It’s impossible to sum up all the culinary delights of an Italian city in just three dishes. But when travelers have only a limited amount of time to visit, it’s important to make sure the absolutely-can-not-miss dishes are at the tippy-top of your dining priority list.
This is how I try to help you find the best dishes from Venice.
There are a million incredible things to eat in Venice that I haven’t listed. Fegato alla veneziana (liver and onions) is a local favorite. Seasonal delights include the moleche crabs . The fritole is a must-have for anyone visiting Carnevale. There is so much to eat in Italy, and you don’t get it all in one day.
This list of three must-try things in Venice will help you to have three unforgettable culinary experiences during your stay in Venice.
While you’re there, learn more about Italian cuisine and things to do in Venice.
Let’s start with a note on Venetian food…
Venice is known for its expensive and mediocre food. This is understandable to a certain extent. Tourists will flock to a city as popular and well-known as Venice every year. It doesn’t matter how good the food is. Many of these day-trippers aren’t doing their research and might just stop at the first pizza place they see. They might conclude that Venetian food doesn’t taste good if it’s not so good.
They are wrong but I will give them this: Venice sometimes requires you to work harder in order to find high-quality food.
It is a good idea to get away from the most touristy areas in order to find great restaurants in Venice. Another key to enjoying good food in Venice is knowing what ingredients and dishes are popular in this region of Italy. These tips are useful no matter where in Italy you travel, but they are especially relevant in Venice.
Now, let’s move on…
Cicchetti is a way of eating in Venice, and not a specific dish. Cicchetti are small bites, or appetizers, of local specialties. Venetian traditions include stopping at a bacaro (a Cicchetti Bar) between lunch and dinner to enjoy a plate of small bite-sized morsels with a small glass wine.
As with aperitivos in Rome and Milan, you won’t be able to eat a complete meal of cicchetti from one bar. However, it is advisable to visit several bacari in order to have your fill of cicchetti while you take a walking tour through Venice at dinnertime.
Take a look at the variety of cicchetti available before you decide on a bacaro. There will be a variety of small sandwiches and fried treats at some bars. Others will have artistically-designed finger foods. It’s easy to just point at the items you like and tell how many. This can be fun, especially if you don’t care about what each item contains (or have no dietary restrictions). Pay at the counter for your beverage and find a seat at a table. Your chosen cicchetti will arrive on a platter with your beverage.
One of the best reasons to try cicchetti is that you can sample a small portion of a Venetian specialty before you commit to a full plate of something you don’t even know. You can find these local dishes in cicchetti bars:
- Polenta– Polenta can be found in many forms in Venice, as well as elsewhere. It is often used as a main dish, with its creamy version. When it comes to cicchetti however, polenta must be cooked, cooled and cut into small pieces before being grilled. The polenta’s sturdy pieces can be used in place of crostini.
- Sarde in saor Venice is located on a lagoon so seafood is important. Sarde is sardines. Sarde in saor refers to sardine fillets. They are deep-fried and then marinated with vinegar sweetened with raisins, pine nuts and onions. This sweet and sour dish makes a great antipasto.
- Baccala mantecato Dry salt cod is reconstituted and then mixed with olive oils and seasoning. This mousse-like product can be served with crostini and polenta.
You don’t have to spend a lot to get a Bellini in Venice at Harry’s Bar. However, a simple glass wine from Veneto is a more traditional cicchetti beverage. Order prosecco!) Or a Spritz.
Risotto al Nero di Seppia
Many varieties of risotto can be found in Venice, including rice and those that contain seafood from the lagoon. However, none is quite as visually stunning as risotto nero di seppia. Why? It’s because it’s dark. It’s black, which is not something you would expect from rice.
Seppia, a squid or cuttlefish is known for its defense mechanism which involves ink. Risotto al Negro di Seppia is a flavorful ink that makes risotto more sea-like. It also gives the entire dish a black hue.
The risotto also includes the ink. It is usually made with squid pieces and sometimes onions, wine, or tomatoes. It is rich and satisfying, with a sea-like flavor. It may make your teeth purple, which is an added bonus.
Risi e Bisi
Risi e bisi is another rice-based dish popular in Venice. It is also less flashy than risotto di seppia. The name of this dish, which is essentially rice and peas in Venetian dialect, means “rice and beans”.
Yet, it’s Venetian comfort food with roots in cucina povera or “peasant cuisine.” It was the Venetian Doge’s traditional dish, and it was also the favorite of the peasants living on the lagoon’s outlying islands.
Risi e bisi can be described as a mixture of rice, fresh peas and onions, along with pancetta and grated cheese. This dish is spring-time and not risotto. However, the rice is cooked together with the other ingredients. Some restaurants cook the pea shells in water to give the dish a pea-flavored flavor.
It’s your turn now!
Tell me what three must-eats in Venice you would recommend. Which three things do you look forward to most when you visit Venice?
6 Responses to “Must Eat Italy: 3 Things to Eat In Venice”
That sounds delicious, Will! Thank you for sharing.
Veneto’s cuisine is still lacking in comparison to the more famous regions of Italy. (Although, it is difficult to match Tuscany and Umbria. There seems to be a lot of frying in Veneto and Venice, as I am a member of several FB groups.
When I go to Japan, I’ll be sure to have a go at risi ebisi! Thanks.
It’s just that – it’s not lacking in any way. It’s simply that there are many restaurants in Venice that cater to tourists because it’s easier to make money this way. If you know where to look, the Veneto has so many things to offer. (Monica’s comment is only the tip of an iceberg.
Risotto di Zucca, pumpkin risotto, Branzino al sale (seabass cooked in salt crust), Pasta e Fasioi (Bean Soup), Seppie in umido (cuttlefish in tomato sauce)….. shall I go on. To be honest, I’m Venetian and I rarely fry food.
Venetian cuisine emphasizes fresh ingredients, fast cooking and herbs. Deep-fried items are those that we made for a special occasion. On a daily basis, any Venetian will have risottos with anything, polenta mixed with anything, pasta with meats or veggies, cheeses, and cold cuts!
Monica, I am hungry! Thank you so much for sharing your insights about Venice.
Bigoli in salsa is a Venetian favorite dish. This pasta is a special kind of spaghetti, and it has a light brown color because it’s made with whole wheat grains. Sauced with onion and salt-cured fish (usually anchovies but also sardines), the pasta is served.
Some places do it better than others. While many people use pasta, I prefer the Osteria Antiche Carampane version. It has a thinner pasta which is more authentic and richly flavored to balance out the sweet, salty, and onion flavors. It is nestled in a cluster of narrow streets, about 15 meters from a small waterway.