Venice is more than just a beautiful city – it’s a culinary destination. From fresh seafood to delicious Italian staples, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Venice. In this guide, we’ll explore the best of what Venetian cuisine offers, from typical dishes to must-try drinks, so you can make the most of your time (and stomach) while you’re here. Bon appetite!
Table of Contents:
- What is Typical Venetian Food?
- 15 Popular Venetian Food and Drinks
- Should I Tip in Venice?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Is Venetian Food Different From Italian Food?
- What Time Do People Eat Dinner in Venice?
- Is the Food Good in Venice?
- Is Venice Known for Pizza?
- What are Venetian Tapas?
- What are Venetian Appetizers Called?
- What Dishes are Famous in Venice?
- What Dessert is Venice Known For?
- Is Bread Free in Venice?
- What is the Most Popular Drink in Venice?
- Is Water in Venice Complimentary?
- Is it OK to Drink Tap Water in Venice?
- Is Italian Coffee Expensive in Venice?
- What is a Typical Venetian Breakfast?
- How Much is a Breakfast in Venice?
What is Typical Venetian Food?
While Venice is known for its seafood, this small city has a lot more to offer. And, while there are certainly tourist traps, Venice isn’t nearly as overpriced and underwhelming as some would lead you to believe.
There are so many good places to eat that we wrote a guide to our top 20 restaurants in Venice.
Although classic Venetian dishes have a lot of overlap with Italian cuisine, it also has its own unique flavors and ingredients. Venetian food stands out for its seafood-heavy dishes, its use of polenta, and its focus on small bites and snacks.
In this guide, we will cover traditional Venetian food, from cheap Cicchetti to our favorite types of drinks (I’ll take an Aperol spritz, please!).
Although most of the food on this list is available year-round, some dishes are only available at specific times of the year. For more information, please read our guide on the best times to visit Venice.
There’s a lot to eat in Venice, so let’s start!
To get a great sample of the city, you might consider Venice Food Tours. They’re a great way to make sure you go to wonderful restaurants with local guides who handpick the best dishes.
15 Popular Venetian Food and Drinks
A cicchetti is a Venetian small dish or finger food usually served with a glass of local wine or Spritz.
These small Venetian snacks are the perfect way to start your meal or even to snack on throughout the day. Cicchetti can be anything from crostini (toast with toppings) to fried fritti (shellfish and vegetables fried in batter).
If you’re looking to eat in Venice on a budget, cicchetti will be your favorite meal. They’re very affordable, ranging from about €1 to €3 per plate, and can be found just about everywhere in the city.
I recommend asking the staff for their favorite cicchetti. Locals know best.
Where to get it: Bar All’Arco (San Polo)
This traditional Venetian fish dish is made with salt cod mashed with olive oil and garlic. It’s usually served as a dip or spread and can be topped with capers or other ingredients. You may also find that it is served on sliced bread.
This dish has been around since the 15th century when a group of Venetians were shipwrecked and ended up on Roest island. There, they discovered dried stockfish. They were eventually rescued, and they brought this food back to Venice, where it became immensely popular.
While I wouldn’t say I like baccalà mantecato, many people do, and they’ll pair it with local wines recommended by restaurant staff. It’s one of those important traditional foods I tried for the experience.
Where to get it: Osteria Alla Ciurma (San Polo)
Ombra is a glass of wine (or beer) served with a snack. It’s the traditional Venetian way to enjoy a drink and is cheaper than ordering individual items. Ombra will usually have some small snacks with it, such as olives or pine nuts.
A group of local fishermen started this tradition. They would return to land around midday and have a glass of wine in St. Mark’s Square. To avoid the sun, they would stand under the moving shadow cast by the bell tower across the piazza. When ordering an ombra, you must specify bianca (white) or rossa (red). The bartender will then bring you a glass of local wine.
Where to get it: Any bar in the city
This iconic Italian cocktail is made with Aperol, prosecco and soda water.
Although you can order a Spritz anywhere in Italy (I had my first spritz in Sicily), many aren’t aware that this light aperitivo was invented in this region.
Want to learn more about the Italian Tradition of Pre-Dinner Drinks? What is an Aperitivo? is our guide to this unique 18th-century tradition.
In the 1800s, when the Hapsburg monarchy ruled over the Veneto region in Italy, Austrian soldiers were unaccustomed to both the abundance of wine choices and the fact that Italian wines were much stronger than those back home.
As a result, they began asking bartenders to water their drinks by adding sparkling water to a glass of white or red wine. Thus, the spritz was born.
Around the 1950s, adding Aperol (a sweet orange mixture) or Campari (dark red and bitter) to wine mixed with soda became very popular. If you go to a bar in Venice today and order a spritz, they’ll ask if you want it made with Campari or Aperol.
Where to get it: Any bar in the city
Sarde in Saor
Deep-fried Venetian sardines marinated in a sweet and sour sauce made from balsamic vinegar and onions. To sweeten this dish, it’s typically served with raisins and local red wine but might be served with pine nuts.
It’s a traditional Venetian cuisine that you should try at least once. If you don’t like it, they keep the cheap wines flowing to wash it down.
Were to get it: Osteria Trefanti (Santa Croce)
Risi e Bisi
A classic Venetian dish made with rice and peas cooked in stock, butter, and Parmesan cheese.
This simple but delicious dish is more known for its origin story than anything else.
Risi e Bisi dates back to the 15th century and was coined as “the Doge’s food” because Venice’s leaders would salute their subjects by holding a plate of Risi e Bisi in front of Doge’s Palace.
From that day on, the dish became a symbol for locals to eat on St. Mark’s Day every year on April 25th. Nowadays, this meal is easy to find in any eatery in Venice.
Where to get it: Al Timon (Cannaregio)
Bigoli in Salsa
The “Venetian spaghetti” is a thick, hand-rolled pasta typical of the city. It’s usually served with red tomato sauce, anchovies, onions, or other simple ingredients.
It’s one of my favorite seafood dishes, and I wouldn’t say I like seafood all that much. If you’re interested in trying a Venetian pasta unique to the city, this is the one.
Where to get it: Enoteca Al Volto (San Marco)
While typically served in Tuscany (a region in central Italy), this rustic soup is now served throughout Venice. Ribollita is slow-cooked with bread, beans, and vegetables. It’s hearty, vegetarian, and delicious!
Like most Tuscan cuisine, this soup comes from humble origins. Ribollita means “reboiled” in Italian, and the name comes from peasants reheating leftovers from previous meals – specifically minestrone or vegetable soup with stale bread.
The more modern version entails Florentines using bread, cannellini beans, lacinato kale, cabbage, and other inexpensive vegetables in a clay pot to make a large quantity of this delicious soup.
Where to get it: La Zucca (Santa Croce)
Pasta e Fagioli
Keeping with the soup theme, Pasta e Fagioli (“Pasta and beans”) is a classic Italian dish made with cannellini beans, tomatoes, pasta, and vegetables.
While this dish does not come from Venice, those who live there claim it originated in the Veneto region surrounding the city. Like ribollita, this is a meal with origins among the lower class. However, it is now enjoyed by people of all social statuses.
You might find it during other months, but pasta e fagioli is something you’ll typically see on winter menus. If you visit Venice during the colder months, it can be pretty humid, cold, and foggy. A bean and pasta soup will warm you up perfectly!
Where to get it: Ristorante La Bitta (Dorsoduro)
This traditional Venetian dish consists of polenta served with anchovy sauce. It’s usually served alongside mussels and clams.
Polenta is a rustic dish that goes back centuries in Venice. It’s made with cornmeal, which was introduced to the city from the Americas during the 17th century.
As authentic Venetian food, Polenta Vapolà is served at all sorts of celebrations, such as baptisms and weddings, and can be found at most Venetian restaurants. It’s a simple dish, but oh so delicious!
Where to get it: Trattoria Bar Pontini (Cannaregio)
Risotto alla Veneta
This famous risotto dish is made with local ingredients like squid ink, onions, and peppers. The version I had at Ristorante Casa Bonita came with prawns, shrimp, and zucchini. It was in my top three meals from Venice.
While some might consider it a traditional Venice food, it likely originated in the surrounding Veneto region during the early 1700s. It’s a great way to experience some of Venice’s local seafood flavors without breaking the bank. Pair it with a local slightly sharp white wine.
Where to get it: Ristorante Casa Bonita (Cannaregio)
Fegato alla Veneziana
Fegato alla Veneziana is good authentic Venetian food. Period. It’s not something I would typically order, but it came highly recommended, so I gave it a shot. I know Venetian-style liver doesn’t sound all that appealing, but, trust me, it is.
It is a traditional Venetian cuisine made from thinly sliced veal or calf liver pan-fried with onions, parsley, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I had it with white wine, but red would probably be better.
Initially, in ancient Roman times, this dish was made with liver and figs. The cooked figs would ease the iron taste. Figs aren’t native or prominent in Venice, so Venetians used onions instead. Thus, Fegato alla Veneziana was born.
Where to get it: Al Covo (Castello)
Sanguinaccio dolce is a Venetian dessert made with blood, dark chocolate, cream, and spices. Did I say blood? Yeah, you can’t make sanguinaccio without it. I was initially skeptical, but lo and behold; it’s a fantastic sweet treat!
I first had it during the Venetian carnival, and I didn’t know what it was before biting into it. Some locations may serve sanguinaccio warm and soft for dipping, but the version I had was more akin to pudding. Other regions make it into a cake, which I’m told is just as delicious.
Where to get it: I don’t know. I wish I did. I’ve been back to Venice five times since first trying it, and nobody has it. Get it during carnival or make friends with locals; perhaps they have some.
Granseola alla Veneziana
This dish is based on spider crab and gets its name from the Venetian words for crab (“granso”) and onion (“seola”). Spider crabs are large and comparable in size to lobsters. Many people, including myself, believe they taste just as good.
The dish is straightforward to make. First, boil the crab meat with lemon, salt, and pepper. Then once it’s ready, plate the meat with a bit of olive oil drizzled. And that’s it!
Where to get it: L’Osteria di Santa Marina (Castello)
Buranelli is a type of Venetian biscuit named after the island of Burano, where they come from.
These delicious pastries used to be a favorite among sailors and were commonly packed for long journeys at sea. The traditional shape was round, but nowadays, you can find them in the letter “S” shape, which is perfect for dunking in coffee or mulled wine.
Where to get it: Pasticceria Tonolo
Should I Tip in Venice?
The first thing you should remember about visiting Italy is that it’s an entirely different culture than you’re likely used to in the States. Tipping culture is vastly different also.
Waiting tables in Italy is considerably different than waiting tables back home. Waiters in Italy get paid vacations (some six weeks per year or more), paid sick leave, and they have national healthcare.
Most restaurants also add servizio to bills (it will clearly express this on the receipt), which means they’ve essentially baked in gratuity to your bill, so there’s no need to tip.
If you’ve had a particularly great experience, it’s common to leave a few coins or round up to the nearest whole number. Not 20%, 15%, or even 10% of your bill.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Venetian Food Different From Italian Food?
Yes and no. While some dishes are unique to Venice, much of Venetian cuisine is similar to Italian food found in other regions. Many dishes are based on the same ingredients but prepared differently, such as risotto alla Veneta or bigoli. Other dishes, like sarde in saor and fegato alla Veneziana, are unique to the city.
What Time Do People Eat Dinner in Venice?
In Venice, dinner is typically eaten between 7:30 and 9:00 pm, but there’s no hard rule on when to eat. If you’re hungry, grab a bite to eat and keep exploring!
Is the Food Good in Venice?
As with any city, it depends on where you go. Some places in Venice are delicious, and others are awful. As a whole, the food in Venice is good. If you need help choosing where to go, we created a guide on the 20 best restaurants in Venice.
Is Venice Known for Pizza?
While it’s not Naples or Rome (both of which have fantastic pizza), Venice is still good. Be sure to try out traditional toppings like anchovies, capers, and olives. If you want more information on what type of pizza to order, we wrote a helpful guide on the seven types of traditional Italian pizza.
What are Venetian Tapas?
Venetian tapas, or cicchetti as they are known locally, are small snacks usually served in bars and pubs. Cicchetti includes dishes like fried polenta cubes (polentina fritta), soused mackerel (sarde in saor), and stuffed courgette flowers (fiori di zucca ripieni).
What are Venetian Appetizers Called?
Venice is known for its delicious small bites and snacks, which are called cicchetti. These Italian tapas usually consist of slices of bread with spreads, vegetables, or meats. Some popular cicchetti are slices of prosciutto and melon, crostini with anchovies and capers, and grilled vegetables.
For more information on prosciutto, we wrote a helpful guide called What is Prosciutto? Everything You Need to Know. We really think you should learn more about the king of ham!
What Dishes are Famous in Venice?
Some of the most famous dishes in Venice include baccala mantecato, risi e bisi, bigoli, sarde in saor, and polenta vapolà. My personal favorite dish in Venice is risotto with prawns, shrimp, and zucchini (yum!).
What Dessert is Venice Known For?
Venice is known for its delicious desserts like sanguinaccio and tiramisù. While not unique to Venice, these desserts are fantastic choices if you visit the city. Venetians also enjoy biscotti, cakes, and other sweet treats like gelato al pistachio (pistachio ice cream).
Is Bread Free in Venice?
Yes, bread is usually served complimentary at restaurants in Venice.
What is the Most Popular Drink in Venice?
The most popular drink in Venice is the Aperol Spritz, a refreshing cocktail made with Aperol, prosecco, and soda water. Other popular drinks in Venice include bussola, a cocktail made with prosecco, Aperol, and peach puree; Bellini, a sparkling wine cocktail made with peach puree; and Campari, an Italian bitter liqueur.
Is Water in Venice Complimentary?
It truly depends on where you’re at. A local pizzeria will typically offer complimentary water. A fine dining restaurant might not.
Carbonated water is very common in Venice, as it is throughout the rest of Italy, so your server may ask if you want acqua con gas (carbonated water) or acqua (plain water).
Is it OK to Drink Tap Water in Venice?
Yes, the tap water in Venice is safe to drink. However, it does have a high mineral content which many do not find enjoyable. If you don’t like the taste of the water, you can always ask for bottled water.
Is Italian Coffee Expensive in Venice?
Italian coffee is generally quite affordable in Venice. An espresso will cost around 1€, and a cappuccino costs about 2-3€. Prices vary depending on what part of the city you’re in. Expect to pay more near touristy areas like Piazza San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.
If you want to learn more about coffee in Italy, we created this helpful guide on the different types of Italian coffee.
What is a Typical Venetian Breakfast?
A typical Venetian breakfast usually consists of pastries, coffee, and a cigarette (I partially joke on the last one). Some popular items include cornetti (similar to a croissant), brioche, and different types of cakes.
If you’re looking for something more substantial, try an egg dish like frittata or omelette. Or you can enjoy a traditional cappuccino and brioche sandwich with jam or Nutella.
How Much is a Breakfast in Venice?
The cost of breakfast in Venice varies depending on the restaurant, but you can find good quality breakfasts for around 8-10 euros. Remember that most locals will drink an espresso, maybe eat a pastry, and skip the meal.
So there you have it: a list of Venice must-eats and drinks to help make your trip that much more memorable – and delicious. What are you waiting for? Book your tickets, pack your bags, and get ready for an incredible adventure – your taste buds will thank you. Are you visiting Venice soon? What are you most excited to try? Let us know in the comments below!
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