It’s common knowledge that when you visit Venice for the first time, you either fall in love with it or you hate it. Many people find Venice to be crowded, smelly, and filled with bad food. Personally, I have a soft spot for Venice. It was the first city I ever visited in Italy when I came on my solo trip in 2018, and I immediately fell in love with the beauty of it.
However, that being said though, it’s time to be real with you all – it is really hard to find good food in Venice if you don’t know where to look. Venice is beautiful (IMO), but it does cater mainly to tourists – in fact, while over 22 million people visit the floating city every year, there are actually only about 220,000 actual residents left on the island. Therefore, food places in the main parts of the island where locals frequent are far and few in between.
However that doesn’t mean they don’t exist – which is why, if you go to Venice, you absolutely should do a local street food tour through Streaty Food Tours. You get to have a local Venetian take you around to the best secret food spots.
Before we dive into this blog, it’s important to chat about what type of street food you’ll find in Venice and why.
Venetian Street Food Breakdown:
In Venice there is something called a Bacaro tour, which is the most ancient and traditional thing to do in Venice.
What is a Bacaro? I’m so glad you’ve asked! It’s a rich Venetian tradition passed down from generation to generation where you go from Bacaro to Bacaro (or bar to bar) to get something called “cicchetti” and “ombra.” So, basically a bar crawl but with way better food.
**If you want to learn more about what a Bacaro looks like you can find it here. However I suggest if you are visiting Venice for the first time, or even if you’ve been already and want to try something new, I would book with Streaty Food Tours. That way you don’t have to plan everything, you get local insight, a smidge of history sprinkled in, and most importantly, you can focus on the food.
With that, let’s go!
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We met our guide, Anna, near the Rialto bridge, but didn’t stay there for long – she quickly ushered us away from the mass groups of tourists, down some alleyways, and into a quieter part of the city. *Insert deep introverted breath here. Along the way we stopped so that she could point out different cool and historical things we were passing that I normally wouldn’t have even paid much attention to.
We turned a corner eventually and found ourselves in the midst of a bustling marketplace in the corner of the city, right on the edge of the water. You could see locals pulling up in their boats to pick up produce and fish before hopping back on and pulling away. It was so cool to feel like we were in one of the more authentic places in Venice!
Passing through some of the many small and narrow alleyways, typical of Venice, we eventually made our way to the tiniest little hole in the wall place that was bursting with old-fashioned charm. Pots hanging from the ceiling, etc. Here we made our first stop to try the first bites of local Venetian food of our trip!
We had a moment to soak in the atmosphere while Anna communicated with the shop employee. Anna quickly came back over with glasses of wine to begin and plates full of different bites – fresh cheese from Veneto, Cicchetti topped with seasoned anchovies and sweet onions and Venetian braised artichoke bottoms – yes, artichoke bottoms. When these are in season, you can find them everywhere in Venice.
Now is probably the time to tell you that I don’t really like fish. Never have. But being a city on the water, typical Venetian food is…fish. I made a promise to always try the typical food from the city that I am in and today was no exception, so I said bottoms up and downed my sardine cicchetti.
To my surprise, it was delicious! The sweet onions balanced well with the anchovies so much so that you could barely tell it was fish beneath them.
The cheese was flavorful and simple, and the artichoke bottoms provided a hint of vinegar that paired all 3 plates together nicely.
A short walk later we ended up at our next Bacaro to try two different types of signature Venetian Cicchetti: “Baccala alla Vicentina”, which is stockfish, onions, anchovies, milk and cheese, as well as the most typical Cicchetti you can find in Venice, “baccalà mantecato”, or whipped, salted codfish: I feel if Venice had a signature dish, it would be this one. I’d like to, at this point, remind you that I am not a fish fan, so having two of them in front of me was a little daunting. Of course, the wine Anna brought over helped 😉
First up was the baccalà mantecato – you guys. *Insert happy food shimmy* You GUYS. It was so light and fresh. You could barely even tell it was fish! Tour guide Anna said that this is the “Cicchetti for everyone” since it is super light and mild in flavor, so, no matter who you are you will like it. And she was 1,000% right – I can see why it’s easily the most popular Cicchetti topping in Venice.
Next up was the “Baccala alla Vicentina” – in full transparency, I took 2 bites of this and decided it wasn’t for me. If you enjoy seafood and don’t mind the taste of the sea, then you’d love it. I am the exact opposite but that’s ok! As Marco and I always say, you don’t have to LIKE everything, but it’s important that you at least TRY it 😉
We moved on to another small, modest shop where we sat down to enjoy one of the most beautiful tagliare boards I have ever seen full of fresh meats, cheese, crostini (bread with toppings) and veggies.
We also of course took this opportunity to try *drumroll* – SPRITZ!
Spritz was made in Venice, but what you may not know is that Aperol Spritz is NOT the type of Spritz that Venetians actually make – they use a type of liquor called “Select” instead of Aperol! It’s slightly more bitter in taste and actually what I prefer much more than Aperol, which is a little too sweet for me.
Streaty Food Tours ALSO has a Venice Spritz tour, which is where they take you around to try 4 different types of “unknown” spritz typical of Venice. If this sounds like its up your alley, check it out below:
Also – did you know that in Venice it’s typical to serve Spritz with an olive? You might think it’s weird, but the flavorings actually work so well together.
At this point we were feeling full and happy, but you simply cannot leave a food tour without dessert. And in Venice, you have to eat TIRAMISU because it was invented here 😉
This is where I have unfortunate news. I ate the tiramisu before I took a picture of it because it looked so beautiful and yummy. So here instead is a pic of me in my shame. I guess this means you’ll have to tag me in all of your IG stories of you trying tiramisu in Venice.
Whether visiting Venice for the first time or making a return visit, I will always recommend booking a Streaty Food Tour. Yes you get to taste the most authentic and amazing Venetian food but you also get to unlock hidden gems that only the locals know about.
There is nothing wrong with hitting the top tourist spots but you’ll be missing out on what venice really has to offer if you don’t dig a little deeper.
Use code “kacierose” for 5% off your Streaty Food Tour!
And as a reminder if you haven’t read my other blogs and plan to visit Sicily, Naples, and/or Florence, you can check them out here and read about those Streaty Food Tours as well 😉