Staying at an apartment is definitely a change to how you as visitor can experience life in Venice: You will pay much more attention to markets and delicatessen shops, diving deeper into daily life in Venice. If this is your very first stay in Venice, it might be a bit of a plunge, but still, so rewarding!
You will understand, right from the start, how this fragile city works, and will see her more from the local point of view. You’ll be looking out for different sights and sounds, and what’s perhaps most important, is that you will be able to gain a different food experience on your own.
Your apartment experience includes the possibility to explore the grocery stores and markets, practically you’ll be joining the Venetians doing their daily shopping. This is an opportunity for you to get to know market food, swap recipes with a shop owner, and taste food not available at restaurants. It’s definitely a possibility to discover all those little corner shops in your new neighborhood, and making more Venetian friends.
We are now sharing an overview of how Venice works, from a local point of view, where to find those delicatessen stores, and give a few behind-the-scenes tips for you to shop Venetian, and two easy recipes for you to try while staying at your apartment. While there are supermarkets in town, quality of life in Venice gains immensely from the little family owned delicatessen stores, and the fresh produce they receive every day from all parts of the Lagoon and Estuary.
Where can you find markets and delicatessen stores to find ingredients for easy DIY cooking while you are in Venice?
There’s one thing for sure: You’ll never be far from a market in Venice. In a city that is 5 km wide and long at most, you are always within easy walking distance of a landmark sight, even in the case that you are losing your way. And the city still has many tiny stores selling gourmet food you cannot find elsewhere. So much to discover, and the offer varies even within Venice ..
This is because the city is divided into six sestieri (districts), and each of these has a different history and outlook. While the sestiere San Marco has its obvious focal point, which is the Piazza, the others don’t have just one community center but several ones, usually on and around major campi (Venetian word for square). And it’s here that you will find markets and grocery stores!
For example, Castello, which is the easternmost and largest sestiere in Venice, separated from San Marco by Rio di Palazzo running just behind the Doge’s Palace, has several larger campi: Walking east and crossing Rio di Palazzo, you reach the first small-town center of Castello, Campo SS Filippo e Giacomo. Walk further and you will reach Salizzada dei Greci and its prolongation, Salizzada Sant’Antonin, which takes you to Campo della Bragora. If you love coffee and cakes, then this is your gourmet store-studded neighborhood: Here, you will find colorful stores and family owned bakeries with seasonal offers and products you can only taste when you have a temporary kitchen of your own. Other major campi in Castello include Campo San Zanipolo to the north, and the lively area around Via and Viale Garibaldi to the east. At the far end of Via Garibaldi, a little floating market is located, next to little grocery stores and bar-caffés.
The Rialto market area is the obvious center of sestiere di San Polo, and to the east, another shopping street called Ruga del Ravano, lined with bakeries, delis, and coffee stores, takes you towards Campo San Polo. The sestiere Santa Croce has Campo di San Giacomo dall’Orio as a hidden community center, off the beaten path, but so worth exploring. You can reach this quiet campo during a 15-minute walk from Rialto, with many little bakeries and coffee stores along the way.
The sestiere Dorsoduro has Campo Santa Margherita as obvious gourmet focal point, lined with little cafes and bakeries, plus a second, smaller area where little stores and delicatessen shops populate the area around Campo San Barnabà. Here, the other floating market of Venice is located, consisting of a fruit and vegetable barge and a few stores located around it, where you can buy all the ingredients you need to prepare a succulent yet simple menu.
Finally, the sestiere Cannaregio, on the opposite (northern) side of the Grand Canal, has Strada Nova and the Jewish Ghetto as community and gourmet centers. Especially around the Ghetto can you find small family owned delicatessen stores and a favorite bakery in town. These little stores don’t just offer fresh ingredients that you could use to prepare easy dishes, but they also offer pasta dishes, tramezzini (the famous Venetian sandwiches made from white bread with delicious fillings) or freshly baked focacce (Venetian breads, which also include sweet variants) which you could eat warm at your apartment, accompanied by Venetian soul food minestre (soups, and we’ll share a favorite and easy recipe below).
Along these community centers in Venice, you will find many delicatessen stores, which represent an opportunity for you to explore the ingredients you need to prepare easy Venetian dishes. In this respect, Venetian cuisine is very helpful: One part of the dishes we eat in Venice uses local ingredients. It means that even during winter, you can find lush green salads and local produce (yes, even home-grown sweet potatoes are now available, from other part of the Veneto, Treviso and Verona!).
Most vegetables and greens you can find at the markets in the colder season come from the Estuary or the northern Lagoon. Especially around Treporti, Lio Mazor and Lio Piccolo, little vegetable and fruit-growing farms line the Lagoon, benefiting from the mild and humid climate which allows us to grow herbs and vegetables even during winter. Most vegetable farms are located along the fringes of the northern Lagoon, around Iesolo and the Sile River. From there, fresh produce arrives at the markets in Venice every week day. For you this means that you can taste fresh local produce not only at the Rialto Market, but at any of the smaller delicatessen stores and markets in town.
Venice is a delicatessen paradise, which comes from a unique mixture making up the two components of her cuisine: First, there’s the historical culinary culture of the Serenissima Republic, often living on in forgotten family recipes: In the past, when Venice was the major culinary and luxury trading hub in Europe, her merchants brought back to the Lagoon spices and exotic herbs, especially from the Levantine countries, but also from northern Europe (stock fish in particular, which goes into baccalà, another favorite winter dish in Venice). Second, as we mentioned above, the Lagoon has been delivering home-grown, slightly salty produce for centuries, which in the past even allowed Venetians to become self-sufficient with regard to fruit, herbs, and vegetables.
A mixture of both trends is the kind of food you could taste while benefiting from an apartment kitchen in Venice. There’s a myriad of simple recipes using seasonal ingredients, sometimes enhanced with spices, for you to enjoy, experiment with, and cook yourself.
Which are those simple dishes you could try out while staying at an apartment in Venice?
Along the lines of Venetian culinary culture, do explore the seasonal produce your market stall offers on THAT particular day. Another time, you might taste a new risotto mix or tempting pasta you’ve eyed in one of the delicatessen stores of your neighborhood. Why not mix both components?
There’s so much space for your own creativity to experiment with ingredients you can only find in Venice. For example, taste the simple but so warming seasonal bean and pasta soup, which we call pasta e fasioi in Venice, whose recipe we are sharing below. Our try an exotic sounding culinary creation, such as salmon-flavored pasta (pasta salmone), or even the blueberry pasta. Flavored pasta like this requires simple sughi enhancing their flavor, though.
Which ingredients do you need in your temporary apartment kitchen to prepare simple Venetian food?
For your short stay, a few staples spices and ingredients suffice. These are sea salt, black pepper, seasonal herbs like kitchen laurel or rosemary, a small bottle of olive oil, and parmesan cheese. If you have these ingredients, you can enhance the flavors of any Venetian vegetable, pasta, or risotto dish you choose to make.
And these are also the ingredients going into a Venetian staple dish, the thick winter soup called pasta e fasoi (Venetian winter bean and pasta soup).
RECIPE: PASTA E FASIOI – VENETIAN WINTER BEAN AND PASTA SOUP
Ingredients (2 persons):
- 200 gr borlotti or white beans (soak them over night, for at least 24 hours, to enjoy them for lunch or dinner on the following day)
- 100 gr short or round pasta for bean soup or minestrone
- Salt, black pepper, laurel and/or rosemary
- Bouquet garni or one natural / vegan soup cube
- 100 gr Parmesan
- Olive oil
- Cook the beans in 1/2 liter water until al dente (not too soft!). Add sea salt, pepper, a small twig of fresh rosemary, and the pasta.
- Bring the soup with the pasta to the boil, then switch back on the heat and leave to simmer for about five minutes.
- Wait for another five minutes and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.
- If your soup feels too thick, add a few tablespoons of water. Take out the rosemary twig before serving the soup
- Serve this warming dish with fine Venetian bread (choose your favorite variety, anything is possible, and there are also gluten free breads available). Garnish with a few drops of olive oil, another spoonful of grated Parmesan, and ground black pepper. Leave to stand for another 3-5 minutes, and enjoy with a fine plate of salad greens from the markets (green leaves, radicchio, cicoria, spinach, rucola and rosole) flavored with a simple pine nut – olive oil marinade.
Store your soup in the fridge over night, and it may even taste better on the following day! To use up any left-overs, make a simple omelette, frittata al rosmarino e parmigiano: enhance your omelette by adding parmesan chips and frying it in your olive oil which you flavor with a twig of fresh rosemary (take it out as soon as your omelette is ready to eat).