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Top 15 Things to Eat in Venice

Many European cruises on Carnival® begin and end in Venice. So before you cruise from Venice, do as the Venetians do and eat like a local. Red sauces, pasta and pizza don’t dominate the food culture in Venice as they do in many other parts of Italy.

Instead, popular dishes tend to be built around seafood native to the Venetian Lagoon or veggies grown on the islands, such as corn, white asparagus and violet artichokes. Other common foods often come from Venetian mariner traditions.

We have created a list of the top 15 things to eat in Venice so you can skip the research and simply enjoy!

the canale grande in venice italy

1. Castaure (Violet Artichoke Buds)

Castaure is a very special treasure to savor on your Mediterranean cruise. It is the first bud of a violet artichoke, violet in hue and grown on the Venetian island of Sant’Erasmo.  The vegetable is picked while it’s still tender, then boiled. It is so soft after boiling you can eat it as is, no peeling required.

2. Moleche (Soft Shell Crabs)

Moleche is another type of sea creature native to the Venetian Lagoon. These small green crabs shed their shells during the springtime and autumn but form new shells within just a few hours. If they are captured at just the right time, they are tender and soft to eat. Venetians serve them in fried dishes, creative salads and aromatic stews.

3. Polenta e schie

In case you don’t already know what polenta is, its boiled cornmeal, which is then typically grilled or baked. Schie, an Italian term pronounced like she, is a type of shrimp found only in the Venetian Lagoon. In polenta e schie, the shrimp are cooked first and then seasoned in garlic, lemon, salt and pepper before being poured over polenta.

Once upon a time, this dish was a dietary staple for Venetian peasants. These days, it isn’t so cheap or readily available, as the shrimp populations are declining. If you’re lucky enough to come across polenta e schie, and you like seafood, it’s something you should surely try when eating and drinking in Venice.

polenta, tomato, and shrimp served on a plate

4. Sarde in Saor (Sweet and Sour Sardines)

If you’re feeling adventurous, Sarde in Saor is another intriguing dish to taste while in Venice. Served as an appetizer or antipasto, this dish consists of fried sardine fillets marinated in onions, vinegar, pine nuts and raisins.

Venetian sailors and fishermen created the combination during the Middle Ages as a way to preserve fish. Of course, due to modern refrigeration techniques, fish preservation is no longer necessary. Still, this dish remains beloved by Venetians and non-Venetians alike because of its tantalizing mingling of sweet and sour flavors.

5. Baccala Mantecato (Fish mousse)

If you enjoy seafood, you’re likely to love baccala mantecato. It’s based on another old-fashioned method of preserving fish. To prepare, dried cod is soaked and then poached for many hours until it softens and the bones dissolve. It’s then whipped up into a beautiful smooth mousse and seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Some variations also include parsley and garlic. The creamy-looking concoction is usually served on bread.

6. Fritto misto (Fried Seafood)

Here’s a dish that will hit close to home for many passengers on European cruises. It’s the Venetian version of fried fish. This dish is a combination of Venetian items such as shrimp, fish balls, calamari and sometimes anchovies. They are covered in batter and deep fried. What’s calamari, you might ask? It’s just the Italian name for fried squid.

fried shrimp and calamari on a white plate


7. Risotto al Nero di Sepia (Rice with Squid Ink)

Risotto al nero di sepia is an unusual looking dish, yet is still a true favorite of many Venetians and visitors alike. It is composed of rice, squid, wine, tomato, onion and a squid ink braise. The ink turns the rice into a deep black color, which may be off-putting for some. Lots of folks, however, adore the unusual briny flavor, so get adventurous and find out for yourself!

8. Risi e Bisi (Peas and Rice)

You can enjoy this traditional Venetian dish even if you’re not a fan of seafood. It combines rice peas, pancetta bacon, onions and pea-shell broth. As legend has it, the Doge of Venice used to stand outside of palace and salute his subjects by holding a plate of Risi e Bisi, thereby urging them to eat rice.

Starting then, it became a symbolic dish for locals to eat on the 25th of April, or St. Mark’s Day. Now, it’s available just about any day of the year in just about every Venetian restaurant.

9. Confetti Candy

Confetti is a Venetian candy that’s not just tasty but also colorful and pretty. It consists of sugar-coated almonds and is created in a variety of colors, often representing specific momentous occasions. Venetians give this type of candy to family and friends when they are celebrating an event.

For instance, a couple getting married might give out white confetti. Silver confetti is shared for a 25th anniversary, pink or blue for a newborn baby, while red confetti represents a university graduation. Confetti candy is a cool and delicious treat to buy in Venice, even if there is no specific event planned except snacking!

light colored candied almonds in a bowl

10. Buranelli (Sweet Biscuits)

Got a sweet tooth? Another fun thing to do in Venice is to stop by a local bakery or café and buy some Buranelli. These delectable sweet pastries are named after the Venetian island of Burano, where they originated. In the old days, Venetian seamen often packed them to munch on during lengthy voyages.

Early on, Buranelli were round in shape. Today, many of them are shaped like the letter S, making them well suited to bedunked in coffee or mulled wine.

11. Venetian Coffee

Venetian cafes have long done a brilliant job of brewing espresso drinks. In fact, the first coffee house ever to exist in Europe opened in Venice way back in 1683.

Like many other European cities, Venice has now adopted the lovely old Neapolitan tradition of caffe sospeso, or “suspended coffee.” You can pay for not just one, but two, cups of coffee at the café, leaving money with the coffee barista to buy coffee for a stranger coming in after you, who might not have the means to pay.

12. Frittelle (Raisin Pastries)

If you happen to travel to Venice during the Carnival season, frittelle is another thing to buy in Venice. These sweet pastry fritters are made from flour, eggs, butter, sugar, milk, raisins and pine nuts. The batter is then molded into balls, deep fried in oil and sprinkled with sugar. This sweet treat is traditionally cooked and devoured as part of the lively pre-Lenten festivities in Venice.

sweet raisin pastries called frittelle

13. Tramezzino (Triangular sandwiches)

Sandwiches of various kinds are popular in many places around the world. The Venetian version, known as tramezzino, features two triangular slabs of white bread with various, ingenious fillings inside. Sample fillings? How about mozzarella with tomatoes, prosciutto ham with artichokes or shredded radishes with soft cheese and olives? Mangia!

14. Venetian Wine

The Venetian region is a great place for growing grapes that produce high quality white and red wines. If you’re dining on seafood during your Venetian cruise, you’ll probably want to get a white wine like Soave, or an even more local alternative like Venissa or Orto di Venezia. A sparkling white like Prosecco is another option.

For other dishes, you might desire a red such as Amarone or Valpolicella.

You might also consider buying bottles of these wines to bring home as gifts for your pals. You can take bottles of wine back with you on your Carnival cruise ship, as long as the bottles are fully sealed when you bring them aboard.

15. Wine Spritzers

Venetian wine spritzers have become supremely popular as pre-dinner drinks in local eateries. Variations are plentful, but many feature Prosecco, soda water, a bitter liqueur and an olive.

Other wine spritzers involve various flavors of fruit. One world famous type of spritz invented in Venice is the Bellini, an awesome mix of Prosecco and peach puree.

When cruising with Carnival, Venice is at your fingertips! Take the opportunity to indulge in delicious seafood and decadent wines. Or take time to expand your pallet and try something you won’t find anywhere else like fritole or sarde in sour. Once you’re all full, take a moment to explore the city of Venice! Whatever you decide, you’re sure to enjoy your time in the ancient city.