Venice and its ‘food culture’

What can you eat in Venice which is so ‘different’ from the rest of the country? What are some of its tastiest traditional dishes? What is the story behind each one of them and what are the ingredients?

The place where Venice rose was a gift from God with a countryside rich in game and animals, a lagoon full of fish and orchards with several types of vegetables and fruit.

Because the ‘Most Serene Republic’ of Venice had strong cultural and commercial ties with Byzantium and the Levant, the influence of the oriental cuisine was also important. Moreover, the flavours of other countries’ cuisine made it into a fusion cuisine, rich and poor, simple and spicy at the same time.

In 1300, spices were very much used in Venice, between 30 and 40 different types in different fields. For example, they were used to spice up wines and they were candied to be eaten after a meal. During that time, it was also believed that they could correct the flaws of food.

In order to increase the sale of expensive spices to European customers, Venetian merchants, great businessmen, launched an interesting marketing operation. They invented the ‘sacchettis venetis’, small complimentary samples of spices which also included instructions for their use. These gifts were especially given to their wealthy customers, who purchased salt and other goods from the Rialto market. In this way, Venetian merchants encouraged users of spices to buy more on their next trips.

In general, many ingredients such as chicken, broth, ‘savori’, herbs, good spices, ginger, cinnamon, ‘agresto’, almond and almond milk, fish, honey are still at the basis of Venetian gastronomy.

Even today, in any ‘bacaro’, wine-bar, or traditional restaurant, you can taste a very popular dish the ‘saor’. Since the 1300s, it has been called ‘Cisame of Fish’ and it exists almost unaltered. Peeled almonds and lots of strong spices were once used and added but today pine nuts are used instead.

What about the famous” baccalà mantecato”, whipped codfish, which is one of the main pieces of our cuisine? It is cod beaten and mixed with olive oil and other ingredients, according to a very old recipe. But where does dry cod come from, since it is not a local fish species? The Venetian navigator Pietro Querini accidentally discovered it and imported it to Venice, when his ship sank near the Lofoten islands in Norway in 1432.

However, this is one of the many stories of sailors, merchants and adventurous explorers that we are going to tell you during our tours!