Welcome to this guide which looks at some of my favourite food in Venice.
Venice is not only about sightseeing, gondolas, bridges and canals.
This city on the water has a long story of sailors and merchants, men who travelled the world and carried back ingredients from all parts of the world.
The interesting thing is that many traditional Venetian dishes are based on fish and seafood, a clear sign of the strong connection with the Mediterranean Sea.
Today, you’ll find that most traditional Venetian recipes can be tasted in some of the most authentic and rustic restaurants and in all the ‘bacari’ of Venice.
Food in Venice, Italy
In this guide, I want to show you a few cool restaurants as well as show you exactly what to eat in Venice so you can look out for these dishes during your trip.
Before getting into my list the unmissable foods to try in Venice, though, it makes sense to learn a few Italian (Venetian!) words to understand the local food culture better so you can make informed decisions on what and where to eat in Venice.
What food to eat in Venice?
Believe it or not, the burgeoning Venetian food scene is quite varied. The traditional must-eat food range from snacks, first courses, and main dishes.
As you try these foods, it is worth knowing a little about the history behind each dish, which is a great way to be able to learn more about the history of Venice.
Let’s start with ‘polenta’. Polenta is coarsely ground corn, and every Venetian person has it at home and can prepare it.
Polenta was once considered a food for the poor, and it makes the perfect accompaniment to a good fish, meat, vegetable, or even cheese dish.
Polenta arrived at the tables of the lagoon in 1500 from the Americas and revolutionized the diet of the locals.
When walking around the streets and piazzas of Venice, look out for ‘bacaro‘, the family owned bar serving small plates of food called ‘cicchetti’!
Cicchetti are a must-try food in Venice, and they’re normally served on a small slice of fresh bread with different toppings, the options go from ‘baccalà mantecato‘ (creamy salted cod) to ‘sarde en saor’ (sardines with onions and vinegar).
Another good sign that you’re approaching authentic and traditional Venetian food is the ‘osterie‘ or ‘trattorie‘. These are small and rustic restaurants that you can easily spot on the narrow ‘calli’ (narrow streets) and small piazzas all around Venice.
Where to eat in Venice, Italy?
Below are my best recommendations for eating Venetian Italian food:
This is a first-hand sampled selection of restaurants and bakeries in Venice.
There are many more places you can taste delicious Venetian dishes, but trying one of those five, most certainly, won’t disappoint you!
9 must eat food in Venice
Now that we’ve started exploring the rich Venetian food culture, let’s take a closer look at the nine must eat foods in Venice that will make your mouth water!
Bigoli in salsa
Bigoli is a popular pasta dish throughout the Veneto region. It’s often accompanied by duck meat sauce, but in Venice, the tradition is to have it with fish.
Bigoli in salsa is cooked at Christmas in Venice or during the holidays. The sauce is made with onions and anchovies slowly cooked in extra virgin olive oil.
Risi e Bisi
A classic dish from the Venetian culture that has existed since the year 1500. It’s usually cooked on April 25th, when St. Mark’s patron (the saint of the city) is celebrated.
There are different ways to prepare it: with broth, adding some bacon, or even with cheese. All of them are very tasty versions of it!
Scampi alla Busara
Scampi alla Busara is prepared in all the coastal towns and cities facing the upper Adriatic Sea. Some people say that this dish was prepared with scraps and unsold crustaceans.
It’s a must-eat food in Venice and can be both a first course and main dish. In the first case, scampi is the perfect accompaniment to pasta, even better if hand-made such as spaghetti or linguine.
The baccalà mantecato is a creamy cod recipe, and it’s a 500 years old dish.
In 1432, the merchant Piero Querini was sailing around an island in the Baltic Sea, where the inhabitants were used to prepare and eat stock fish.
The baccalà mantecato is perfect on warm croutons, and it’s usually served in bacari.
Fegato alla veneziana
It is the best known typical dish of Venice and it should be on your list of foods to try in Venice and is prepared with veal liver cut into slices, cooked with onions, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
In Venetian dialect, it’s called ‘figà àea venessiana‘. You can find this dish in almost all the traditional restaurants of Venice.
The ‘fritole’ is a typical dessert of the Carnival period and, back in the 1700s, boasted the name of “national dessert of the Veneto State”.
In the original recipe, these little fried balls contain raisins, flour, sugar, pine nuts, milk and yeast. Raisins are softened with water and grappa to give them a stronger and spicier flavour.
You can also find them filled in with custard and zabaione cream. They’re extremely tasty, and there’s no need to say that one leads to another! When in Venice, make sure to taste this traditional Venetian sweet treat.
Spaghetti al nero di seppia
In the Venice lagoon, similarly to many coastal towns around Italy, cuttlefish ink has been used since ancient times. Originally it was used to season cuttlefish cut into chunks, then someone thought of using it also for bigoli (traditional Venetian pasta) or other type of pasta such as spaghetti and linguine.
This traditional Venice’s food is widely prepared and eaten all around the city and in the other islands of the lagoon. Cuttlefish ink is a very tasty ingredient, as well as low in calories, with a strong salty flavour, therefore the sauce that accompanies it should preferably be delicate in order to fully savour the intensity of the ink.
The spaghetti al nero di seppia is prepared by carefully pulling out the ink from the cuttlefish’s blisters and then adding it to the pieces of cuttlefish cooked with white wine.
Sarde in saor
The sarde in saor is the most representative dish of the centuries-old Venetian culinary tradition. This food to try in Venice is perfect for a cicchetto or an appetizer and get a real taste of all the flavours of lagoon cuisine. This is a dish that the poor people used to prepare in the past, but over time it turned into a real symbol of the local cuisine.
The need of Venetian sailors to preserve fish during long sea journeys is the reason why this Venetian dish was invented. In fact, without fridges back in the XIV century, the only way to keep the fish edible was by using onions and vinegar.
It’s not difficult then to prepare the sarde in saor and you only need a few ingredients: white onions, vinegar, oil and of course, the sardines. Over time, the original recipe has been improved by adding ingredients like the raisins and flour to fry the sardines.
The Venetian fritto misto is a must-try food in Venice made up of a mix of fried small lagoon fishes and seafood. This dish is another popular dish of the Venetian culinary tradition.
It’s also a dish of poor origins, consumed mainly in the Venetian calli in the form of ‘scartosso de pesse fritto’ In my guide on the best street food in Venice you see this dish gets a mention. The quality and freshness of the ingredients is imperative for the success of this dish.
This starts from selecting the best fish and seafood at the market. To prepare it, first the fish gets coated with 00 flour and added to frying oil (180°C). Local fishes used to prepare the fritto misto are the calamari, mantis shrimps, prawns and sardines, but you can adapt it, and every restaurant in Venice has its own version.
What to eat in Venice food chart
The food chart below covers the ingredients and which course you can expect to find the aforementioned dishes.
|Dish name:||Ingredients:||Served as:|
|Bigoli in salsa||Bigoli pasta, anchovies, white onion, olive oil||First course|
|Risi and bisi||Risotto rice, green peas, onion, butter, vegetable broth, olive oil||First course|
|Scampi alla busara||Scampi, white wine, peeled tomatoes, fresh chilli flakes, breadcrumbs, olive oil||Main course|
|Baccalà mantecato||Codfish, laurel, sunflower oil, back pepper||Appetiser or cicchetto|
|Fegato alla veneziana||Veal liver, laurel, white onions, white wine, butter, olive oil||Main course|
|Spaghetti al nero di seppia||Spaghetti pasta, cuttlefish ink, garlic, white wine, olive oil||First course|
|Sarde in saor||Sardines, vinegar, white onions, raisins, laurel, flour 00, pine nuts, sunflower oil||Appetiser or cicchetto|
|Fritto misto||Mixed local fishes, like calamari, mantis shrimps, prawns and sardines||Main course or street food|
|Fritole veneziane||Flour, eggs, baking powder, sugar, salt, milk, raisins and vegetable oil to fry||Dessert|
Venetian Food FAQ Guide
Here are some common questions people ask about in food in Venice.
Food in Venice, Italy
Now you know some of the best dishes to try in Venice and even some of the best places to try them. Not that this list is not exhaustive, there are many dishes to try.
When comparing Venetian cuisine to other parts of Italy, remember that it is all about bold and strong flavours and ingredients brought from all around the world to the Venetians’ tables over the centuries and that are now part of the tradition.
Try these dishes while here and if you need some inspiration on what to do, read my guide which covers the best things to do in Venice to make the most of your stay.
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