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Venice Italy, Foods of Venice

A Venetian meal has many courses, and it can take a few hours to work your way through them all. But do not be fooled, yes Italians actually eat such massive full meals, to be accompanied by good wine and lively conversation, but to honor a special occasion or holiday.  Otherwise the majority of Italians eats great food just one or two courses at a sitting.

What you might find on a typical Venetian menu.

Antipasto (appetizer)

Start with an antipasto (appetizer), which in Venice means seafood.

Frutti di mare are "fruits of the sea" and include a plethora of shellfish, crustaceans, and tentacled sea critters.

Useful Italian

  • table for two - tavola per due
  • I would like - vorrei
  • this - questo
  • fizzy water - acqua gassata
  • still water - acqua non gassata
  • red wine - vino rosso
  • white wine - vino bianco
  • beer - birra
  • check, please - il conto per favore
  • is service included? - é incluso il servizio

Another archetypal Venetian starter is sarde in saor, sardines prepared with a sweet-and-sour sauce and often served with grilled slices of polenta (a distant, wetter, denser cousin to cornbread).

Primo (first course)

Your primo (first course) could be a soup (try the zuppa di cozze mussels soup); a rice (risotto alle seppie, stained with squid ink, is popular, but it's beat out by risi e bisi, a creamy blend of rice and fresh peas, sometimes with bacon); or a pasta—perhaps spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), or spaghetti al pomodoro (spaghetti in a plain tomato sauce) being the most common.

Secondo (main course)

Your secondo (main course) should take advantage of the setting and be fish. Most is priced by weight, grilled or otherwise simply prepared, and served on a bed of bitter red radicchio lettuce.

Popular secondi listed in guide books and by travel writes include anguille in umido (eels stewed with tomatoes, garlic, and white wine) and the local, non-seafood staple fegato alla Veneziana (tender calf's liver cooked down with onions). However, this is not eaten that often by locals except perhaps on special occasion, I know lots of Italians who have never eaten these dishes. 

Dolci (desserts)

Finish with a selection of formaggi (cheeses) or a dolce (dessert)—might I suggest the ever-popular tiramisù (espresso-soaked lady fingers layered with sweetened, creamy mascarpone cheese and dusted with cocoa).

Vino (wine)

Italy is famed for its wines, and the Veneto region around Venice produces some great ones, including the white Soave, and reds Bardolino and Valpolicello. The best table wines in the region tend to be the whites. There are no wine producers on the Islands of Venice.

Some recommended restaurants in Venice

Quick Bites or Snacks in Venice

The quintessential quick bite in Venice is the cicchetti (canapés and finger foods) at any bar or bacaro.

Venice also has Italy's standard great take-out venues: the tavola calda (prepared hot dishes sold by weight) and rosticceria (same thing plus roast chickens). Most bars sell tramezzini, which are like giant tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off, filled with tuna, ham and cheese, tomatoes and mozzarella, etc.

Do not get pizza slices to take away in Venice; you'll get the wrong impression of Italian pizza, which only gets good from Rome on south. You can get decent pizza at the sit-down pizzerie recommended to the left.

For picnic supplies, visit any succession of alimentari (grocery stores), forno (bakeries), and frutti vendolo (fruit and vegetable stand)—the most evocative on a vegetable barge floating on the Rio San Barnaba canal in Dorsoduro.

Suggested Places to Eat In San Marco

Bistrot de Venise [meal] - A restaurant serving an intriguing combo of Italian Renaissance recipes and French cuisine...

Osteria La Campana [meal] - It just says "Osteria" in the window, and from the door you can see only the bar. The wood-paneled dining room next-door has curtains in the windows as if to keep the tourists who wash up and down the busy street just a few blocks from St. Mark's Square from discovering this budget eatery buzzing with Venetian dialect...

Vino Vino [quick] - A Venetian wine bar with light meals, 350 vintages, and continuous hours 11:30am–11:30pm...

Rosticceria Teatro Goldoni [quick] - This joint behind plate glass windows near the Rialto may look modern, but it's been around since 1950, and really goes far above and beyond the call for a rosticceria (a sort of cafeteria with excellent pre-prepared dishes) with a vast array of choices and plenty of seating...

Rosticceria San Bartolomeo [quick] - A modern, popular, business-like tavola calda (a cafeteria-like joint) near the Rialto Bridge offering ready-made hot dishes and pizza with no cover charge right in the heart of the action...

Suggested Places to Eat In Cannaregio

Trattoria Cea [meal] - You can sit on straw-bottom chairs inside to listen to the radio and play elbow-hockey with the local workmen who pack the place at lunchtime, or snag one of the four metal tables with plastic chairs out front, ranged around an ancient marble well-head under an arbor thick with leafy vines...

Brek [quick/light meal] - A high-end cafeteria near the train station...

Suggested Places to Eat In Dorsoduro

Trattoria Ai Cugnai [meal] - Delicious food at the homey trattoria of the three sisters...

Enoteca Cantinone Già Schiavi [snack] - Enoteca Cantinone Già Schiavi offers not only a broad selection of €1 cicchetti and inexpensive glasses of vino under a beamed ceiling, but also a few dozen wines under €10 a bottle...

Suggested Places to Eat In Castello

Ristorante Corte Sconta [meal] - This trendy, trattoria popular with writers, artists, and gourmands for the past quarter century has a high-quality, all-seafood menu...

Trattoria Da Remigio [meal] - Famous for its straightforward renditions of Adriatic classics, this spot bucks the current Venetian trends by continuing to offer exquisite food and excellent, genuinely friendly service at reasonable prices...

Trattoria Pizzeria Da Aciugheta [meal] - A long block north of the chic Riva degli Schiavoni hotels lies one of Venice's best wine bars, expanded to include an elbow-to-elbow trattoria/pizzeria in back...

Suggested Places to Eat In San Polo

Cantina Do Mori [snack] - This is the Venetian cicchetti wine bar you've been dreaming about: old school and ancient, all wooden accents and crowds of locals...

Cantina Do Spade [meal/quick] - A 600-year-old trattoria with a back room where Casanova once wined and dined his romantic conquests (it has a back door so that the famed lothario could slip out should any husbands show up)...

Vini Da Pinto [meal] - How fresh is the fish? You could lob a clam shell from your outdoor table and hit the guy who sold it to the chef that morning—the Mercato del Rialto, Venice's main fish market, sprawls under a brick-and-marble Gothic loggia a few feet away...

Trattoria alla Madonna [meal] - Cuisine and chaos at a old-school trattoria...

Pizzeria Da Sandro [meal] - Da Sandro is a good choice if you’re looking for an inexpensive pizza-and-beer meal (which, believe it or not, is hard to come by in Venice). The pizzas are crisp, delicious, and so large they hang over the edges of the plates...

Suggested Places to Eat In Santa Croce

Pizzeria Ae Oche [meal] - More than ninety types of pizza and an odd Americana theme at a real local's joint...

Tips About Eating in Venice

  • Venice eats early: Well, by Italian standards at at least. In much of Italy, dinner doesn't get going until 8:30 or 9pm. In Venice, most show up for the meal at 7pm or 7:30pm, and dinner is wrapping up by 10pm. Venice goes to bed early.
  • Bread and Cover: There's an unavoidable charge called pane e coperto ("bread and cover") of about €1 to €5 that's added onto your bill at just about all Venetian restaurants. This is not a scam. This is standard in Italy.
  • Avoid places with photos of food posted on the menus.  There are usally places that serve freezer foods.

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