As Venice is surrounded by water, many traditional Venetian dishes contain seafood. However, I have listed below five vegetarian delicacies that can be enjoyed by everyone and are in no way inferior to the aforementioned dishes.
1) Risi e Bisi
Risi e Bisi (pronounced REE-see Ay BEE-see), which is literally translated into “rice and peas”, is a classic Venetian dish that was traditionally served on St. Mark’s Day, which is celebrated on the 25th of April, as a celebration of spring.
When the production of rice started in Venice in the 15th century, the Doge himself would offer a plate of Risi e Bisi to the locals, in order to help promote the use of rice as it was of low cost and widely available. However, these days, many Venetians choose to make it at home as the ingredients can be found easily.
Few restaurants have it explicitly in their menus but are more than willing and able to whip it up for you at your request.
Risi e Bisi is almost like a hybrid of a risotto and a soup, having a thick consistency that allows you to eat it with a fork, but it is recommended to consume it with a spoon, so that you are able to enjoy the entire dish in its entirety. At its core, it contains rice and peas. However, due to its simplicity, it is very easy for you to customise it to suit your own taste. Many locals add lots of Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon. However, the most important point is what many cooks in Venice agree with, and that is “for each grain of rice, there should be a pea”.
As mentioned before, the ingredients don’t contain anything that you cannot find outside of Venice, hence, you can reminisce and enjoy a little taste of Venice at the comfort of your own home.
(Image source: https://www.pinterest.es/pin/88523948909016717/)
Buranelli (pronounced bu-RAH-ne-li) is a type of Venetian biscuit that comes in two distinct shapes. The original shape was round, however, nowadays, you can also find them shaped like the letter “S”. This adaptation was made so that you could easily dunk them into your morning coffee or your glass of wine after dinner.
This sweet and buttery cookie, which weighs practically nothing and will crumble in your mouth after a bite, can be found in pretty much any local supermarkets or bakeries, though a bakery is definitely preferable as they are freshly baked.
According to local folklore, these cookies were baked by the wives of fishermen and sailors before their sea expeditions. When they left for the sea, they would then keep the biscuits in various bags. These biscuits were one of the healthiest snacks in the past, that could be kept well for a long time, just hardening a little over a period of a few months.
Castraure (pronounced kahs-tra-OOR-eh) is a violet baby artichoke, more specifically, the very first artichoke buds from each plant. Sant’Erasmo, the agricultural island that is known as the “Garden of Venice”, is well-known for its castraure. The artichokes thrive in the unique conditions of the island, with its humidity and fertile soil giving the artichokes grown on the island a delicious and unique flavor. It is so highly regarded that imposters have shipped other artichokes and have tried to pass it off as a Sant’Erasmo Violet Artichoke. The Violet Artichoke is such a prized delicacy that it has become a Slow Food Presidium, which means that it is a safeguarded product and it is protected from environmental degradation.
The reason why the castraure is more valuable as compared to the artichokes harvested after is that they are incredibly tender and bursting with flavor. They can be eaten raw in a salad, grilled, fried, or sauté’d in garlic and olive oil. In fact, the beauty of the castraure is that no matter how it is prepared, it will retain its unique taste that cannot be compared elsewhere.
The Tramezzino (pronounced tra-med-ZI-no) is a triangular sandwich that is cheap, yet a staple in Venice. It is a typically Venetian snack and it consists of two triangular crustless pieces of white bread, with all kinds of fillings inside. You can find everything from the famous Sant’Erasmo violet artichokes to mozzarella layered with tomatoes. The fillings are so generous that it is definitely a go-to for most people, as it provides the most bang for a buck.
The history of the Tramezzino is unclear, some stating it originated from England, while several Italian cities are fighting for the title as the origin of the tramezzino as well. However, the reason why it is so prevalent and regarded as a Venetian delicacy is solely due to the climate of Venice. The dampness of the Venetian lagoon helps to maintain the softness and tenderness of the tramezzino, making it an amazing dish to accompany your afternoon coffee or some wine while waiting for your dinner to be served.
(Image source: https://www.misya.info/ricetta/tramezzini-vegetariani.htm)
Cicchetti (pronounced chee-CAY-te) is a definite must in Venice, especially when you are on a night out with your friends, doing a pub crawl. Cicchetti is the name for small plates or finger foods that are meant to be affordable and a quick way to satisfy your hunger. Think of it as Spanish tapas, where a plate of ten to twelve Cicchetti can make for a satisfying meal.
You can have Cicchetti for breakfast, lunch, or even as a pre-dinner snack. However, many Venetians choose to have it as an hors d’oeuvre, as it pairs especially well with wine. You will see that a majority of Cicchetti is served on a slice of bread, with toppings ranging from salami to fish to cheese to artichoke, making it the perfect dish to share among friends who are not vegetarians like you. Some bars use polenta cakes, where the dough is made from maize flour and it is then baked. This variety and plethora of options make Cicchetti the number one snack to go for in Venice, especially if you are trying to eat on a budget.
(Image source: https://nolisoli.ph/58758/cicchetti-ymalajito-20190311/)