Top 5 (+1) Food Specialties not to miss in Venice

October 22, 2014
Enrico Catani

Experiencing Venice at its fullest implies not only to explore its wonderful monuments and squares, or to snake through the picturesque canals by boat, but also to taste its world-famous culinary specialties.
The Venetian culinary tradition is made of simple ancient recipes yet very rich in flavors and ingredients, mostly come from local productions: fresh fish, shrimps and shellfish from the rivers and sea; the rice and corn (used to make the famous polenta); the meat (mostly beef, but also wild birds!); and, finally, the spices, which were imported over the centuries from the merchants when they return in Venice from their travels around the world.
The traditional dishes of the Venetian cuisine shelter history, memories and stories of this amazing city. So, here is a list – brought you by ItalyXP – of the 5 (+1) foods you must try in Venice to enjoy an authentic gastronomic eXPerience! Oh, and don't forget to have an evening aperitivo before dinner, a MUST in this part of Italy!

Baccalà Mantecato [Creamed dried cod]

The cod fish ("baccalà" in Italian) has long been one of the traditional dishes of the Venetian cuisine, although this fish is not native to the lagoon or the Italian seas, but the Norwegian Seas. 
The introduction of the cod in the Venetian cuisine, in fact, dates back to the 15th century, when the sailing captain Pietro Querini, navigating to Britain made the tragic shipwreck, and was rescued by some fishermen of distant islands of northern Europe. In the fishing village Pietro Querini saw for the first time these strange fish hung out to dry in the air, then struggled to obtain a cream flavor. 
Once back at home, the Italian sailor told the Venetian Senate of these foreign king of fish so stiff as to be as hard as sticks, and the particular recipe that they originated. The cod fish ("creamed" means cream) was a great success in the population of Venice, and I still have it today. 
A must-try Venecian specialty, generally served as an appetizer, spread on toasted bread!

Risi i Bisi [Rice and Fresh Peas]

The risi i bisi ("rice and peas" in Venetian dialect) is a recipe typical of the Venetian tradition, great to enjoy during the spring because this season are the best peas, the main ingredient of this dish. 
Define the rice and peas is not easy, since it is not clear if falls into the category of risotto or soups: neither the one nor the other! In fact, the rice and peas to be such, must be a happy medium between both, that should not be too dry or too soupy, but a kind of thick soup. 
This superlative dish has ancient noble-royal origins, in fact it was a tradition in the city of Venice, to offer "rice and peas" to the Doge on the occasion of the city's patron San Marco on April 25. 
Risi e bisi is one of the most popular dishes of Venetian cuisine, but there are several variations depending on the area. The recipe is pretty much the same, but differ in the quality of ingredients used in each city. We advise you to try the one of the city of Venice: you will not regret!

Polenta e Schie

The "schie" are a typ of shrimps that are typical of the Venice Lagoon. Indeed, this ancient recipe (polenta e schie) not more than 20 years ago considered popular food for poor people, as inexpensive and readily available. 
But is it really popular in home cooking that is hiding the true essence of Italian culinary tradition: and so, the simple shrimps, considti simply with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, garlic salt and parsley, are now considered a delicacy , Venetian culinary heritage. 
The polenta (called "MOEA" in Venetian dialect) is an indispensable side dish to create an irresistible contrast of flavors. To enjoy this dish at best, like the ancient Venetians, it is imperative to eat "non Curae" (or "shell") and with his hands. Sometimes the quality of a dish and the traditional cuisine are found in ancient gestures.

Fegato alla Veneziana [Venetian-style Liver]

The origins of this recipe are very ancient: the liver has always been cooked in Italy, and among the offal is the most commonly used.
The recipe for the venetian-style live therefore is so old that dates back to the ancient Romans, who used to cook the liver (especially pork and goose). Even in those days it was customary, in order to ensure that the liver of the animals ingrossasse more, to feed them with figs. Also it was always the Roman habit of cooking with these sugary fruits, tend to dampen the flavor stronger.
The Venetians replaced the figs with onions, far more common in the lagoon compared to figs, and who fulfilled the task to dampen the taste of the liver as well: the sweet onion bride liver, taste of blood, as ferrous, to give rise to a tasty dish of ancient origins.

Sarde in Saor [Marinated Sardines]

The Venetian-style marinated sardines (known as “sarde in saor” in Venetian dialects) are a really tasty dish of the classic Venetian cuisine. This recipe has the great merit of transforming a poor-quality fish, such as the sardines, in an excellent appetizer.
The sardines are typically served with caramelized onions sprinkled with vinegar, pine nuts and raisins. Because of the vinegar, this is a dish that can be stored in the refrigerator for a long time, and it is served in most of the restaurants in Venice.
The Venetian word saor, in fact, is a method of food preservation developed by the sailors in ancient times: when it was necessary to keep the fish on the ships for a long time, this particular preparation allowed keeping the fried fish good for several days. The sardines in saor are in fact even more tasty if eaten after at least 24 hours of rest. Must try to believe it!

(+1) Frìtołe

As everybody knows, the Carnival of Venice is one of the greatest events in all of Italy, which attracts thousands of tourists every year. And with great celebrations come also amazing recipes to accompany the festivity! The most typical Venetian Carnival sweets are definitely the so-called fritole.
The fritole are delicious fritters, and if you’re going to visit Venice in autumn or winter you cannot certainly miss them. Light and fragrant, the fritole are generally enriched with candid fruits, pine nuts, and sometimes topped with custard.
The mixture of these fried sweet is made with yeast, eggs and much milk as needed to get a batter rather firm. They have to be eaten when still warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar! Don’t miss these Venetian delicacies…

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