Venetian Cuisine : the Absolute Classics!

Venice Food is quite particular given that it was influenced by the various cultures to which the Serenissima was exposed during its age-old history.

First course, meat or fish course, rustic recipes or sophisticated ones. We can certainly say that Venetian cuisine is made of a wide range of dishes, and features many herbs and spices imported from abroad by the thousands of merchants at the time. Among the various typical recipes, some stand out because they use very simple ingredients; however, knowing how to prepare them is essential to obtain a truly delicious dish. Other fish-based ones represent gourmet recipes indeed. After tasting them once, you will be eager to have some more, or cook them once back home.

Venetian Cuisine: how is a typical meal?

As you probably know, in Italy food plays a key role and meals are important moments for all of us. Traditionally, every day all members of each  family would have at least one sit down meal all together. We have a number of courses during each meal and the more special the occasion, the more courses we have!

A full meal usually consists of an appetizer, first course and a second course with a side dish. When going to a restaurant, it is not necessary to order from every course, but usually people order at least two courses. Traditional meals may last one or two hours or even longer. 

As you would expect from a coastal area, typical of the Venetian Cuisine is based mainly on fish and seafood. However, meat based and vegetarian options are commonly available. First course, second course,  vegetarian, meat or fish based dishes, rustic recipes or sophisticated ones. We can certainly say that Venetian cuisine is made of a wide range of dishes

Venetian Food Specialities : First Courses

rice venitian cuisine

Risotto of peas, pancetta, and onion

According to Venetian tradition, the quintessential typical first course is risotto. A Vialone Nano rice based dish cooked until it reaches a creamy consistency.
The most famous recipe is certainly risi e bisi (risotto with spring peas), with ingredients usually available during spring, and cooked with lightly fried onion. At the end, a bit of salt and pepper is sprinkled, and chopped parsley is added on top.

Another popular risotto is called “agli sparasi” (with small green asparagus). 

You can also find fish-based risotti, and among them the delicious risoto de gò, namely risotto with goby fish (called ), a small fish typically living in the Venetian lagoon.

A traditional working-class dish is pasta e fasoi (pasta with beans). This is a very famous recipe cooked throughout the country; therefore, its origins are quite unclear, although it is now part of the Venetian cuisine.

The last first course is called bigoli in salsa, made of Venetian hand press soft wheat pasta with an onion and anchovy-based sauce.

Venetian Cuisine: Meat based Second Courses

The most well-known meat course is definitely figà àea venessiana, that is, Venetian-style liver. The recipe requires veal or pork liver, which is cooked with white onions, olive oil, butter and various herbs, and usually served with white polenta. Actually, Venetian people have changed this recipe as the original one used figs instead of onions, which explains its name.

liver typical dish

Venetian Liver

Another typical dish is pastissada de manzo. Made of beef, cut into pieces and left to marinate for one day in wine with spices, herbs, vegetables and lard, it needs to simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Crushed tomatoes are then added. The result is an incredibly tasty stew.

Typical Venetian Cuisine: Fish based Second Courses

Venetian cuisine at its very best! Some of the he most famous Venetian second courses certainly are: 

Baccala mantecato con polenta. Salted cod served with polenta, a soft cornmeal mush. You cannot leave the city before having tasted it… at least, on a piece of bread, in a bàcaro with a glass of Prosecco sparkling wine or an ombra de vin (a glass of wine).

Sarde in saor  sardines first fried with onions, raisins, pine nuts and spices; and then marinated with vinegar.

Poenta e schie : a great and delicious combination of tiny grey shrimps from the lagoon, which are peeled, fried and served with polenta.

Polenta and schie, photocredit Gioie di Venezia

Polenta and schie, photocredit Gioie di Venezia

Have you heard of moeche? Moeche are small crabs from the lagoon that undergo the process of moulting twice a year (spring and fall). They get caught while shedding their shell, and served deep fried. Should we wonder why they are called the “pearls of the adriatic sea”?

For the Sweet Tooth

The traditional Venetian specialty in terms of sweet dish is cookies. There are various types, made from various flours. Look for the following:

Baicoli, dry cookies that are perfect with coffee and zabaglione.

Zaeti (literally “the yellow ones”) are cookies made from corn flour, with raisins and lemon rind. The classic cookies baked by the grannies with simple, but natural ingredients.

venetian cuisine typical dishes

The unmistakable yellow of Zaeti is given by corn flour, photocredit Cookagna

Other cookies that are very popular come from the island of Burano, and are called bussolai. Eggs, flour, sugar and butter transform into a lovely “O” or “S” shaped cookie. The fishermen’s wives used to bake them, and add a little flavour to it: vanilla, lemon or rum. They would even use them to perfume the linens.

Start with stale bread, to which you will add cocoa, raisins and pine nuts, candied fruits and other ingredients according to family tradition and personal creativity, and you will get the famous pinsa venexiana. A homemade cake containing simple, but filling ingredients. Hard to find in the Venetian bakeries as this is really a home recipe!

Now that you have learned more about these various Venetian delicacies, and that we made your mouth water, you must try them. So, what are you waiting for? Plan a trip to Venice Italy and discover the culinary tradition and typical dishes of this fascinating city! Of course this will also be a good opportunity to try some of the best red and white wines of the Veneto Region!

You can find some more information on Venetian Cuisine and traditional food here: