What’s on the menu in Venice?
The lagoon city’s typical cuisine combines flavours from land and sea
Venice might have gradually transformed into a tourist destination over the years but it still has a core of authenticity and spontaneity, which really comes to the fore in its traditional food and wine.
Venetian gastronomic tradition comprises the typical dishes of the Veneto region and is heavily influenced by the sea, which as everyone knows is a central part of Venetian culture. The meeting of land and sea creates a happy mix between the typical flavours of Venetian farming, wine growing traditions and the city’s maritime and fishing heritage.
The result is that traditional Venetian recipes, often made from fish, are homely, simple and fairly quick to prepare.
The main food and wine specialities of Venice
There are so many fabulous dishes from Venice that we had to choose just a few. Here are the most representative typical dishes of the lagoon city and its region.
Polenta is a traditional food throughout northern Italy and is a product of the humble farming tradition. It is routinely served with dishes based on meat, fish and vegetables. Yellow polenta (the more traditional variety, made from coarsely-ground yellow cornmeal) is widely available, often served in earthenware dishes. White polenta, prepared with white corn flour, has a very delicate flavour and is generally served as an accompaniment to salt cod and fish-based dishes.
We simply had to include bigoli on this list! Bigoli, similar to thick spaghetti, are always freshly made by hand. With a rough, porous texture, they are served with various ragu’ sauces whose ingredients include meat, duck, anchovy or fish: the flavours are enhanced by the coarse texture of the pasta.
Risotto is another popular dish throughout Veneto. When in Venice our recommendation is the risotto de gò, made with gozzo, a delicately-flavoured locally-sourced fish.
Creamed salt cod.
Salt cod is one of the kings of Venetian cuisine. A humble dish with a strong flavour thanks to the curing process, baccala’ can be used in dozens of recipes. Creamed salt cod comes from a tradition dating back 500 years.
Sarde in saor (sweet and sour marinated sardines).
This historic recipe (some say it originated in the 1300s) is typical of Venice: sardines, seasoned for two days with onion, are one of the humble foods most popular in this city.
This is a truly spectacular recipe that we recommend you try, even if you wouldn’t normally opt for liver. The meat caramelizes when cooked with onions, taking on a delicate and unique flavour. The ideal pairing would be a glass of Valpolicella Ripasso.
Among the typical desserts of the Venetian tradition we cannot fail to mention baicoli: dry biscuits made from a recipe used by sailors on their long voyages, and the “buranello bussolà”, a ring-shaped butter and vanilla biscuit traditionally made in Burano.
The traditional wines of Venice deserve a special mention. Venice is home to certified, controlled denomination wines including the DOCGS Lison, the DOC Corti Benedettine del Padovano and Lison Pramaggiore. Another worthy mention goes to the DOC Prosecco, typical of the province.
Where to sample the culinary delights of Venice
To enjoy typical Venetian dishes, we recommend avoiding the usual tourist haunts, which are easy to recognise not only for their location (very often on the main tourist routes), but also for their menus (offering very little of the real Venice) menu and the clientele.
The best place to fully enjoy the food of Venice is undoubtedly the typical bacaro. A bacaro is a small traditional Venetian tavern, where you can taste the local wine (or the “spritz”, at aperitif time) and sample the local food in a simple cosy setting.
If you want to try Venice’s famous pairing of cicchetti with a drop of spritz or local wine, you can try the Cantina do Spade or the Cantina Do Mori, in the street of the same name. A superlative creamed cod can be found at the Antica Trattoria Bandierette, in Castello 6671. Remember to book, especially for takeaway: salt cod is prepared every Friday, as tradition dictates.
For “sarde in saor” that you won’t forget, pay a visit to the Cà d ‘Oro tavern (also called the Vedova), in Ramo Cà d ‘Oro. They do not serve coffee here, but to compensate you can try their wonderful cicheti and other local dishes. Another eatery that serves traditional Venetian food (mainly cured meats and cheeses) accompanied by good local wines is the Enoteca Mascareta in Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa.
Getting to Venice
Reaching Venice from the mainland to discover the traditional taverns is easy. The city can be reached from the A4 motorway, with parking in one of the paid car parks just outside the entrance to Venice.
Alternatively, you can take an ATVO route. There are direct links between the city and the airports of Venice and Treviso. This option is fast, easy, and gives you the freedom of being car-free, so you can avoid traffic stress and the not insignificant cost of a day’s parking in Venice.