20 Venetian food trends for the 2020s

During the past few decades, restaurants in Venice have been rediscovering Venetian culinary heritage, offering menus and dishes based on historical recipes: That is, recipes using herbs, fruit, blossoms, and vegetables of the Lagoon, enhanced with forgotten spice flavors like agreste and amarognolo (similar to the Campari flavor!).

One could say that during the lockdowns in 2020 – 2022, restaurants needed to re-invent themselves. My uncle put it into a nutshell: Venice currently tastes wonderfully, like the food people used to eat in the 1960s and 1970s. The lockdowns brought on many issues but also provided us with more time to do research on our culinary heritage. Scroll down to see what we’ve found!

Here are 20+ culinary trends we made out in Venice in 2020 and 2021. We think they are here to stay, and as even more restaurants are adding their own dishes based on recipes of the past, we’re in for a culinary adventure taking us back to the grand flavors of La Serenissima (that is, Venice until the year 1797).

We found we can divide Venetian cuisine of the past into four episodes (Byzantine Greek; the Age of Marco Polo; Sophisticated Spice Cuisine; Fusion Cuisine). Here are 20+ characteristics that apply to some of them (you can find the complete list in our upcoming book series, from fall / winter 2022).

1: Using spices to flavor fish 

Interesting as during the past 100 years, Venetians would never have used spices with fish dishes: Just sea salt and parsley, and at most, lemon slices were allowed, as grandmother told me about the way food was served in the 1940s and 1950s. But it was different 300 years ago, when light seasonal spice mixtures were used to enhance the flavor of fish. Here’s an example I’ve seen at Ristorante Il Ridottobranzino al ginepro, cicoria e mandarino (sea brass with juniper and a yellow spice mix, chicory and clementine salad): This is how fish was served in winter during the 16th century. 

2: Home-made nut crumble, flavored with spices 

An example is the gourmet panna cotta made with Williams pear gel, hazelnut biscuit crumble, dark chocolate flakes and candied orange peel – seen at Le Bistrot de Venise.

3: Lush green cuisine

such as puntarelle pie with taleggio cheese sauce. Puntarelle are a Venetian winter salad, also eaten warm or used in risotto and pasta dishes. Seen on the winter menu of Luna Sentada.

4: Crudo e cotto: The Lagoon of Venice meets Asian flavors

This culinary style was popular in Venice in the 14th century, after Venetian ships (mude) went regularly to the city of Tana (Black Sea) opening up a faster way of transporting spices from the Silk route to Venice. Seen at Luna Sentada.

5: Grand sea food dishes

An example are granseola (spider crab) dishes, flavored with radicchio stripes, saffron, parsley white pepper, and corbarino tomatoes, seen at Antica Sacrestia.

6: Elaborate salads

mixing warm and cold ingredients that lead us to the ancient Venetian agreste flavor, using Lagoon herbs, such as in pomodoro confit, fior di cappero (capers) e artemisia – seen at Ristorante Il Ridotto.

7: Easy vegan with spices

such as flavoring panini made with parsley – yellow mustard sauce, fried paprika and zucchini, seen at Serra dei Giardini.

8: Cornetto veneziano

Don’t forget the sweet treats, and specialties for breakfast in Venice: Cornetti may seem all-Italian, and they often look like French croissants, but Venetians since the 16th century, and later during the 18th century, the age of the Venetian grandi caffé, has developed special types, like cornetti with marzipan or apple-lavender jam filling. Many of my friends say that the cornetti at Pasticceria Dal Mas are the best in Venice. I’d also suggest you try them at Pasticceria Chiusso.

9: Levantine bakery

Almond cakes are back in Venice in all shapes and sizes, my favorites are those offered until 2020 at Pasticceria alla Bragora. Or, as they are still made at Pasticceria Tonolo. These are recipes based on the famous almond pastries, flavored with rose, neroli and amaretto essences, developed in Venice since the 13th century.

10: Foraging delights

Foraging in the Lagoon meant having ingredients ready for healthy dishes during all seasons, especially winter. Using minutina and salicornia to make piatti unici are just one example of the Lagoon presented on a plate, seen at Ristorante Il Ridotto.

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11: Nonno’s home-cooking

This is the food Venetian grandfathers used to eat for as long as I can remember .. Classic and rustic dishes formerly called cucina povera (in contrast to cucina speziata – the grand cuisine of La Serenissima in the past, infused with spices). Examples of grandfather’s favorite dishes offered by Venetian bacari in January are zuppa al vino rosso (onion – red wine soup), or risi e verza (black cabbage risotto), favorites on the January menu in the bacari around the Rialto.

12: Marco Polo’s flavors revisited 

Food trend taking up the flavors and ingredients of the 13th and 14th century, with huge potential. Examples are matcha crumble, bergamot, iced moscato and chocolate dessert seen at Ristorante Il Ridotto, or just about any dish at Luna Sentada.

13: Persian rose delights 

enhanced with golden Mediterranean spices such as saffron and marigold, seen at Le Bistrot de Venise.

14: Pistacchio color patches

In historical Venetian cuisine, pistacchio is used not just to color cakes, but to flavor risotti and meat. And of course desserts, such as the cocoa – cinnamon – panna cotta dream by Luna Sentada.

15: Rediscovering torta greca

Our specialty here at Nonna Lina’s kitchen, but there are several types of torta greca in Venice ranging from almond-flavored sponge cakes called torta mantovana to its original variant, which is a flat creamy amaretto cake with amaretto filling. You can taste a perfect torta greca – mantovana style at Pasticceria Chiusso. Or, another type of torta greca looking more like the original, at Pasticceria Pitteri.

16: Chai flavors, Venetian style

Spice mixes called chai have been present in Venice since the 17th century, consisting of three major ingredients (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves). This spice mix also goes into a signature tea offered by Caffé Florian.

17: Cooking with essential oils and flower powders

such as linguine with salted butter, hibiscus powder, scallops, basil and parsley oil. Seen at Le Bistrot de Venise.

18; Spicy pasticcio dishes

In historical Venetian cuisine, pasticci are vegetarian casseroles, sometimes also made with fish and meat, but always flavored with high-end spice mixes! Here’s one from Lina’s kitchen, pasticcio di pomodorini corbaro, bechamel sauce, zucchina tonda (round courgette), chili flakes, and our own summer spice mix made of sunny flavors, that is yellow mustard seeds, saffron and marigold petals. Wonderful examples of this style of cooking are served at Bistrot do Leoni – Hotel Londra Palace.

19: Home-made puddings

colored and flavored with sweet liquors, like our buddino al campari pudding, a favorite dessert for New Year’s Eve, January, and February. Because pink is the color of late winter and Carnival, and Campari is the flavor of the Venice of the 14th century. A similar drink was available then, called rosolio amaro, made of a mix of flower and amarognolo essences. Take a look at Rosa Salva‘s offer in winter!

20: Mare e campagna

such as risotto di sedano rapa speziato con crostacee – Sea food risotto flavored with red beets and celery. Seen at Le Bistrot de Venise.

21: Agreste sweet and sour

such as minestra con fondi di carciofo, formaggio di capra fresco, ritagli d’anatra fumé, uva bianca e pistacchi (Artichoke soup, goat cheese, smoked duck, white grapes and pistachios), by Le Bistrot de Venise, Il Ridotto, or Zanze.

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