Traditional food in Venice: all you have to know
What to eat in Venice? Which are the typical dishes you absolutely have to try? And, what is exactly a bacaro?
These are common you’ll probably ask yourself when visiting Venice, as this city boasts not only a unique cultural heritage, but also a strong culinary tradition. And this is definitely the right attitude as, when it comes to food, Venice has a lot to tell.
Therefore, we invite you to have a deep dive into Venice’s culinary experience, from a cicheto (the local tapas) with an ombra (small glass) of wine in a traditional bacaro (tavern) to a lunch or dinner in one of the best restaurants in the city.
Where to have dinner and aperitivo in Venice
First of all, we suggest you book a table at Savor, our restaurant. Deeply Venetian but with a global appeal, it offers traditional local dishes with an international touch. We recommend Savor for its vibrant ambiance in Italian dolce vita style and for its unconventional location, which proudly stands out from the more touristy restaurants.
Savor is also a lounge bar: here you can whet your appetite with an aperitivo in our splendid garden, a setting that – you will soon realize – is rare and sought-after in Venice.
Bacari and traditional dishes
Where should you try typical dishes to take a break from culture or before an aperitif or a dinner at Savor? The answer is easy: in a bacaro! Scattered throughout the city, these are traditional Venetian taverns characterized by an authentic look and feel. A bacaro is simply the best place to enjoy an ombra (small glass) of red wine or a biancheto (white wine), and taste some cicheti. But what’s a cicheto then? The word derives from the Latin ciccus, which means “small quantity”. A cicheto is indeed a small portion of food, similar to the Spanish tapas (but don’t tell the Venetians!).
You’re in front of a rich menu with a lot of fish recipes, mainly written in the local dialect, and you don’t know which cicheto to pick? Then here we go with a selection of the best cicheti and dishes you should really try in Venice.
Sarde in saor
It’s an appetizer made of sardines that is often served as a snack in the Venetian bacari. “Saor” in Venetian means “flavor”and it’s a dressing made of 3 ingredients: onions, pine nuts and raisins, that together create a pleasant sweet-sour flavor. If you want to know more about the origin of this recipe, read our article about Traditional recipes from the Jewish Ghetto: kosher cuisine in Venice.
Moeche are lagoon crabs that lost their shell and, before regenerating it, remain tender. This is a delicacy you can find only two times a year: for just a few weeks in spring and in autumn. A specialty that you should really try if you are lucky enough to be in Venice at the right time of the year.
They are usually served (at a high price) fried, both as a street food and in the restaurants.
Meat, fish or veggie balls
This is an iconic cicheto that you’ll find in practically every bacaro. Typically fried, these meat, fish or vegetable balls are an institution of the Venetian street food.
The baccalà mantecato (creamed cod) is a pillar of the Venetian cuisine: it can be found in almost every bacaro, served with a crouton or a piece of polenta, but also as a dish in typical restaurants. The cod is cooked and reduced in cream, then mixed with oil, salt, pepper, parsley, garlic and milk.
Spaghetti alla busara
Spaghetti alla busara is one of the most popular first courses and it consists of spaghetti with tomato and shellfish soup, mainly scampi (prawns).
The meaning of “busara” is uncertain and debated: some say that “busara” simply means “soup”, while others say it is a crock or iron pot used by fishermen to prepare their meals when sailing. Some others think that the term comes from the word “busiara”, which in dialect means “lie”. It is said that the fishermen referred to this dish as if it was haute cuisine when it was actually made of scampi scraps hidden by tomato.
Fegato alla veneziana
This type of dish may not raise much interest, but already in Roman times people used to eat liver in Veneto and in Venice. That’s why it’s one Venice’s most traditional dishes.
Although tradition uses pork liver, today calf or beef liver are preferred as they have a milder taste. The preparation of the liver in “Venetian style” requires only one other main ingredient: onions, possibly the white ones from Chioggia.
It is often served with the traditional polenta, in this case we suggest white corn polenta.