Italian cuisine with Venetian flair: 10 dishes to sample in the Floating City.
From rags to riches, a soupy yet sturdy combination
Risi e bisi
Easy and quick to prepare, this tasty risotto-like concoction is a simple mix of spongy arborio rice and peas but with a kick of seasoning, soaked in a creamy parmesan and butter blend. Once a favourite with the Doge of Venice, it’s now enjoyed by all sections of society on St Mark’s Day on April 25th.
Local tip: The best time to sample this light and nutritious meal is over spring when peas are at their sweet, crunchy best.
A pasta and bean dish that’s just what the doctor ordered
Pasta e fagioli
With modest origins, this union of beans, broth and penne pasta is the traditional go-to option if you’re feeling under the weather. Even if you’re not, the salty, filling mix is delicious on winter days with the addition of flavoursome pancetta and a sprinkle of parmesan.
Local tip: A warming platter, this combination is usually served in the winter months.
A rich liver platter and Roman relic
Fegato alla veneziana
Dating back to the days of the Roman Empire, these tender morsels of calf’s liver are softened with sweet Chiogga onions, olive oil, parsley and vinegar. It’s often served next to a helping of fluffy white polenta before chopped parsley is added for flavour and a dash of colour.
Local tip: Nip into a tiny tavern known as a bacaro to enjoy this dish by the bar.
Carnival treats of fruit and sweet dough masked in batter
Light and fluffy, these bundles of dough are perked up with raisins and candied fruit, and laced with a glug of rum or liqueur. Fried until they’re just the right amount of crispy on the outside, a dusting of icing sugar adds a final flourish. Best munched on when accompanied by some fine Italian coffee.
Local tip: During Carnival time — before Lent – you’ll be able to grab a selection of these treats in a bakery.
A sardine snack to satisfy sweet and sour cravings
Sarde in Saor
Fried sardines are marinated in a medley of vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts, providing a tasty tang and a hint of fruity and earthy tones. A classic cicchetti snack, Venetians will savour this with a glass of wine, or as a starter dish to get the taste buds going.
Venetian finger-food for pairing with fine wine
A local version of tapas, you’ll see bacaro-goers propping up the bar with one of these savoury offerings. Dished up atop a chunk of fresh bread, simply presented on a plate, or left to spear with a toothpick, they range from stuffed rice balls to cured meats, marinated fish and a humble helping of olives.
A robust type of pasta designed to take on any sauce
These thick, starchy strands are concocted from duck egg and whole wheat flour, and resemble the bucatini variety. One of the tastiest and most common ways to enjoy them is ‘in salsa’ – a salty blend of onions and anchovies.
Venetian cod with a hint of northern soul
Salted Norwegian cod is blended with oil, garlic and parsley to form a textured, fresh and fragrant paste. Delicious piled onto crispy slices of grilled polenta, or served up as a side dish, you’ll see it in taverns across the city.
An early-evening refreshment that’s part of Italian routine
The perfect, refreshing drink to enjoy in the sun, these cocktails are poured into a lowball glass with a base of prosecco, a dash of soda and a helping of a bitter brew such as Aperol, Campari or Cynar. Locals heading out for post-work ‘aperitivo’ food and drinks will order this in bars and on café terraces alike.
Local tip: Perhaps the most popular concoction, Aperol Spritz is a vision of orange, with two parts of the aromatic spirit, combined with three parts Prosecco and soda.
Cornmeal — the ultimate all-rounder ingredient
Baked, fried, grilled, whipped up with cheese, or blended into a breakfast porridge – polenta is nothing if not versatile. This unassuming flour is beloved by Venetians for its ability to complement a whole range of meat, fish or vegetable selections.