Take a moment and consider what comes to mind when you hear the word “Venice.” You likely think of the canals, palaces and gondola rides that are abundant in this Italian city. Venice, however, also has a rich food culture that you may not have thought of. Venice’s food culture is predominantly shaped by it having been a part of the spice trade route around the 10th century which included the flavours. In exchange for fish and salt, Venetians received imports such as coffee, cinnamon and saffron. Spices and seafood are still influential in dishes today, making some of Italy’s most delicious dinner, including some of the ones listed below. Read on to learn more about 8 traditional Venice food and drinks that you must try on your next holiday to Venice.

Venice food

#1 Fegato alla Veneziana | Liver & onions

Venetian Liver and Onions is traditionally made with calves’ liver and white onions. The dish goes back to Roman times, where figs were cooked with the liver to cover up the smell of the meat. Figs, though still used today, were replaced with onions in most variations of the dish. It is now one of the most popular dishes in Venice.

#2 Bigoli in Salsa | Pasta & salt-cured fish

This hearty dish combines bigoli pasta with onion and anchovies or sardines. When it was introduced, bigoli in salsa was primarily enjoyed on what are considered fasting days by the Church, including Christmas Eve and Ash Wednesday. Now, though, you can enjoy this dish in restaurants any time of the year. Bigoli is made from whole wheat flour because only that type of flower used to be imported into Venice.

Venice food

#3 Spritz | Wine cocktail

Spritz is made by first pouring Aperol into a champagne flute. The drink is then topped off with Prosecco and club soda, then garnished with a lemon or orange slice. It is based off of the Austrian Spritzer drink because Venice used to be a part of the Austrian Empire.

 #4 Baccala mantecato | Dried cod

This traditional Venetian dish is made by cooking cod for hours until it becomes a soft mixture which can be easily whipped together to become a perfect topping on bread. This was the perfect way for sailors to preserve fish while they were visiting Venice.

Venice food

#5 Sarde in saor | Sardines in sweet & sour sauce

Sardines are sweet and sour in this classic dish. They are typically topped with a mix of ingredients, including vinegar, onion, raisins and pine nuts. Originally created as a way to preserve the sardines, people started adding pine nuts and raisins during the Renaissance to sweeten their breath and the taste.

#6 Baicoli | Plain biscuits

This take on biscotti was first prepared in the 18th century. The name comes from the biscuit dough looking like a fish prior to it being cut. These are very dry, and can be stored for longer than many other desserts. The ingredients are simple: flour, butter, sugar, yeast, salt, egg white and milk, but they have a big flavor.

Venice food #7 Polenta e schie | Polenta & shrimp

Polenta is served with either fried or broiled schie in this savory appetizer. Schie, small shrimps, are commonly found in Venice’s lagoons. Since they are easy to find, this dish used to be considered “poor,” but today they are enjoyed by many different types of people.

#8 Bellini | Wine cocktail with peach

The Bellini, which combines Prosecco sparkling wine and peach purée, was created in Harry’s Bar in Venice between the mid 1930s and late 1940s. The drink was created because its inventor, Giuseppe Cipriani, was moved to create something that combined two regional flavors, the wine and peaches. The drink is made simply by mixing together the wine and fruit purée.

Venetian food has had significant influence on the rest of the world. The freshness of the dishes, the seasoning with spices and the addition of ingredients, such as sugar and rice, to Italian dishes are all thanks to Venice’s role in the spice trade. Without them, Italian food would not taste the same. Venice’s food legacy is one of keeping dishes simple, but giving them a little extra punch with flavorful ingredients. When you travel to Venice, you will have a greater appreciation for Venetian food.
Buon appetito!

Venice Small Group Walking Tour with St Mark’s

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