Venice is not only the most romantic city in the world. Venice is also the place where you can taste the most delicious local food and enjoy your visit to the city eating different local specialties every day.
That's why we decided to prepare this guide through the most tasty and popular Venetian dishes.
Among meat and fish dishes but also vegetarian meals and sweets, it will be a great food tour of the traditional Venetian cuisine!
What to eat in Venice? Let's explore these 10 Venetian specialties
Venice is part of the Veneto region. However, even though it shares with the region many ingredients and dishes, it also has an amazing character on its own.
You will see that it's a cuisine rich in fish, meat but also rice, pasta and soups. Many of the main courses we will explore are accompanied by tasty and creamy polenta.
Let's dig inside the most interesting authentic Venetian food.
1. Polenta e schie
Polenta in Veneto seasons every dish. When it accompanies schie, however, it becomes even tastier.
First of all, what are schie? They are very small shrimps typical of the Venetian lagoon. Despite their small size, their taste is really intense. They can also be enjoyed fried, but the preferred version is boiled.
If boiled and seasoned with a drizzle of oil, pepper and parsley and served with warm polenta, their taste will be actually amazing.
2. Nero di seppia (squid ink)
Among the traditional Venice food, "nero di seppia" is one of the most popular.
It is a sauce prepared with squid ink that seasons pasta (usually "spaghetti" or "bigoli") or rice, making the " pasta al nero di seppia" or "risotto al nero di seppia".
It might not look appetizing but it is undoubtedly delicious on the palate. Its sea flavor is truly unmissable.
In case you order it, take care of your clothes because the jet-black stains of the squid ink are really stubborn or clothes!
3. Granseola alla Veneziana (Venetian style Spider Crab with onions)
Among seafood dishes, Granseola alla Veneziana is certainly one of the most important traditional foods.
It's a delicious and sought-after dish. The name "granseola" comes from the Venetian "granso" which means crab and "seola" which means onion.
The recipe is not particularly difficult and it is a dish served all year round.
Beyond the crab and onions, the dish is made of oil, lemon, parsley and herbs.
4. Sarde in saor
We could translate the Venetian expression "Sarde in saor" as "marinated sardines". However "Saor" in Italian means "sapore" which is "flavour" in English.
So, this traditional dish comes from a old recipe which consists in marinating fried foods (particularly fish) in vinegar, onions and other sweet and sour elements.
Nowadays this marinating process is applied to shellfish and vegetables.
However, the fried sardine filets marinated recipe is certainly the most famous one.
You can find the "Sarde in Saor" all year round, but traditionally it was prepared for the Redentore feast, in the middle of July.
Each family (and restaurant) has a preferred way of preparing this dish. It could be with white wine or just vinegar, or maybe with pine nuts and raisins.
5. Fegato alla veneziana (Venetian style liver)
This is surely one of the most important meat dishes.
Not all Venetians do love this place, however offal enthusiasts will certainly appreciate it. It is a main course made with calf liver and stewed onions.
Like we saw in the previous recipe, the bitterness of the liver is complimented perfectly by the sweetness of the caramelized onions.
That's why many people who claim not to like liver often change their mind as soon as they taste it.
6. Baccalà mantecato
This is one of the local recipes that you definitely need to try while visiting Venice.
You can either choose to taste it during a nice dinner at a local restaurant or simply decide to taste cicchetti (Venetian name for "tapas" or "finger foods") with local wines as an aperitif.
It seems like a white cream and it is made of stockfish.
The recipe is very old, dating back to 1431 when a Venetian ship was disrupted by a violent storm and dragged North for days. The survivors ended up on the island of Roest, where they discovered dried stockfish. As soon as they discovered its tastiness, they brought it back to Venice and we couldn't be happier.
Even though it's not so easy to prepare this dish, it requires just a few ingredients, beyond the fish: olive oil, black pepper, salt, garlic and lemon juice.
7. Risi e bisi (rice and fresh peas)
It's a simple but delicious dish. It could seem like risotto but it's not.
Risotto, however, is very popular in the cuisine of the Veneto region. In fact, Veneto is one of Italy’s main rice-growing places. We love it and we prepare it in a great variety of flavors, from vegetables to meat or fish.
In Venice, risi e bisi it's very common, mixing rice with green fresh peas. Venetians often say that's not a true "risotto", but it is halfway between risotto and soup.
It contains onions, butter, parsley and sometimes also pancetta (bacon).
According to tradition, risi e bisi was eaten on the 25th of April, the day of Saint Mark, patron of Venice and it was offered to the Doge by the peasantry from the Venetian lagoon islands.
Nowadays you can eat all year round but it is particularly delicious in Spring.
8. Bigoli in salsa (salsa bigoli)
This is another popular fish dish. Bigoli are a type of pasta, very similar to spaghetti but thicker and with a coarser texture.
The "salsa", instead, is a mix of anchovy and onions, both tasty ingredients.
In the past, "bigoli in salsa" were eaten during the days of Lean, when meat was forbidden. However, nowadays, it has a popular food that can be eaten all year round.
9. Buranelli biscuits, called Buranei in Venetian
Speaking about Venetian desserts, Buranelli are a type of biscuits traditionally served in the island of Burano during Easter.
It is a typical custom in Burano for the ladies, a few days before Easter, to go to the ovens of the island's bakeries or pastry shops and have the dough baked for Easter bussolàs, which are then divided among the family and kept for the whole year.
Nowadays, however, you can eat them all year round.
10. One of the most famous sweets
If you are in Venice during the Carnival period, you absolutely cannot fail to stop at one of the many historic pastry shops and not taste the very famous Frittelle.
Their origins are very old; in fact, they are mentioned as early as the XIV century. They are a thick and sticky batter made of eggs, flour, brewer's yeast, sugar, milk and flavorings; this is then deep fried by scoops in boiling oil. Then they are dipped in sugar and finally stuffed.
The classic Venetian does not actually involve any cream but only the addition of raisins.
Those with a sweet tooth, however, can try the many variations with chocolate filling, classic cream, pistachio cream, and you name it.
In Venice, children and adults can't wait for Carnival because it's the only period in which you can taste them!
When you come to Venice, which Venetian food would you like to taste?
Even if we did a great tour of the most interesting local food, we did not stress your attention on the importance of the aperitif.
Tasting finger foods accompanied by red wine or maybe spritz is one unmissable Venetian tradition.
When you come to Venice, please do not miss the chance to try this experience as well!