arrived a group of four ladies was seated at the table next to us, the canal-side table we'd asked for and been refused. They were friendly and we chatted, and my wife asked if they'd reserved it - they said no, they were just walking by (making my wife livid).
The ladies saw my pizza and wanted one also - the waiter refused, saying pizza was 'not available' for canal-side tables! The ladies argued, and the head waiter finally acquiesed - what a sport. They then ordered their meal, with two of the ladies saying they'd split a pizza - they were told they could not do this - they'd each have to order their own. At this point they stormed out - something I wish I could have done (but we were already eating the food).
I then got into a bit of an argument with the waiter over his behavior, calling the policies poor - he just said it was 'business'.
I could go on but you get my drift - the employees of these restaurants appear to dislike tourists, their main source of income, and will try to gouge you whenever possible. I'm happy to say this is far from the experience we got anywhere else, but I'd like to pass this warning on to others (makes me feel better too!).