Italian cuisine with its simple ingredients, enticing aromas, and fabulous flavors is one of the most delicious food on the planet. And it is here in Venice, where I’ll begin my gastronomic tour of Italian food.
A staple in Northern Italy, polenta enjoys its greatest popularity among Venetians! Originally known as part of ‘cucina povera’ (food of the poor), polenta is interestingly now considered to be a gourmet, upscale food! Ah, that creamy, golden pool of ground semolina cornmeal that results from 30 to 45 minutes of constant stirring with a ‘mescala’, wooden stirring stick! Venetians prefer polenta over pasta (although they do have pasta dishes).
Growing up, my mother prepared risotto for our family at least twice a week and it was always one of our favorite meals! Mix it with Bolognese sauce and it’s an incredible, filling meal in itself!
This is the Venetians’ contribution to the pasta of Italy. It is similar to spaghetti pasta noodles, except slightly thicker with a small hole in the middle. Bigoli is also slightly darker than regular pasta because it is made of whole wheat flour.
A famous treat created at Harry’s Bar in Venice, and known here in the States, consists of raw/ultra-rare beef from the filet cut, sliced wafer-thin, coated with peppercorns or capers and served with Parmesan cheese and radicchio. Often a sauce is served prepared with mayonnaise, mustard, cream, and tomato. Many variations of the dish have evolved from the original recipe as well.
Trust me, I WILL end up here during our time in Venice! I’ve just got to try one of these authentic, famous Bellini!
Similar to Spanish tapas, these are small portions of food that are served in Venetian bars. Traditionally, Venetians eat cichetti (“have some fun”) with a small glass of wine (ombre) either before lunch or dinner or often in place of those meals. Eating cichetti is mostly a social activity where the locals hang out in crowded bars and eat cichetti standing up at the bar where the cichetti are spread out for one to choose from.
click here for this delicious Cicchetti recipe for “Polenta Crostini with Caramalized Porcini Mushrooms“!
Asiago is one of Italy’s finest sharp cheese specialties that comes from Veneto’s famous cow’s milk cheese. Asiago is now one of the most popular imported Italian cheeses in the States today and one of my personal favorites. I must try this cheese as fresh as I can find it in Venice!
The best wines from the Veneto region include the fragrant reds, Valpolicella, Bardolino, and the more strong, white Soave.
Grappa is the strong alcohol that comes from distilled grape skin, pulp, seeds, and stem remnants from the winegrape pressings. Grappa has been the peasant’s and farmers’ drink of choice when it was customary to enjoy a very strong drink after a day of hard physical labor. Grappa is Italy’s national spirit, a liqueur today.
Considered to be the national dessert of the Veneto province, Fritelle are small, fried, sweet doughnuts made of flour, eggs, sugar, lemon, and Marsala. They can also be made with a variety of extra ingredients including ‘frutta’ (fruit), cream, powdered sugar, or zabaglione. Venetians have exceptional expertise with pastries and ‘i dolci’ (sweets). Fritelle have been the traditional sweet of Carnival dating all the way back to the Renaissance!
It’s a good thing that I’ll be doing a LOT of walking to hopefully balance the food tasting!
This is certainly not a complete list of the specialty foods of Venice and Veneto, so if you feel that there is some dish that I have not included, please let me know in your comment and I will quickly edit this post upon my return to the States!