10 of the most popular dishes in Venice

2013/10/08 - Written by Amanda Fulginiti
Venetian Cicchetti and Ombra
Venetian Cicchetti and Ombra
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The mythical city of Venice – unique in location as it is in its cuisine. For a  lover of seafood there is no better place to sample a wide range of  underwater catches since Venice relies heavily on the bounty collected  from its lagoon. The Rialto Market is overflowing daily, from tiny snails  called bovoleti to razor clams called cape longhe. For those faint of  stomach, fret not. Venetian cuisine is varied and the well-known tradition  of sampling small bites over big meals will allow you to dabble rather  than commit. The following list presents 10 of the most popular and  typical dishes to be found in Venice. Evviva la cucina Veneziana! 

1. Cicchetti 

Nothing signals aperitivo time like cicchetti,  small snacks unique to the bars of  Venice. This is an excellent way to sample a  variety of Venetian specialties without  breaking the bank: ranging from about 1 to  3 Euros. Sometimes, however, you will pay  extra for your drink and the treats are  served buffet style at the bar. Choices vary  from one bacari (small, local bars) or osteria  (a small, simple restaurant) in Venice to the next. As fish is a staple of the Venetian  diet, there are usually many seafood offerings options like fried smelts, shrimp or calamari.  Traditional salt cod, baccalà, may be prepared as a salad or spread for toast.  Other popular cicchetti items include small sandwiches, plates of charcuterie, meatballs,  marinated olives or grilled vegetables, fried cheeses and rice balls called arancini.  One could make a whole meal out of cicchetti nibbles, and it will probably be  cheaper, better and done in a more local atmosphere than any restaurant in Venice.  Servings start around 6 pm so get your cicchetti crawl on! 

2. Ombra & Spritz 

Don't forget an ombra or small  glass of wine to go with your  cicchetti (the word “ombra” literally  translated means shadow/  shade). The tradition dates  to when a portable wine bar  scooted with the shadow of the  Campanile bell tower across St.  Mark’s Square. Stick with a vino bianco, vino rosso or prosecco and simply enjoy the  basic house offerings that only cost a Euro or two each. Or, you might want to try  another truly Venetian experience: a Spritz. This refreshing aperitif consists of wine or  prosecco, sparkling water and liqueur, typically Aperol or Campari. Cin cin! 

3. Seppia al nero 

Cuttlefish in black  Seppia al nero is a classic first dish in Venice.  Chefs take the ink sack of the cuttlefish and  pour it directly into the sauce where it will  then turn a deep black colour. Venetians  often grill the meat of the cuttlefish, which is  sweet, and serve it on either a bed of linguine  or risotto. It’s perhaps not the best dish  to order on a date as it turns your entire  mouth black and stains your teeth a bit. 

4. Sarde in saor 

Marinated sardines  This is a typical first dish and definitely  the most popular in Venice. After the  sardines are cleaned and fried, they are  placed in a simple agrodolce (sweet and  sour) marinade of vinegar, onions,  raisons and pine nuts. The combination  of sweet and sour put canned versions  to shame.

5. Fegato alla venesiana 

Venetian liver  Known for its simplicity, Fegato alla  venesiana is enjoyed even by those  who do not typically like eating liver.  It consists of finely sliced calf liver  that is cooked together with chopped  and gently stewed onions, and usually  served with polenta. 

6. Baccalà Mantecato 

Mantecato cod fish  A common delicacy served throughout  Venetian cicchetti bars, baccalà is  codfish that’s boiled, skinned, and literally  beaten to a pulp. As an antipasto  it is spread on fresh bread, or over  grilled polenta, another staple of the  Veneto diet. 

7. Granseola 

Spider crab  Arranged delicately on your plate, pasta is served  with a light, fresh tomato sauce from the spider  crab’s shell. Not only is this plate delicious, but it  makes for some great artistic photos. 

8. Folpetti consi 

Boiled baby octopus  For the adventurous foodies, these  small young octopuses are boiled  typically with carrots and celery until  tender, and then seasoned lightly  with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  While the flavour is delicious it is  probably the texture and appearance  that might throw some off. 

9. Carpaccio di tonno

Tuna carpaccio  This is an excellent light lunch or first dish option.  The original version is made with paper-thin slices  of beef drizzled with a light balsamic vinaigrette, but  since fish is at its freshest in this historic city it is  quite common to use steak-like fish such as tuna or  swordfish. 

10. Tiramisù 

There are many who would say  you cannot leave Venice without  indulging in this dessert, as  it is argued that tiramisù was  first created here. The original  recipe called for custard and  only recently has Mascarpone  cheese been substituted. The  basic ingredients are eggs, mascarpone  cheese, Savoiardi  cookies (or ladyfingers), cream,  espresso coffee, and sometimes liquor like brandy, marsala, and rum. The whole  thing is topped with a little bit of sugar and cocoa or shaved chocolate. Creamy and  delicious, this treat will definitely give you the energy needed to endlessly wander the  labyrinth that is Venice! 

Where to go                       

 • For a real fish inspired cichetti experience  head to Il Paradiso Perduto.  Fondamenta della Misericordia, 2540  Venice, Italy +39 041 720581.

 • Whether you want to enjoy some  aperitivo while admiring the Rialto or  sharing a romantic dinner with that special  someone, Taverna del Campiello  Remer is a true gem of Venice. 

Be sure to hit up Cantinone gia'  Schiavi. This 19th century bacaro is  most known for its wine cellar! They  have some of the most wildly inventive  cichetti like smoked swordfish! 

• Charming and intimate, Osteria ai 4 Feri  is as authentic as it gets when it comes to  local cuisine. Try the pesce fritte. 

• If you are dying to try Seppia al nero  then head to Al Profeta. Better known  for its delicious, large pizzas, this restaurant  offers a wide variety of dishes for  both the adventurous and cautious of  customers. Best part: you can eat  underneath the stars of Venice in their  backyard courtyard. 

• Serving up an abundance of varied  cicchetti is the famous Alla Vedova.  Do not miss out on the polpettine  (little meatballs) or their sepe roste  (roasted squid without its ink) and  their folpeti consi (baby octopus  boiled with vegetables). 

• Off the beaten tracks, Osteria La  Bottega ai Promessi Sposi serves one  of the best sarde in saor – perfect blend  of acidity and sweetness.  

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