Floating through the canals of Venice in a gondola can make you hungry and what better place than Italy to explore the local food. In principle, yes, but there is another side to this port.
As famous as Venice is for its grand canals, it is equally renowned for its disappointing food. Sadly, time and a tourism influx have seen the city turn to low-grade pizzas and uninspiring pastas at premium rates to fill the masses.
All this makes it nearly impossible to find well-priced, tasty local dishes in this super popular port stop.
However, with this list of 5 delicious eats and some suggestions on where to find them, you can turn your 24 hours in Venice into a culinary feast:
1) Bignè al Cioccolato at Caffé Florian
Start your day with a late breakfast. The Italian take on the first meal of the day is to ingest super strong coffee (espresso) and sugary sweet pastries.
Bignè al cioccolato is one of the most delicious pastries made from choux pastry and comes filled with a delicious chocolate filling, not too unlike profiteroles. Try a bignè al cioccolato with a shot of espresso or with a longer and foamier cappuccino.
There are many pasticceries (cake shops) in Venice but Café Florian has an exceptional setting overlooking St Mark’s Square. While not the cheapest place to eat, it is one of the oldest in Italy and one of the few places unlikely to disappoint on the square.
www.caffeflorian.com: Piazza San Marco, 56, Venice
Get a sugary start to your day, ideal with espresso. Photo by BaileyMary.
2) Cicheti at Ca’D’oro
Cicheti is the Italian equivalent of Spain’s famous tapas. Locate a bàcari (bar) tucked away in the side streets away from the theater that is Venice and prepare to taste some Venetian wonders.
Polpette (meatballs), olives, seafood and hard-boiled eggs are popular. How do you know you’ve found a bàcari? You can’t see St Mark’s Square.
The place is crammed with locals sipping small glasses of wine (ombra) and there isn’t an English menu in sight. Ca’D’oro (Alla Vedova) is a particularly good place to try Cicheti.
Ca’D’oro: Cannaregio 3912, Venice
Sample cicheti with the locals. Photo by Leslie Kalohi /…
3) Schie con Polenta at Fiaschetteria Toscana
Polenta is another Venetian staple and often served alongside meat and fish. Made with cornmeal, it can be boiled and served soft or grilled, baked or fried.
An excellent way to sample polenta is in antipasti when it is served topped with fried schie (shrimps from the lagoon).
Fiaschetteria Toscana has a touch of Tuscany but is still one of the best places to sample this antipasti where the prices are decent, the food fresh and the wine list invitingly long.
www.fiaschetteriatoscana.it: Salizada S.Giovanni Grisostomo, Cannaregio 5719 Venice
Schie from the lagoon served with soft polenta. Photo by Dèsirèe Tonus.
4) Seppe al Nero at Bottega ai Promessi Sposi
Brace yourself. This traditional Venetian dish is black and is visually unappealing in many ways, but really should be tried.
Cuttlefish cooked in its own ink is a specialty in the city and has a distinctive saltiness. Order it with spaghetti, risotto or polenta to soak up the ink sauce and don’t forget to take some chewing gum along for when you’re finished as the ink can be known to stain your mouth temporarily.
To taste this dish at its best, visit local favorite Bottega ai Promessi Sposi.
Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi: Calle Del’Oca , 4367, Venice
Brace yourself, seppe al nero is black but delicious. Photo by Kevin H.
5) Gianduiotto at Bar Nico
You don’t need to wander more than a few minutes before striking upon a place to eat Italian gelato, but if you’re looking for something a little more special, then seek out gianduiotto.
Chocolate gelato served on a glass of whipped cream, this rich, sugary combination will fuel many hours of sightseeing.
Try Gianduiotto at Bar Nico, a gelato institution near the waterbus stop Zattere, overlooking the canal that has been serving this special ice cream for over 70 years and once counted Omar Shariff amongst its customers.
www.gelaterianico.com: Dorsoduro, 922, Fondamenta Zattere,Venice
Trade everyday gelato for gianduiotto. Photo by pietrolambert.
And before heading back to port be sure to sample a glass of locally produced Prosecco.
What are your favorite Venice eats? Did you fall into the tourist trap? Let me know in the comments below.
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Main photo: Finding good, cheap food in Venice can be harder than you might think by Rob Marson.