(photo credit to “Islands”)
Ciao from Venice!
It has been said that whether or not someone is a romantic at heart or not, Venice promises to take one’s breath away. Venice must be experienced with all of one’s senses wide open!
With it’s breath-taking ancient architecture, winding canals, and endless mysterious passageways, Venice is one of the most alluring cities in the world.  Here I intend to relax with an espresso in Piazza San Marco, partake in a moonlit gondola ride and sip a Bellini at Harry’s Bar.  And maybe just wander off the beaten paths to engage in history and beauty.
At this moment, I am in splendid, magical, enchanting Venice, the city of dreams, with my parents and I’m really not anywhere near a computer to post on my blog . . . every post has been pre-scheduled for the days that we’re in each location of the trip.  But I promise to post my photos of the best sights and food that we enjoyed when I return to the States.
Venice, one of the ‘bucket list’ cities of the world, and one of the most endangered due to its foundation of low mud-banked islands amid the lagoon waters of the Adriatic Sea.  With its continual charming allure, physically it is very fragile with continual decay, erosion and water damage causing world-wide attention to prevent.  Venice is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
To arrive in Venice, one must enter by water . . . in a boat through a series of canals.  The quintessential image of boat transportation in Venice is the ‘gondola’, once essential to navigate through the narrow and shallow canals, today they are a preferred mode in which to take a romantic trip around Venice.
While in Italy we want to see some of the great sights, but also just sit in the cafe’s in some of the squares sipping on an espresso or glass of vino while watching the people of the country go about their daily routines.  In the evening we are hoping to take part in the traditional Italian ‘passeggiata’, or ‘evening stroll’.  The purpose of this among Italians is ‘to see and to be seen’, to gather around and gossip about the latest going-ons.
For this portion of our trip, we will obviously visit the ‘must sees’ of Venice:  The Piazza San Marco, the heart of Venice with its Basilica San Marco, the Campanile, looking out at the ‘Canalazzo’, the Grand Canal,  and if time permits, I’d love to go to Murano to pick up a small glass momento!  I’m not sure if we’ll take a gondola ride due to the lack of time.
But let’s not forget THE FOOD of Venice!
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.
Venice, like every region of Italy, is known for its traditional food specialities.  A visit to Venice offers an opportunity to discover fascinating gastronomic traditions.  Obviously due to Venice’s location on the sea, there is a large abundance of fish dishes, simply seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, parsley, and herbs.  Although the lagoon is famous for the quality and variety of its fish, the inland river waters’ fresh fish are also cherished in recipes.
Traditionally, fish was marinated and/or salted in order to preserve it for long periods of time before eating. Being a fish lover, I know that I will be in heaven with the high quality of seafood harvested from the sea.  The most famous fish entree is Baccala’ Mantecata, which is made with cod from the colder northern seas and in shipping to Italy is preserved by salting it profusely, and within four days the excess salt is removed and then the fish is dried in the open air.  Finally the cod is soaked for some time in water.
Baccala’ Mantecata
Venice’s most notable dish is softened, dried, salted Baltic codfish that is prepared in olive oil, garlic, parsley and creamed in a blender.  This is what I’d like to enjoy in Venice.  However, because we’re in Venice on Monday, and I understand that it will be difficult, if not impossible to have fresh fish on Mondays because most fishermen do not work on Sunday nights.  I’ll just have to see, right?  Bacala is usually served with polenta as a side dish and when mixed together, this is a delicate and delicious fish appetizer or first course served in both restaurants and Venetian homes.
(photo credit to Todd Coleman for Saveur, link for the recipe)
Sarde in Saor (Marinated Sardines)
This dish of Venice is a typical example of its traditions.  Translated, the name means ‘sardines immersed in flavor’. This is an antipasto of sardines or anchovies with onions in a sweet and sour sauce, with ‘pinoli’ (pine nuts) and raisins.


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).

My family still prepares polenta in the traditional way of pouring it onto a wooden board to cool off and then cut it with a string while hot.  If the polenta hardens, we always cut it with a knife.  Using milk or cream instead of water makes polenta even more rich and decadent!  We embrace the social tradition of making polenta and stirring it constantly each and every Christmas eve, both in the creamy version and fried with Fontina cheese melted on top!  YUM!
(photo credit to Leo Gong and Karen Shinto, link for the recipe)
Risi i Bisi (Rice and Fresh Peas) 
One of the most famous and ancient regional specialties of Venice, Risi i Bisi is offered in most Venetian restaurants and homes.  This simple and tasty dish is a unique combination of soup and thick risotto made of fresh peas and risotto (rice) and cooked with chunks of pancetta (thick Italian bacon).  
Rice is a mainstay on Venetian menus and arrived on the scene from Arabia as a result of the strong maritime merchant position of Venice.  Rice dominates Venetian cuisine, but is served differently than in other regions of Italy.  Never eaten alone, rice is always cooked and served with other ingredients, such as fish and shellfish, sausage, beans, and more.  
(photo: Rosalind Corieri Paige, ‘La Bella Vita Cucina’, link to recipe for classic risotto)
Once considered only food of the poor risotto is very popular in Northern Italy, with Venice being no exception.  The unique way to prepare risotto in Venice is with seafood, such as using black squid ink (Risotto Nero) and as in the States, using numerous combinations of ingredients including vegetables, artichokes, mushrooms, asparagus, peas and/or tomatoes.

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.

(photo credit to Annabelle Breakey and Randy Mon)
Although now prepared all over Italy, the delicious gnocchi is a culinary tradition dating all the way back to the 16th century and connected to the festivities of Carnival.   Exactly prepared from the recipe handed down from my family in Northern Italy gnocchi is made of potatoes, flour and eggs and then served with either melted butter, cheese, and sage, or other creative sauces.  If you have never had gnocchi in ‘quattro formaggio’ (four cheeses) you have not tasted Italian culinary bliss!
In Italian meals, gnocchi makes a delicious ‘i primi’ (first dish), but I love it as a side dish!  I adore gnocchi made with spinach served with a light butter and sage or marinara sauce . . . but I have to admit, the super-cheesy the sauce the better!
Oh, this is the famous, quintessential ‘pick-me-up’ dessert made of sponge cake soaked in rich coffee, Marsala wine, cocoa, amidst layers of sweet mascarpone cheese!   Records show that Tuscany and Veneto have fought over the origin of this recipe, however many sources confirm that it hails from Venice.
(photo credited to “Pasta D’Arte”)


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.

(photo credited to “Traveling Mamas” blog)
The “Bellini” and Prosecco!
Prosecco, a light, champagne-like sparkling wine is known as an ‘appertivo’, and is the base for the infamous Bellini mixed with white peach juice, from which morphed the ‘Mimosa‘ with fresh orange juice and the ‘Tiziano’ made with fresh red grapefruit juice.  The Bellini was introduced at the famous Harry’s Bar and enjoyed by Hemingway.

Trust me, I WILL end up here during our time in Venice!  I’ve just got to try one of these authentic, famous Bellini!

(photo credited to Ed from “The Bork Blog”)


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.

Polenta Mushroom Crostini

Venetian Cicchetti

click here for this delicious Cicchetti recipe for Polenta Crostini with Caramalized Porcini Mushrooms“!

Asiago Cheese

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.

Fritelle alla Veneziane

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!