A city like Venice, that has always maintained contacts both with the inland and with diverse and faraway countries, presents in its culinary tradition a variety of dishes linked to the different origins of ingredients.
Well, this is why we see on our tables baccalà (dried salted cod) from the Baltic routs, precious spices from the caravans of Asia but also fresh vegetables from islands of the estuary, fish from the lagoon and game shot in sandbanks. Already around 1000, Venice spread to all the regions food customs and habits of the nations that it had good business relationships with. So this is the reason why, even today, use of spices is the fundamental characteristic of the Veneto cuisine, which unifies multiplicity of the gastronomic traditions linked to the territory. Venetian cuisine, made with poor ingredients, becomes nothing short of refined with use of spices.
Traditional grains which have been in use since Roman times, like wheat, rye, spelt, oats, barley, millet got placed side by side or replaced with American corn or potatoes. Initially, corn was welcomed and cultivated only on the territory of Schio but then it spreads out and the era of polenta begins like this in Veneto. Other new foods which get inserted bringing innovation of the cuisine are tomatoes, beans, peppers, aubergines and turkey meat.
Rise gets also presented and becomes necessary for Veneto dishes. Having arrived from Arabic world, quite soon it became a key ingredient of Venetian cuisine. The most famous of the Venetian soups is risi e bisi (rice and peas), which the doge was obliged to eat on the St Mark’s day following a precise ritual. Amongst the characteristic first courses, there is pasta e fasioi (pasta and beans), a very diffused peasant dish and very much appreciated in Venice.
In contrast to the popular idea of
Italians as eaters of pasta and spaghetti, in Venice, the only traditional
pasta are bigoli (thick and coarse spaghetti), whose
preparation was traditionally entrusted with men, given the hardness of dough.
Amongst the most typical and worldwide known main courses, there is the famous fegato alla veneziana (Venetian style liver). The Romans used to cook it with figs to sweeten up the bitterish aftertaste of meat, but the Venetians have adopted the cooking with onions.
Another important meat dish is duck, served on the basis of different recipes, like for example stuffed duck of duck breast in sweet & sour. Obviously, Venice, being a city on the water, has always made use of all its fish resources with fantasy, making what it wanted with courses of fish of all types.
An important and well-known element of
Venetian cuisine is baccalà Mantecato (creamed cod)
introduced by Pietro Querini who imported it from the Lofoten islands. Next to
dried cod, another one of the most ancient Venetian recipes (a speciality from
Murano, to be precise) is bisato su l'ara (eel roasted with bay
leaves). Traditionally, roasting was done in glass furnaces, in the evening
after work. But the other typical dishes can not be disregarded, such as seppie
col nero (cuttlefish in their ink), sardelle in soar (sardines
in onion marinade) and caparossoli in cassopipa (clams with
In Venice, daily fished fish and seafood reach local markets early in the morning. It’s not a surprise then that fish is the basis of Venetian cuisine. In fact, what might surprise is that, despite the variety and quality of the catch, the Venetians have adopted enthusiastically dried cod for which there have been many recipes, especially in convents. This is because the strict rules of the Council of Trent, which imposed to abstain from using meat in certain times of the year, and difficulty of finding always fresh fish in the region, made this fish a very popular food alternative
Next to main courses, vegetable side dishes like the famous fondi di carciofo (artichokes ends), fasioi in salsa (beans in sauce) or radicchio alla trevigiana (Trevisian style chicory) revive the Venetian table in a harmony of colours and flavours. Venetian cuisine is disclosed as a culinary art open to innovations of Central Europe, sensitive to refined French habits, that arrived to Veneto through foreign chefs employed by many noble Venetian families. Let’s remind you of the example of introduction of sugar, a main ingredient of Veneto cakes of that time, as a substitute for age-old honey, olive oil and butter, instead of lard, bacon and goose fat. But beside tradition, in the present-day daily routines, the most diffused and appreciated by all meal is Venetian sandwich. Two slices of bread without crust, that contain anything filled with mayonnaise: eggs, tuna, tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh vegetables, raw ham, olives, artichokes… an absolute expression of creativity which unbelievably fills up these food breaks, taken in massive doses by all Venetians and combined often and voluntarily with a glass of spritz, a Venetian local aperitif. These two elements have by now become expression of 'Venetian way of life'.
Some Venetian recipes...
Risi e bisi (Rice and peas)
Bigoli con l’Anatra (Pasta with duckmeat)
Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans)
Anatra ripiena (Stuffed duck)
Baccalà mantecato (Creamed cod)
Fegato alla veneziana (Venetian style liver)
Petto d'anatra in agrodolce (Duck breast in sweet & sour)
Seppie col nero (Cuttlefish in their ink)
Fagioli in salsa (Beans in sauce)
Fondi di carciofo (Artichokes ends)
Patate alla veneziana (Venetian style potatoes)
Radicchio alla trevigiana (Trevisian style chicory)
Baicoli veneziani (Venetian biscuits)
Crema fritta (Fried cream)
Frittelle di zucca (Pumpkin doughnuts)
Torta Nicolotta (Nicolotta cake)
Torta Sabbiosa (Sandy cake)