One of the best parts about traveling internationally is the food. There’s nothing better than fresh fish and chips in London, steamy paella in Valencia, or a warm crepe right off the griddle in Paris. When you travel, you should know what to expect from the local cuisine in order to get the full experience of being abroad.
If you travel to Italy, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll only eat pasta and pizza. The Italians have a rich gastronomy that goes beyond pasta (even though the pasta is incredible!).
Take Venice for example. As a coastal city, their seafood offering is exquisite! When you pair fresh fish with some Italian classics, you will not be disappointed with the results.
Here are some of the staple ingredients used in Venetian food. Most restaurants will serve some combination of the ingredients below.
Seafood: Crab, shellfish, sea bass, eels, octopus, and more! If you like seafood, you will be in heaven in Venice. Being right on the coast, restaurants bring in fresh seafood daily to prepare and serve in their restaurants. You can be sure the “Catch of the Day” really was caught that day! Some classic dishes include: sarde in saor, a sweet-and-sour dish of sardines with onions, pine nuts, and raisins; scampi alla veneziana, boiled shrimp served in a simple sauce of lemon juice and olive oil; and baccala mantecata, a dish of cured cod blended and creamed with olive oil, garlic, and parsley.
Depending on your enthusiasm for seafood, you can get a dish with seafood as the main focus, like the dishes listed above, or a simple vermicelli noodle with squid ink for just a hint of the ocean on your plate. Even if you don’t really care for seafood, do yourself a favor and try some in Venice. There’s nothing quite like ocean-fresh seafood.
Polenta: Polenta is a paste or dough made from cornmeal that is used in a lot of Italian cooking. Think of it as the Italian version of grits – it goes with everything and it’s very versatile. Polenta can be used in lieu of a risotto or rice as a bed for seafood or other prepared meats. It can also be baked and dressed with tomatoes and herbs for a fantastic bruschetta. You could also get classic polenta, boiled and served with a bit of butter and parmesan. It’s delicious in so many forms. If you go for the authentic food experience in Venice, you’ll try various preparations of polenta, guaranteed.
Gnocchi: If you’ve never had gnocchi before, are you in for a treat! Gnocchi are a dumpling-like pasta made from potatoes. Gnocchi is often served in a savory sauce, but because they are such a simple entrée, the possibilities are endless for how to enjoy them. If you’re unsure about what to choose for your first gnocchi experience, cheese is always a good idea.
Rice: Rice is served as a side dish to some meals or mixed in a cream sauce with seafood. Risi i bisi is a classic Venetian dish of rice and fresh peas, sometimes served with fresh cooked rice and herbs or in a cream sauce. Either way, it makes for a delicious and filling soup.
Red meat: If you like your protein to come from the land, Venetian cuisine incorporates some red meats as well. Most often red meat is served in small portions and thinly sliced, like prosciutto. A classic beef dish in Venice is carpaccio, beef sliced wafer thin served with a sauce made from mayo, mustard, tomato, and cream.
Pasta: Though pasta is much more common in the food traditions of southern Italy, Venice has some amazing options for classic pasta dishes. The Italians have come up with so many ways to prepare noodles; you’re sure to find a pasta dish you’ve never tried before.
Some of the best places to find authentic food are at restaurants a bit off the beaten path. There’s nothing better than finding that diamond in the rough that serves the best food and isn’t too crowded. If you need a suggestion on where to get some classic Venetian cuisine, check out Trattoria Alla Madonna.
Trattoria Alla Madonna has been open for over 60 years and is always filled with locals – that’s how you know it’s authentic! This restaurant features many classic Venetian dishes like squid ink pasta, scallops in a lemon-olive oil sauce, fresh shrimp, and risi i bisi. Great food, great service, and it’s all for a reasonable price! Check out their website for reservations and hours.
Having insight like what to expect from local cuisine and restaurant recommendations is great to have for any trip. But not everyone has time to do all the research. That’s the great thing about hiring a travel agent! They are experts on their destinations and can give you recommendation on where to eat based on your desires, tastes, and budget.
If you have not yet hired a travel agent to book your next trip, use the handy-dandy search tool below to find an agent who specializes in the type of trip you want to take. And don’t be afraid to ask them about the local food!