The magical “city of romance” is a wonderful travel destination for any passionate foodie. Whether you’re in search of authentic Venice food tours, a restaurant for a special occasion or looking for unique food and drink experiences in Venice among the canals. Although, sometimes you don’t need an excuse, as Italy is a country everyone wishes to visit at least once.
After all, when it comes to Venice, you can’t help but fall in love with Venetian cuisine. While we recommend many of the city’s fine-dining restaurants, sometimes the best food and drink experiences in Venice are dining with the locals.
Food and Drink Experiences in Venice
As Venice is situated in a shallow inlet within the Adriatic Sea, it will come as no surprise that seafood is always popular. In particular, the likes of pilchards and anchovies are among the smaller fish readily available.
As for which dishes to sample in particular, the Venetian equivalent to Spanish tapas is called Cicchetti and a great place to start. The most authentic of which can be purchased during a food tour to the local “bacaro” (wine bar).
In Venice, you can always find colourful small plates are readily available at really affordable prices. Cicchetti is rather unique as not only do the menus change seasonally, but they can also vary day by day. In some cases, they even change from hour to hour! Albeit ensuring only the freshest ingredients are used while keeping costs down to a minimum.
The word Cicchetti originates from the Latin word “ciccus,” meaning “little” or “nothing”. Hence the need for small plates and bowls. Although it’s worth noting, still bring a healthy appetite to our food and drink experiences in Venice!
Popular dishes include fried meatballs, crostini sandwiches, “tramezzini” (triangular sandwiches). As well as crusty bread topped with fish and meat, along with a scintillating arrangement of pickled vegetables.
Venetian Cuisine and Traditions
Italy is, of course, well known for producing world-famous pizzas and pasta dishes. However, the reality is that authentic Italian cuisine varies across the country.
As such, our Venice food tours will showcase a side to Italy that uncovers much more than the tourist hot spots. After all, it’s far to easy just to stick to the pizzerias and not sample true authentic Venetian food. As for an authentic introduction to food and drink experiences, book online with tabl.
There are plenty of superb Michelin Starred restaurants in Venice, however, there are also some more basic places too. Although, when you are trying to find somewhere to eat, be mindful areas such as St Mark’s Square, can be quite expensive.
Another good rule of thumb is to try and avoid bars and restaurants with photographs of the food outside. This way of advertising is often associated with those trying to attract tourists and the quality of food can prove inconsistent.
Likewise, be mindful waiters aren’t allowed to try and entice you into their restaurant out on the street. Therefore, you should be left to read the menu and make your own decision. It’s also worth noting, many restaurants will add a cover charge for their service. This may only amount to €2 or €3 per person but can still make a difference.
As such, you may wish to stand at the bar to order or take a look at the takeaway menu. Alternatively, if you’re still unsure of where to eat, search our food and drink experiences in Venice for some fresh ideas.
Food and Drink in Venice
Historically, Venetians were seafaring folk and given Venice is quite literally constructed on water, it’s not surprising the seafood is of high quality.
As well as fresh produce, preserved foods, such as baccalà (dried and salted cod), corn, potatoes, and rice remain popular. Then there’s Baccalà Mantecato, a dish made of stockfish, an important traditional food in Venice.
Baccalà Mantecato dates back to 1431 when a Venetian ship, carrying all sorts of spices, was hit by a violent storm. It’s believed the high winds dragged the ship around the seas for days. The poor surviving sailors eventually landed on an island called Roest, where they found a taste for dried stockfish.
If you’re on a food tour in the Venetian lagoon, be sure to try fresh Schie (shrimp). The dish can be quite expensive, as schie is difficult to catch due to scarcity. However, once sourced, the shrimps are cooked in lemon, garlic and served over steaming polenta.
Another antipasto to mention is Sarde in Saor, made-up of sardines, onions and balsamic vinegar. The taste can be rather strong until it is sweetened by adding raisins, nuts and red wine.
As for authentic food and drink experiences in Venice, even a simple dish of Risi e Bisi (rice and peas) comes with a back story:
In the 15th century, rice was an important commodity in Venice, due to its low cost and extensive availability. The famous Doge would stand outside of his Palace and salute his subjects while eating a dish of Risi e Bisi. Ever since this time, it became an emblematic dish for the locals to eat on St. Mark’s Day (25th of April).
Ending on a sweet note, remember to try some delicious Buranelli. The biscuit that originates the Venetian island of Burano.
Popular Drink Experiences in Venice
As for what to drink to accompany your Venice food tours, here are some popular favourites.
This is a popular drink that is a 100 years old tradition and a crucial Venetian aperitif. Its actual origin is said to have come from Austrian soldiers from the first world war. Apparently the soldiers found Venetian wines far too strong, so they added sparkling water – hence sparkling white wine.
Nowadays there is a choice of three red options: Aperol (sweet), Campari (bitter) and Select (halfway). If you order a spritz in Venice, you will have to select one of the above. Aperol seems to be the most popular one, with the Select having a liquor type flavour.
Beer lovers will find plenty of serious global craft beers served throughout the city, from a local craft brewer boasting gleaming wooden bars with brass taps. Italian craft brewers always use high-quality, local ingredients, and expert beer brewing production. Maybe it is less popular than wine in Venice, buts a great drink for a pizza night with family and friends.
If you love people-watching, then head off to Birreria Zanon – a popular place that serves pints on tap and amber ales that you can enjoy sitting right beside the canal.
Venetians take their wine rather seriously. The surrounding wine region produces wine of a high-standard while remaining relatively cheap! In fact, the Venetian house wine is often better than that of other cities.
Food and drink experiences in Venice will often include wine-pairings. Although if you’re out on your own, try a classic Valpolicella or locally produced Pinot Grigio.
The aperitivo is Italy’s answer to happy hour, and also a good time to enjoy a cocktail. Most Venetian cocktail bars will have classic mixes alongside both signature and regional cocktails.
Coffee / Hot Chocolate
I f you love your coffee – do visit Torrefazione Cannaregio, an amazing coffee roaster in Strada Nova. It is a regular meeting place for locals and tourists alike. It is a really interesting coffee shop and will also give you an insight into “social” Venice. The place is so atmospheric and just reeks of freshly roasted coffee.
If you love hot chocolate as a drink or just adore chocolate, be sure to head off for chocolate tasting at the best artisanal chocolate shop in Venice – Vizio Virtu Cioccolateria. It is simply delectable and a heavenly feast for your taste buds!
Popular Food and Drink Experiences in Venice
In this beautiful city full of winding and unmarked alleyways, restaurants can often lead to somewhat second-rate tourist traps. In recent years, this has given Venice a ruthless culinary reputation. As mentioned earlier, If you see a big “tourist menu” sign outside a restaurant, their best avoided. Instead, why not book a Venice food tour with tabl. and a respectable local guide. As such, giving you an authentic view of food and drink experiences in Venice.
It’s worth remembering Venice has three different types of eateries to choose from – Ristorante, Trattoria and Locanda. Albeit, the 3 resembling traditional restaurants in one way or another.
Although many offer really good pasta and risotto dishes with fish, meat isn’t really part of a typical Venetian diet. As such, only a few restaurants specialise in high-quality meat dishes, often making them a little more expensive.
However, in recent years, Venice has upped its game when it comes to gastronomic delights. The following dining experiences will help give you a wonderfully positive opinion of Venetian cuisine.
Markets in Venice
Market tours are a great way to enjoy food and drink experiences in Venice, shopping with the locals. Rialto Market is the only place to buy fresh produce in Venice. Head off in the morning (opening hours – Tuesday to Saturday 7.30am to 12). Here you can purchase fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood if you want to cook your own meal.
A point to bear in mind – is if you are wanting to purchase food from the market to eat at lunchtime, there are limits on where you can sit down to eat food. For instance, it is forbidden to eat food in St Mark’s Square and other popular areas. You will need to find somewhere to sit in a quiet piazza or sit on a bench in one of the parks.
Food Tours in Venice
Joining a Venice food tour is a really good way to enjoy Venetian cuisine without worrying about your choice. After all, you can explore the city without the necessity to research or plan where to eat. A private tour will ensure you have the full devotion of your guide, often with anecdotes about the city’s history.
Venice food tours often have flexible departure times to choose from. Enjoy delicious tasty food pairings made from fresh regional ingredients. After which, you will know exactly how to eat and drink like a true Venetian.
Traditional Home Cooking Classes
This is a great food experience to learn the secrets of true Italian cuisine. All by joining a cooking class in a Venetian home for a real hands-on lesson. Classes usually last around three hours, providing useful tips from an experienced chef. Imagine re-creating a traditional Venetian dish once you are back home to impress your family and friends!
Wine and Food Pairing Tours
The Venetian region produces more than forty different varieties of white and red wine. It also has the largest number of DOC wine areas in Italy. So, if you are a wine lover – a wine tasting food tour is a must! You can also discover how the wine is produced and choose a tour in the Prosecco, Soave or the Valpolicella area.
Traditional Food of Venice
Read on to learn more about traditional Venetian cuisine to ensure you get the best taste of flavoursome Venice.
Sarde in Saor
This is a popular Venetian dish, mentioned previously – that may not be everyone’s cup of tea! It is an antipasto that contains sweet and sour sardines with onions, pine nuts and raisins. It is salty and very savoury. The dish derived from the local fishermen who used vinegar to preserve fish that were taken on board the boats to eat.
Scampi alla Veneziana
This is a very simple dish that is shrimps that are boiled and served up with a modest dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. Shrimp season in the Mediterranean starts in March, slowing down in the late spring to early summer. As such, the best time of year to try the scampi is during March and April.
Caparossoi a Scota Deo
This is an amazing dish of rather large, plump clams, that are cooked in lemon and pepper. And, as the above dish – they are best ordered during clam season, which starts in May and ends in August.
Bigoli in Salsa
Made correctly – this dish a gorgeous and very tasty delight. It is a pasta of just three ingredients: bigoli (like spaghetti), onions, and anchovies. Bigoli in salsa is not really very fishy-tasting. When anchovies are cooked they reduce down into a salty, tasty sauce that gives an intense flavour. The onions are put into the mix and sautéed – resulting in a flavoursome seafood pasta.
Scampetti with Polenta
The polenta actually replaces pasta, and this dish can be found in many restaurants throughout Venice. It can be eaten as a mush or as fritters. If you want to enjoy it as a main course or starter, try scampetti con polenta, or with veal liver and roasted polenta, both are popular specialities.
These delicious traditional Venetian treats are must-tries if you are visiting Venice during the Easter period. They are balls of dough fried and dusted with sugar and studded with preserved fruits or filled will creams and custards. For a really special treat, enjoy one filled with zabaione, which is an alcoholic custard!
Venice is well-known for pandoro, another sweet, yeasty bread studded with glazed fruits and eaten near Christmas time. Do look out for scalete, pàndolo, and baicoli, all famous Venetian sweets. But the Crem del a crem is is pincia (a Venetian take on the simple bread pudding). There are so many varieties of this custard delight and each one will include the fruits, eggs, milk, with polenta.
Popular Restaurants in Venice
If you happen to be on a romantic break, combine two of the best experiences of the city – a gondola serenaded tour of the canals and Venetian cuisine. Start with a Gondola ride that offers love songs along the route performed by expert musicians. Afterwards, finish your romantic evening in one of the famous restaurants listed below!
A characteristic Venetian restaurant, that is situated away from the tourist trail in a quiet Venetian square. The Osteria serves traditional Venetian dishes using fresh fish, homemade pasta, vegetables and fresh local ingredients. The restaurant has an amazing wine cellar and its very own resident sommelier who will be more than happy to advise you. The atmosphere of the restaurant is unassuming and elegant, with a private dining room for special occasions.
This stylish restaurant can be found on the historic Torcello island, just thirty minutes from the centre of Venice, and is regarded as one of the best places to eat in Venice. It opened in 1938 and has attracted an elite clientele including Paul Newman and even Queen Elizabeth II. We highly recommend the succulent John Dory fillet, cooked to Carla Cipriani’s very own recipe.
L Alcova Restaurant
This restaurant has the most amazing terrace next to the Grand Canal, and is located in the Casagredo Hotel. It is perfect for people watching on the waterways. It is open all year round, and is an exclusive and romantic restaurant. The Chef Klostermaier devises refined natural dishes with rich flavours. All the dishes provide a fresh twist on unique Venetian cuisine.
Osteria Alle Testiere
Situated right in the heart of the city, just a few steps away from Saint Mark’s and the Rialto Bridge, Osteria Alle Testiere is an un-touristy popular restaurant with only nine tables. Luca, the sommelier, and Bruno, the chef, offer the best daily caught fish. It is also listed in the Michelin Guide and has been since 1993. Please take note it is closed Sunday and Monday.
Here we have Japanese dining thanks to the innovative talent of top sushi chef Norio Nishibori, who creates amazing dishes for the restaurant. In Japan, ‘sushi’ of course refers to a wide range of dishes, not just fish-based, and prepared to important rules. The Mirai uses fresh fish of the highest quality and freshness according to the season and has a speciality of the day.
Antico Martini offers their diners really fresh fish, like king prawns and scampi, or traditional meats such as Venetian-style liver (fegato alla Venezian) accompanied with fresh vegetables. The starters are a defined delicacy of Venetian cooking with lots of flavours.
There is a good choice of mouth-watering pastries, cakes and confectionery, so remember to make room for dessert. The restaurant can be found near the Fence Theatre and is the perfect place for a pre-theatre meal.
Ristorante Da Fiore
Another stunning restaurant that offers specialist seafood that is caught in the local harbour. This superb restaurant offers very tasty gastronomic dishes, the emphasis being the best fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. Do try the bass in balsamic vinegar or the tunny-fish with a delicate rosemary flavour. A typical risotto here is also the favourite of demanding gourmet lovers.
Book Food and Drink Experiences in Venice
Here at tabl. we have a variety of food and drink experiences in Venice available to book online. Simply browse the website and choose from Venice food tours, wine tours and cooking classes.
Food and drink experiences in Venice aren’t the only way to discover the flavour of Italy. We are also introducing a number of online cookery classes, available from the comfort of your own home.