Beyond the canals, the gondolas and the classic boats, Venice has always had an amazing kitchen. From their fish, to rice, to their artichokes Venetian Cuisine is a homage to the lagoon, it’s history and the cultures who have passed through. Below we have collected a few traditional Venetian recipes that will connect your palette to the beauty of the lagoon of Venice.
Venice from its dawn was an open door to the Middle East, to the Roman Empire of Constantinople. There were several reasons for this magical attraction. The Venetian Lagoon and the other Adriatic coast were much closer to the Middle East than the ports on the Tyrrhenian side, and therefore, making use of a large commercial fleet, could supply the entire Po Valley with the famous spices bought at modest prices and sold at the rialto market at a price of tenfold.
“The Lord of Spices”, which were about twenty, was pepper, a drug necessary to correct the taste of meat and prevent their corruption. Then there was also the salt produced by the salt pans of the lagoon, and which was exported to Germany and throughout central Europe which had only the salt from the mines of Salzburg, nearing its end of life.
The need for salt was also exceptional for storing meats, transforming them into various types of salami. The salt and spice trade had also created a group of small distributors of Friulian origin, the Krammar, who, confident of their youthful boldness, left with a solid cart, on which there was a dresser with many drawers, generally 120 drawers where the spice packets were. On the side there was a bag of black pepper and a larger sack full of salt. The bold young men went to find fortune and touched the various villages near their road, shouting that they had spices, pepper and salt to sell. When women and girls heard it, they would celebrate it and buy what they needed. Returning to the numerous Venetian cold cuts, there were other young men with carts full of tasty sausages ready for sale. They brought sausages, cotechini (gelatinous pork sausage in natural casing), muretti, suppressed del Pasubio, hams from Montagnana and San Daniele, fragrant and reagii to use in the restaurants and inns along the way.
While others were the sellers of the already soaked cod which would be seen dripping in a large basin. The writer and poet Varagnolo, secretary of the Venice Art Biennale, praised him with a witty poetry:
“Me piace il baccalà, sia mantecato e sia in tecia, conzé co la sardea, el me piase con l’agio ben desfà, e col latte ridotto ad una pastela, el me piase con l’uva e i cedrini, ma no mi piase un’ostrega co i spini“
“I like cod, both creamed and dried, marinated with sardines, and I liked it with the ease well made, and with milk reduced to a batter, and I liked it with grapes and cedars, but I didn’t like it a witch with thorns.”
The Venetian Cuisine was simple and when the Doge invited all Patrizi to lunch on April 25th, for the feast of Saint Marks it was the turn of the “risi e bisi” risotto (rice and peas), more peas than rice because the rice was very expensive. But the bisi (peas), often ready in late spring, due to the fact that both in Borso del Grappa and in the Euganean Hills peas were not ready in early spring. At that time the Lordship of the Republic of Venice asked for the peas from the Republic of Genoa, where they were mature.
So a week before San Marco, wagons with whole peas plants left from the hottest centers of Liguria, so that they wouldn’t spoil in the journey long enough, about 350 km, and then to satisfy Doge and Patrizi for the feast of April 25th.
The simple Venetian Cuisine laden the tables of Treviso with the “Sopa de tripe” (Tripe Soup) to heat the cattle merchants, who had eaten it since the morning. And then the bigoli in sauce, (bigger spaghetti similar to Bucatini, indicative to the cuisine in the Veneto region) prepared with Bigolaro, which you can still taste in Arzignano in the Vicentino and then the duck of the Redeemer, the chicken in squaquaciò with polenta, the scampi alla Buzara, donated by the Istrian gastronomy, the cuttlefish with black, onion, pasta and bean soup, mixed fried shrimp, canestrelli, scampi, sole, and passerini.
Risi e bisi
The “risi e bisi” is a risotto with peas, bacon and onion. Usually you sauté the peas, onion and bacon, once its all sautéed you add the rice and you cook it for 1/2 minutes and then add a meat broth or vegetable stock, until it is ready. This adds the taste. Not to forget the parmigiano which you add with a big peace of butter/ or olive oil, when the rice is al dente and when it needs to rest 5 minutes covered by a lid.
P.s. the tricky part is not to do it too dry or too wet.
Bigoli in salsa
The “bigoli in salsa” is a pasta with bigoli, onions, anchovies. For starting you sauté the onions until the get a bit golden, caramelized and then you put the anchovies. In the meanwhile you can start cooking the spaghetti (bigoli). When the pasta is nearly ready you mix it in with the onion and anchovies you let it go for 1/2 minutes and the you can serve it.
Sopa de tripe
The “Sopa de tripe” is a tripe soup that is slow boiled in a tomato sauce of mixed herbs and spices, it can be made in different ways: with or without tomato’s.
If you come to Venice be sure to visit the truly Venetian Restaurants and try these dishes that will entice your taste buds with flavors and smells of Venice from long ago. You can learn more about great Venetian Restaurants by checking out our other article on our pick of the top 10 Venetian restaurants in the lagoon of Venice. If you need to get around, book a boat with Classic Boats Venice. The team from CBV located on the island of Certosa have a selection of boat rentals from classic Venetian boats equipped with an electric engine for self-drive or with a driver aboard their vintage boats.