Sometime between May and June a special change takes place in Venice. The lush spring green colors change to the summer look, looking warmer and drier. The scent of pine needles and pittosporum is pervading the city. The weather isn’t stable yet but the colors do give the season away – so you can safely consider the last weekend in May “Summer in Venice”.
This post is a brief guide for you where to explore Venetian family food in case you visit Venice in summer. How Venetian summer food differs from a winter menu and what Venetians love to eat for lunch when the weather is very hot. There are a few basic rules so you can make sure to order local and seasonal food.
The restaurants where Venetians stop for lunch needn’t be far off the main tourist areas. To explore them you just need to do two things: Let go of your map and start walking. Enjoy your walk. Remember that you can never get lost in Venice, there are always people who will point you into the right direction and anyway, there are the yellow signs pointing you to Rialto, San Marco, Ferrovia and Piazzale Roma.
Even as the main tourist season is fast approaching, in Venice there are areas where you can have Venice to yourselves during lunch. Look out for them around Via Garibaldi, the Zattere quay, the Tolentini area and San Giovanni Evangelista, along Fondamenta della Misericordia and in the Ghetto, on Fondamente Nove and near the monastery of San Francesco della Vigna, Campo delle Gatte and San Pietro di Castello.
Here are the “secret” places where Venetian families cook for their guests in small osterie, having served food based on family recipes handed down for many decades and sometimes centuries. These places often come with cool walled courtyard gardens. The food you eat is often based on favorite recipes cooked by Venetian grandmothers.
Here we are in the heart of Venezia Minore and you can join Venetians for lunch when you come here around 1:30 pm. If you come earlier, you might find you are quite alone in the garden, though.
You might also choose a restaurant overlooking a canal or try secret courtyards and gardens which you enter passing through an archway (sotoportego). Let me give you an example, for I love eating next to the water.
In the picture below you can see an osteria putting its tables out along Rio di San Giuseppe. Imagine sitting under the huge white sunshade surrounded by vases of summer flowers. Your table is decorated with wild jasmine flowers, Venetians love gelsomino – jasmine !!
What is the simple food that Venetians eat every day in summer? By simple I mean dishes that don’t take much time to cook. My grandmother would never bother with cooking for more than half an hour in summer. Yet everything turns out delicious, made from fresh ingredients, vegetables, fish, salad and herbs. In Venice, there’s always a small market nearby selling freshest produce and fish. There’s even a fish market stall on Via Garibaldi.
In a family osteria, you would start your Venetian summer menu with a cold antipasto or pasta with fish. Your first course is followed by a plate of grilled fish (frittura mista). We had pasta with crab – tagliolini ai granchi and a plate of San Pietro fish. Both are favorite summer dishes in Venice.
The crabs are fried in a pan with tomatoes and parsley in olive oil, flavored with sea salt and black pepper and mixed with the tagliolini. The fish is fried on both sides in sun flower oil (no olive oil !!), seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley and a slice of lemon. This is the classical Venetian lunch in summer, In winter, we love soup instead of pasta.
If you want to eat seafood from the Venetian Lagoon (probably fished alongside Canale San Felice north of Burano) you must take into account, that for example, cozze aren’t fished here in the summer months not containing an “r”. This is the reproduction period and during those months, they are not fished, andseafood in Venice is delivered from somewhere else in the Mediterranean sea.
For dessert you’ve got so much to choose from. Either you stop for coffee in a little bar and taste a tempting piece of pastina or apple pie like I did above, or you take your coffee in the osteria and try their torta della casa – the signature cake. Zuppa inglese and tiramisù (or rather tiramesù in Venetian) are my favorites !! But there are also nougat – vanilla cakes, or cakes filled with layers of crema pasticcera. What about a piece of coconut chocolate sponge cake …
The pictures taken for this article show my recommendations for your lunch, Osteria da Gino (Castello, Fondamenta San Giuseppe) and Osteria da Rioba (Cannaregio, Fondamenta della Misericordia) . At both restaurants you can enjoy lunch by the water.