Food Lover's Guide to Venice
Venice is for lovers, but with a wealth of classic seafood-centric dishes, Venice is also for lovers of good food. From the Rialto market fishmongers hawking the catch of the day to the canal-side tables of the city’s finest restaurants, the lagoon is at the heart of Venetian cuisine. Here’s a few ways to sample Venice’s best food.
To eat like a Venetian, you need to stop in a local bàcaro, or small neighborhood cafe, to choose from a selection of chicchetti, tiny appetizer-like dishes washed down with a small glass of wine, known locally as an ombra. Classic cicchetti include simple fritti (fried vegetable or seafood tempura) and crostini (slices of bread topped with meat or fish paté, cheese, or a compilation like anchovies and artichokes); meat-based polpette (pork meatballs), rumegal (veal stomach), and fegato alla veneziana (calf liver dressed with onion and parsley); and seafood favorites such as sarde in saor (sardines and onions marinated in vinegar and tossed with raisins and pine nuts), baccalà mantecato (creamed cod served over a slice of polenta), baccalà Vicentina (a creamy spread of cod, anchovies, and onions), moleche (small fried crabs), and moscardini (tiny octopus) and polenta.
Venice’s bàcari are small cafes with very little seating, so diners usually stand among the lively happy-hour crowd spilling out into the street or squeeze in at the outdoor tables. For more formal—and filling—fare, opt for a traditional restaurant serving Venice’s classic primi (first courses), including risotto al nero di seppia (tinged black with briny squid ink), risi e bisi (Venetian-style rice and peas), or bigoli in salsa (long pasta tossed with sardines and onions).
- Browse the fishmongers’ stalls on a morning tour of the historic Rialto fish market and discover the wealth of seafood in the Venetian lagoon.
- Try the Venetian take on Spanish tapas with a cicchetti tour. This beloved street food is a staple in Venice, and neighborhoods including the Jewish Ghetto and Cannaregio are thick with traditional bàcari.
- Sit down for a more elegant repast at one of Venice’s landmark fine-dining restaurants to sample the city’s most storied rice and pasta dishes, paired with prestigious wines from the surrounding Veneto region. For an unforgettable evening, pair a gondola ride through the city’s iconic canals with a gala dinner.
- Locals don’t spend every evening at a bàcaro or gourmet restaurant, of course. Experience how Venetian families dine by booking a traditional home dinner prepared by a local chef.
- Head out of town for the day to explore the surrounding wine country with a day trip to Valpolicella, Bassano di Grappa, and Asolo. Taste some of the most prized labels from Veneto, paired with local cheeses and other delicacies.