best foods to try in venice
Europe,  Travel

19 Best Foods To Try In Venice

From bite-sized cicchetti to heaping plates of fresh seafood, here are the best foods to try in Venice for an authentic taste of the city.

Venice is notorious for lackluster food that caters to the tourist masses – from microwaved lasagna to menus in multiple languages.

But you don’t have to go far off the beaten path for a taste of real Venetian delicacies.

Wander a few steps from the crowded piazza and you’ll be rewarded with squid ink pasta and lively wine bars.

Here are the best foods you must try in Venice: 

1. Cicchetti

best foods to try in venice

Avoid the crowds and enjoy some delectable local food by snacking on cicchetti in Venice.

Venetians love cicchetti (pronounced chi-KET-tee), or small nibbles paired with wine.

Happy Hour starts in the early afternoon and last until midnight. After a busy day, cicchetti at a local bar (or bacaro) is Venice’s way to unwind and socialize.

You can easily spot a good cicchetti bar tucked away in a narrow alley with crowds spilling out the door. Many of the best ones are in Canareggio.

Most bacaro are small with most patrons standing outside engrossed in lively conversation. Just step up to the bar, point to what you’d like and pay for it on the spot.

best foods to try in venice

Cicchetti refers to the unique hors d’oeuvre-like appetizers served at the bar.

These can vary from one bar to the next. But usually they include olives, small crostini, and other morsels skewered with a toothpick.

For drinks, have the local wine (ombra) or the ever-popular Aperol Spritz.

Insider’s tip: Cicchetti usually cost around 1-3 euros each. They’re a great way to try local specialties like cheeses, seafood and violet artichokes (when they’re in season). And cicchetti can be filling enough to skip a big dinner.

Most Venetians jump from one small pub to another to mingle and enjoy various cicchetti. With no cars to worry about, it’s safe to do a pub crawl with the locals.

Cicchetti bars are a delicious way to experience Venetian culture. And there’s an array of food tours too if you really want to dig in.

– Contributed by Lori of Italy Foodies

2. Baccala Mantecato

best foods to try in venice

Baccala Mantecato (above, left) is a type of cichetti made with mashed salt cod spread on top of a slice of polenta bread.

It’s a delectable Venetian appetizer that’s a great wine bar snack alongside a glass of prosecco.

The paste is fluffy with a mousse-like texture and seasoned simply with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Insider’s tip: Bar All’Arco serves a wonderful baccala mantecato with wine in a lively atmosphere.

Baccala mantecato is an important Venetian dish that dates back to 1431. It was popularized by Venetian sailor Pietro Querini, who was shipwrecked on a Norwegian island and learned to salt cod from local fishermen.

Querini brought some stockfish back to Venice and the rest is culinary history.

3. Sarde in saor

best foods to try in venice

venetian food

Sarde in saor is another classic Venetian appetizer made with fried sardines and cured onions topped with pine nuts and raisins for an extra sweet kick.

You’ll find sarde in saor in any decent wine bar’s selection of cichetti – best eaten in good company with plenty of wine.

Sarde in saor, like many local dishes, has a maritime history. It was invented by Venetian fishermen who wanted to keep their food well-preserved on board without spoiling.

Sarde in saor was once a rustic dish cooked with vinegar and oil. But the modern version adds raisins to subdue the onions and freshen the breath.

4. Bussola

best foods to try in venice

Burano’s yellow S-shaped cookies called Bussola (above, right) make a great treat between sightseeing.

You’ll find piles of Bussolai Buranei at many local bakeries. They’re either the traditional round shape (Bussola, or compass) or in a swirl “S” shape called Esse, representing the curve of the Grand Canal.

Originally made by fishermen’s wives to give their loved ones a boost during a long day on the water, these cookies are now the island’s signature sweet.

They’re made with egg yolks, flour, sugar, butter and a dash of lemon zest for a citrus punch.

Head to Pasticceria Costantini for a bakery that’s been making these cookies for more than a century.

5. Aperol Spritz

best foods to try in venice

The iconic Aperol spritz famous throughout Italy was actually created in Venice in 1920. And it’s still the drink of choice for many bacaro-hopping Venetians.

Have a spritz with Aperol, the more popular and sweeter option with a spicy orange flavor that’s great on a summer day.

Or opt for the crimson red Campari for a bolder bittersweet flavor with a hint of berries (and a higher alcohol content).

Insider’s tip: Try a spritz with Aperitivo Select, created in 1920 in Venice.

The spritz was first created in Veneto in the 1800s, when lightweight Austrian soldiers asked the local bartenders to spray some water into their wine to make it weaker.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the spritz evolved and was combined with local bitters like Aperol and Select.

6. Ombra

best foods to try in venice

Venice has some great wines that go with almost any meal. You can even pick up a plastic cup of wine at a kiosk to enjoy along the water.

Sip on a glass of red with your ciccheti, indulge in a pre-dinner Bellini and dig into the mouthwatering selection of local seafood that’s perfect with a glass of white (like the locally-made Orto di Venezia).

Walk into any Venetian bacaro (local bar) and ask for a glass of red (rossa) or white (bianca) ombra for a satisfying taste of the house wine.

Ombra literally translates to “the bell tower’s shadow.” But it now means “a glass of wine” because of a local tradition.

best foods to try in venice

When fishermen returned to the city in the afternoon after a long day, they ordered a glass of wine in St. Mark’s Square. They sipped their wine in the piazza under the ever-shifting shadow of the bell tower.

Veneto is known for its vineyards and Venice is the perfect place to enjoy the varieties this landscape produces.

From dry whites to juicy reds, even the most casual eatery will have dozens of wine choices. Ask your server to recommend their favorites and you’re sure to find something you’ll love.

7. Risi e bisi

venetian food

(photo: Solde, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This hearty vegetarian dish of rice and garden peas is a Venetian specialty that celebrates spring.

Risi e bisi is traditionally eaten on April 25th, the Feast of Venice’s patron saint St. Mark. It’s known as the “Doge’s first course” and was once served to the Doge to symbolize the abundance of spring.

When Venice started growing rice in the 15th century, the Doge himself promoted risi e bisi as a low-cost and widely available dish.

Insider’s tip: Head to Osteria Alle Testiere for their renowned risi e bisi and wine selection.

Today, this risotto-like dish is served year-round as a starter or main dish. But it’s especially savory in spring when the peas are fresh.

It’s often flavored with pancetta, onions, butter and parsley.

Risi e bisi is also a great option for kids and picky eaters because it’s a simple dish with familiar flavors.

8. Tiramisu



This decadent coffee-flavored dessert was invented in the Veneto region. And it’s one of the most sinfully good treats you can eat in Venice.

Tiramisu is made of layers of biscuits soaked in espresso and layered with creamy mascarpone cheese with a dusting of coffee and cocoa powder. Some versions include a dash of rum or brandy.

Tiramisu was invented in Treviso near Venice in the 1960s. And today you can find delectable tiramisu all over the city.

Head to I Tre Mercanti, just a few steps from St. Mark’s Square, for gourmet food, wine and an array of irresistible tiramisu. You can watch more than two dozen different tiramisu varieties (like mango or matcha green tea) made right in front of you.

9. Bigoli



This hearty pasta dish is a chunky version of spaghetti served with a delectable fish sauce made with onions.

If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll love this thick whole-wheat pasta covered in mouthwatering seafood sauce. The sauce for bigoli consists of onions and salt-cured fish (either sardines or anchovies).

Bigoli was once served on lean holidays like Good Friday. But these days you’ll find it year-round at local cantinas and osterias like Osteria Oliva Nera.

It was once a dish of the working class made with two widely available and cheap ingredients: onions and sardines.

10. Baicoli

venetian desserts

These crunchy oval biscuits served with coffee and perfect for dipping into a bowl of custard-like zabaglione.

Baicoli are small and slightly sweet biscuits once popular with seamen because they packed well on long voyages. And today they’re sold in yellow tin boxes to keep them well preserved.

Baicoli get their name because they’re shaped like sea bass, or baicoli in the Venetian dialect.

When Venice was a great seafaring power, baicoli were rationed and kept for weeks aboard Venetian ships. And while the biscuits may appear simple, baking bacoli is very time-consuming.

Today baicoli are often served with coffee and zabaglione, an airy dessert of light custard.

11. Risotto al nero di seppia

venetian food

venetian dishes

(top photo: Micaela & Massimo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This seafood risotto with black squid ink tastes a lot better than it looks. And it’s one of the most distinctive dishes of Venetian cuisine.

The Veneto region grows a lot of rice and you’re more likely to find risotto and polenta here than in the pasta-rich south.

And risotto al nero di seppia is one of the most savory and mouthwatering local specialties.

It will leave your teeth stained but that tangy taste is well worth it (it also easily stains clothes so it’s not recommended for kids).

The jet-black dish is made by adding squid ink to a seafood-based risotto.

And because squid ink (nero di seppia) is so popular in the region, you can also get the spaghetti version of the dish (spaghetti al nero di seppia) at eateries throughout the city.

12. Risotto de go

venetian dishes

This seafood risotto was invented by Burano fishermen in the 16th century. And today it’s a mouthwatering Venetian classic that makes the most out of a tiny lagoon fish.

Risotto de go is made with goby fish that are native to the Venetian lagoon and found plentifully in its waters. The goby is used to prepare a savory broth and then cooked with tender vialone nano (medium grain) rice.

The go (ghiozzo) fish aren’t very attractive but they make for an aromatic and decadently creamy risotto.

13. Polenta e schie

venetian food

venetian seafood

(top photo courtesy Orazio 1957)

Polenta e schie is a gorgeous dish made of Venetian shrimp laid over a bed of creamy polenta.

It’s made with tiny shrimp found only in the Venetian lagoon and served with yellow polenta, a velvety side dish made of cornmeal.

This quick and simple dish was once popular with the Venetian working class. Eaten by the peasantry of yore, it was regarded as a poor man’s dish.

But today the tender schie are more difficult to fish in the lagoon. So the dish is far less common. And it’s now served even in the most upscale restaurants as a delectable appetizer.

14. Fritto Misto

fritto misto

(photo courtesy Splendid Venice)

Fritto Misto is a delectable mix of fried seafood – and a must-try for any seafood lover in Venice.

Order a heaping dish of fritto misto at any Venetian restaurant as a juicy main course.

Or grab some fritto misto from a food stall wrapped in a paper cone (cartoccio) as it was originally served.

It’s a great Venetian street food to snack on as you wander down the canals.

The mix of deep fried seafood in fritto misto usually includes fresh shrimp, sardines, various small fish, veggies, calamari rings and seasonal catches from the Adriatic. It’s served hot with a squeeze of lemon and covered in a crisp batter.

15. Tramezzino


(photo courtesy Al Cason)

This light and airy sandwich is another great Venetian snack eaten standing at a bar with a glass of wine.

Tramezzino is made with two pieces of white bread (with their crusts cut off) and packed with an array of generous fillings.

Tramezzino can be stuffed with anything from tomatoes and mozzarella to tuna mayonnaise, ham and cheese with artichokes and egg.

This simple sandwich, like cicchetti, is served at casual eateries where locals mix with tourists to dig into tramezzino with a spritz.

16. Gelato



There’s nothing like a scoop of gelato on a hot summer day. And Venice has lots of mouthwatering flavors to tempt any ice cream lover.

And while gelato was actually invented in Florence, the Venetian merchant Marco Polo is credited with bringing back the sorbet-like recipe to Venice from his travels across China.

Today Venice takes its gelato very seriously. You’ll find a gelato shop on every major canal, including many artisanal gelato makers with their own special recipes.

Head to Venchi, a historic 19th-century chocogelaterie, for gelato made with Piedmont hazelnuts and chocolate in an opulent setting. And don’t miss the elegant and ever-popular Gelatoteca Suso for flavors like mascarpone with fig and walnuts.

17. Fritole



(top photo: Massimo Telo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re in Venice during the Carnival season, don’t miss this tasty fried doughnut packed with raisins and orange peels.

Fritole is a popular Carnival treat made with a rich batter and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It can be stuffed with pastry cream, zabaione and unique varieties like apple or chocolate custard cream..

The Fritelle Veneziane variety are packed with pine nuts and liquor-soaked raisins. Don’t miss them stacked high at bakeries during Carnival.

Dating back to the 14th century, fritole was once the official desert of the Venetian Republic. And it’s still a business passed down from father to son.

18. Prosecco



This sparkling white wine grown across the Veneto region is wildly popular in Venice – and goes perfectly with a plate of cicchetti.

Light, aromatic and vibrant, prosecco is a must-try in Venice – whether it’s with snacks at a wine bar or with fried seafood at a canal-side restaurant.

The region that produces prosecco is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And some of the best prosecco in the country is made just outside Venice.

19. Bellini

best drinks in venice

This legendary cocktail of peach puree and prosecco was invented at Harry’s Bar, the favorite Venetian hangout of Ernest Hemingway.

The sweet and fruity mix is now a favorite at bars across the city – and a must-try for all cocktail lovers especially in the summer.

Invented by bartender Giuseppe Cipriani (who also invented carpaccio), the Bellini is now a beloved Italian classic.

The cocktail got its name after Cipriani noticed its unique pinky hue was reminiscent of a 15th-century painting by Venetian artist Giovani Bellini.


venice cuisine

Avoid the tourist traps and dive into some delectable Venetian dishes to tempt any foodie.

Get off the beaten path and experience the seafood, creamy risottos and refreshing cocktails the city is known for.

Whether it’s squid ink pasta or a few bites at a lively wine bar, Venetian food is definitely an underrated experience you won’t forget.

I would love to hear from you. What are your favorite Venetian dishes? 


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