Venice was the first European state to suggest the use of the fork. It’s here Europe’s first coffee shop was opened. Spices, sugar, wines. For centuries the city was the largest importer of these (modern day) staples. Here’s where we tell you what to eat in Venice and where to book a table.
Thanks to the abundant lagoon, typical dishes in Venice tend to be seafood-based. Cod and squid are amongst the most popular and authentic ingredients. Heavy, pasta-based dishes are less common. Then there are the sweets. Delicate pastries and artisanal desserts abound, and many a patisserie will tempt you as you explore the city streets.
Cocktails are an institution. Venetians don’t drive, so the opportunity to grab a small glass of wine or cocktail is rarely passed up. These are enjoyed alongside cicchetti at one of the local bàcari or osterie (all of which we explain below).
1) Cicchetti are a Must
Cicchetti are bite-sized portions of local dishes and snacks. They are similar to tapas (though you’ll be hissed at for saying so). You eat these standing up in the local osterie or bàcari, using fingers or toothpicks. Think cuttlefish cooked in its own ink or simple stuffed olives.
2) Sarde in Saor
Sarde in Saor may be the most popular antipasti in Venice. Saor is an ancient cooking method used to preserve food. Fried sardines are marinated in vinegar, onion, raisins and pine nuts for a delicious agrodulce (sweet and sour) flavour. The delectable result is eaten cold.
Did you know?
The first book of gastronomy, De onesta voluptate et valetitudine, was published is Venice.
3) Baccalà Mantecato
Cod is a major favourite in Venice, and fresh from the lagoon is absolutely mouthwatering. Salt cod is cooked in olive oil, garlic, and parsley, then creamed and pulped. You’ll find it on bread, or spooned over grilled polenta (another Venetian staple).
4) Sinful Pastries
As a major importer of sugar, Venice has a long history of delicious confectionery. Frittelle, Castagnole, and Galani are the most popular. They are traditionally made to be eaten during Carnevale. Sometimes filled with pastry cream or chestnuts, sometimes with rum soaked sultanas and pine nuts. These delicious bite-sized fritters, cakes and pastries are worth ruining your diet!
Where to Eat in Venice
Start at the Local Bàcari and Osterie
Avoid the tourist traps and select a back-alley osterie or bàcari like the locals do. Be warned though, many restaurants call themselves osterie, when really they’re full-service ristoranti. Bàcari and osterie are traditional wine bars that serve cicchetti and simple meals, often standing.
Harry’s Bar (est. 1931)
This famous restaurant is the origin of the world’s first Bellini cocktail. Plus, believe it or not, carpaccio! It was declared a national landmark in 2001. Moreover, it has been frequented by famous patrons such as Ernest Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin!
Caffè Florian (est. 1720)
Underneath the Procuratie Nuovo in the Piazza San Marco lies the world’s oldest coffee shop. The Florian has witnessed 3 centuries of Venetian history, and was one of Casanova’s favourite haunts. At the time it was the only meeting place that admitted women!