I adore food, so trying local dishes and regional specialities is always high up on my agenda wherever I go! Finding the best food in Venice was a priority when I came here, and I loved trying out all the different options! These are my recommendations for how to find the best traditional food in Venice and details on what to eat in Venice, from snacks to drinks, seafood dishes and delicious desserts!
How to Find the Best Food in Venice
There is no shortage of amazing restaurants in Venice, but there are plenty of average ones too! When you’re deciding where to eat in Venice a good rule of thumb is to avoid eating at restaurants close to St Mark’s Square as these tend to have very high prices and variable quality. Do not eat anywhere which has photographs of the menu, it’s a tell-tale sign of a tourist trap!
Waiters are not allowed to approach you to lure you into their restaurants, so you can take a look at the menu before you choose to go inside. Food in Venice doesn’t have to be expensive to be delicious, and there are plenty of tasty options to choose from if you are travelling to Venice on a budget, so don’t worry!
REMEMBER: most restaurants will add on a coperto cover charge of around €2-€3 per person for table service, so take that into account when you are checking prices. Standing at the bar or ordering takeaway food will save you the coperto charge.
Markets in Venice
Rialto Market is the best place to buy fresh food in Venice, so head here in the morning to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood if you plan to cook a meal in your hostel. Around the market, there are lots of great restaurants and bacari bars where you can get some tasty food which is prepared for you if you don’t want the hassle of cooking.
Bear in mind that if you want to buy food at the market to eat for lunch, there are restrictions on where you can sit to eat it, and it is forbidden to picnic in St Mark’s Square and many other busy areas. You’ll need to find a bench in a quiet piazza or go to one of the parks to eat. The market is only open from Tuesday to Saturday 7.30am to 12 noon, so get there early.
Food Tours in Venice
If you’d like to really eat like a local in Venice, then taking a food tour is a great way to try food in Venice without worrying about the tourist traps. I took a cicchetti tour with Urban Adventures which was fabulous, or you can check out these other options too. Or, read on for a guide of the traditional dishes you should try to eat in Venice.
What To Eat in Venice: Aperitivo Snacks
Aperitivo hour (or several hours!) is big in Venice, and a great way to try some traditional Venetian food without breaking the bank. Served in small portions, local bacari wine bars have glass display counters showing off their tasty and cheap snacks. The hardest thing is deciding what to order!
Cicchetti is probably the most popular food in Venice, where taking time to enjoy an aperitivo and some snacks before dinner (or as dinner!) is a favourite pastime among locals and visitors alike. Cicchetti are similar to Spanish tapas; small dishes of fried food like deep-fried olives stuffed with meat, or individual slices of baguette bread topped with something delicious.
There is a huge variety of cicchetti you can find around the city, so why not visit several bacari on a bar food crawl? Most cicchetti will cost €1-€3 so you choose a selection from the display at the bar to accompany your drink.
If you’d like to try some cicchetti at some of the best cicchetti bars in Venice then consider taking a cicchetti and wine food tour, which will give you some great ideas for what to eat in Venice.
The humble sandwich is surprisingly another popular Venetian food, often eaten alongside or instead of cicchetti with a spritz or glass of wine. Slices of white bread without crusts are packed with fillings like tuna mayonnaise, egg, prawn mayonnaise, artichokes and ham and cheese or a combination of any of the above.
The sandwiches are also a very cheap option for eating in Venice as each tramezzino only costs a couple of euros. Order your sandwich standing at the bar and eat it there or grab it and go.
What to Eat in Venice: Seafood
Venetian dishes use local ingredients, and of course, Venice is surrounded by water. Seafood plays an important role in Venetian cuisine, so it stands to reason that you should eat some seafood in Venice.
Often served on bread as cicchetti or as an antipasto starter, baccalà mantecato is a classic Venetian dish. It is made of creamed cod paste, blended with olive oil and salt & pepper. It’s one of my personal favourites, and I always have a cicchetti of baccalà mantecato.
Sarde in Saor
Another traditional antipasto dish in Venice, Sarde in Saor is made with sardines, cooked with slow-cooked soft onions and balsamic vinegar, sweetened with raisins, pine nuts and a good glug of wine. You can find it served as a cicchetti or as a stand-alone starter, served with bread.
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Spaghetti or Risotto al Nero di Seppia
Not the most attractive of dishes, as eating risotto or spaghetti with black squid ink is somewhat disconcerting, but the rich seafood flavour will have you clamouring for more. Just remember to wipe your mouth afterwards!
Bigoli in Salsa
Bigoli is a type of pasta and is basically spaghetti but fatter. The salsa in the name refers to the rich sauce, made with sardines and onions. It’s very tasty if you like sardines, especially accompanied with a nice glass of vino or two.
What to Eat in Venice: Meat & Side Dishes
Fegato Alla Veneziana
This classic Venetian dish is for the more adventurous, as fegato is liver. In this case, calf’s liver, sautéed with onions and usually served with polenta as a side dish. I’m not a huge fan of liver when it isn’t blended into paté but I decided to give this a try when I had a set menu and it wasn’t bad at all. Maybe that’s damning with faint praise, but if you like liver you’ll love Fegato alla Veneziana.
Polenta is often served as a side dish to main meals like Fegato alla Veneziana, but is also served as the main ingredient of a dish, with a variety of toppings from mushrooms or vegetables to tiny shrimp called Schie.
Polenta is similar to grits, made from coarse corn flour. Yellow corn makes yellow polenta, which tends to be creamier, and in Venice you will also find white polenta which is made from a special kind of white corn. It has a stickier texture than the yellow polenta, and is sometimes served in thick slices finished off in the frying pan.
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Risi e Bisi
This simple dish of rice and peas – or a spring pea risotto – was traditionally served on St Mark’s Day (25th April). When the production of rice started in Venice in the 15th Century, the Doge of Venice offered a dish of rice and peas to the locals to help promote the use of rice. These days it’s served all year round but is best in spring when the peas are fresh and sweet. Even as a traditional pea-hater, the tiny peas I tried were delicious.
What to Eat in Venice: Dessert
Anyone with a sweet tooth won’t be disappointed with the dessert choices in Venice.
Traditional Venetian biscuits from the island of Burano, where fishermen took these biscuits with them on sea expeditions. They were tastier than I expected, sweet and simple. You can find them in an s-shape or a traditional circular shape.
My all-time favourite dessert, tiramisu was invented in Treviso near Venice in the 1960s and is top of my list for what to eat in Venice. Layers of ladies’ fingers biscuits and mascarpone cheese with coffee and cocoa powder combine to make a soft and delicious dessert to die for!
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You can’t visit Italy and not eat gelato! I have been sampling as much gelato ice cream as I can so I can inform you of the best gelato in Venice, or at least a couple of my favourites! I honestly believe there is no such thing as bad gelato, it just depends how much you are willing to pay for it.
As a general rule, I tend to avoid ice cream shops in the busiest tourist areas, but sometimes such places are popular for a reason! My personal favourites include Gelatoteca Suso and Gelato di Natura. I was also told that Green Apple is fabulous too but I haven’t tried it myself yet.
Remember to reduce your plastic waste and order gelato in a cone instead of a single-use tub with a plastic spoon.
What to Drink in Venice
Well, you’ll need some liquid refreshment to wash down all that delicious food!
Like many other cities in Italy, an aperitivo often consists of a spritz, that is Aperol or Campari mixed with prosecco. These colourful drinks taste like mouthwash to me so, I just stick to wine or Prosecco on its own!
Wine & Prosecco
Prosecco is the most famous sparkling wine from Italy, and seems to be getting more popular by the day – especially since the Prosecco producing region is now UNESCO listed! The best prosecco in Italy is produced in the region close to Treviso, just an hour away from Venice, so where better to drink Prosecco than here?
Order a glass of prosecco instead of a spritz with your Aperitivo, or get a bottle and sit back and enjoy. If you’d like to learn more about prosecco and Italian wine from Veneto, take a look at these tours:
Apparently, the Bellini was invented in Venice, in Harry’s Bar. Fresh peach puree blended with Prosecco is a sweet and decadent treat, especially in Harry’s where you will pay 22€ to try one!
Various bars around Venice will serve them for a cheaper price, but part of the joy of a Bellini is feeling like a millionaire while you sip it. I had one at the Skyline Rooftop bar which has one of the best views in Venice, and as a one-off was worth the 15€ price tag.
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Grappa is a spirit made by distilling the skins, pulp, seeds, and stems of grapes after the wine-making process, thus reducing the waste and making a tasty beverage in the process! Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto region is the traditional home of Grappa, and it is only just over an hour away from Venice.
I stumbled across a shop dedicated to Grappa and Grappa-based liqueurs called Poli Distillerie, owned by one of the most renowned Grappa making families. They have a wide selection of drinks to buy, and you can pop in to taste some too. Tastings of 3 different spirits cost €3, or 5 tastings for €5, and if you buy anything, the cost of the tasting is deducted from your bill.
I’m adding this in because buying bottled water in Venice is contributing way too much plastic waste to a fragile infrastructure. Bring your own refillable water bottle, and top it up at one of the many water fountains in Venice. You’ll find fountains in most of the campos in Venice.
I have partnered with Water-to-Go to offer all Tales of a Backpacker readers a 15% discount on the purchase of a Water-to-Go bottle so you can save even more money! If you are based in the US or Canada, click here to order your bottle now, or if you are in Europe or Australia, click here. Simply choose the water bottle you want to buy, and put in the code BYORB for a 15% discount on your purchase. Read more about my campaign to encourage people to bring their own water bottle while travelling here.
Have you tried any traditional food in Venice? Do you have any more recommendations for what to eat in Venice? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
Where to Stay in Venice
Hostels in Venice
As the #wombatsTraveller ambassador for wombat’s Hostels, I was thrilled when I found out they were opening a brand-new hostel in Venice Mestre. The hostel opened its doors on 10th July, and is a fabulous place to stay in Venice, for budget travellers and sociable people. It is clean and comfortable with friendly staff and a great bar downstairs too. There are spacious dorm rooms and private rooms to choose from.
If you are coming to Venice this summer, so check out the rates directly on their website and use the code OSOLEMIO for discounts on stays in July. You can get a sneak peek of the new hostel here, including a video, or visit their website directly.
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to Italy, get a quote now from World Nomads.
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