Pasta and pizza are household names in Italy, and they are the foods we identify with the country’s cuisine. However, the reality is that Italy has a wide range of cuisines. Many people go to touristy cafés providing food that fits their expectations. It’s easy to eat the usual pasta and pizza dishes rather than eat like the locals. Genuine Venetian cuisine consists of some extremely delicious and refined meals. They often rely primarily on fish and vegetables; thanks to its unique lagoon position and proximity to the island gardens of Sant’Erasmo.
Another delectable fish-based antipasto is a close second. Baccala mantecato is made by soaking, poaching, and blending dried cod into a creamy mousse. It’s then seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Parsley and garlic may also appear in some variants. It’s then smeared on fresh bread slices or grilled white polenta, a Veneto staple.
Sailors required sustenance that would last them through their frequently lengthy and perilous voyages when the Republic of Venice was a great naval force. Dry, oval-shaped, and most crucially, long-lasting baicoli or ship biscuits were among their most vital rations. They have a deceptively simple appearance, but preparing them takes a long time because they require two rises and double baking. Many aristocrats in Venetian society enjoyed dipping baicoli in creams and dessert wines. These days, they’re typically served with coffee and zabaglione.
Bigoli in Salsa
Another popular appetizer in Venice is bigoli in salsa. Bigoli, or bigoi as they were known in the local vernacular, are long, thick strands of whole-wheat pasta that resemble spaghetti. The spaghetti is then served with a salsa or sauce made of onions and salt-cured fish (sardines or anchovies). This simple but tasty dish is now offered all year in Venice. It was formerly served on giorni di magro or lean days such as Good Friday and Christmas Eve.
Fegato alla Veneziana
This main course, cooked with calf liver and stewed onions, is a must have dish. The sweet,
caramelized onions nicely complement the earthiness of the liver. This popular meal has been known to convert many visitors who swear they don’t like liver due to its unique flavor combination. It’s frequently served on a bed of creamy polenta.
The Venetian lagoon is home to a diverse range of crustaceans, making Venice an ideal destination for seafood enthusiasts. Moleche are little green crabs that are eaten when they shed their shells and are a seasonal springtime delicacy. When the crabs are harvested, speed is necessary. This is because they grow new shells in a matter of hours and harden following contact with water. These crabs are deliciously soft and sensitive, and they go great in fried meals and salads.
Risi e Bisi
Another rice-based appetizer, risi e bisi or Venetian-style rice and peas, would not be complete without including in our gourmet guide to Venice. This primo was historically presented as an gift to the Doge of Venice from the peasantry of the lagoon islands on St. Mark’s Day. Risi e bisi is a risotto-style dish composed with vialone nano rice, pancetta, onion, butter, parsley, and, shockingly, pea-shell broth! When you see fresh peas on the stalls at the Rialto markets (usually in the middle to late spring), you know it’s time to try this dish at a local trattoria.
Risotto al nero di seppia
The Veneto region’s other major crop is rice, and few meals are more Venetian than this seafood-based risotto. The squid ink in this primo, or starter, may give the rice an unsettling and unappealing jet-black appearance. The peculiar briny flavor of the squid, wine, onion, tomato, and ink braise, on the other hand, wins over even the most skeptic visitors.
Sarde in Saor
A favorite sweet-sour dish also known as ‘agrodolce’ is delightful. Saor was invented by Venetian sailors and fishermen in the Middle Ages as a way of preserving fried sardine fillets marinated in vinegar, onions, raisins, and pine nuts. This method of preserving fish (and other foods) is no longer essential thanks to modern refrigeration. The sweet and acidic qualities of this preservation process, on the other hand, were certainly pleasing to the Venetians’ taste buds. As a result, the dish has survived as a modern-day antipasto or appetizer.
The Veneto region boasts a highly diversified environment and a range of microclimates, making it ideal for cultivating both red and white wines of high quality. Prosecco, a sparkling white wine, and other concoctions made with it, such as the Bellini and Spritz, have recently become popular as a pre-dinner drink. If we had to choose a white wine to go with all of the fish you’ll be eating here, a bottle of Soave comes highly recommended. You might want to try reds like Valpolicella or Amarone to go with heartier foods. White wines such as Orto di Venezia and Venissa are also available for a taste of something truly regional.