Probably the best known among Venetian pastries is the Carnival frittella, so famous that at the time of the Repubblica di Venezia was elected national cake. They were made by the fritoleri, a very important job at the time, regulated by the guild of the friotoleri. There were 70 members and each of them could work in a specific area so, at their death their sons could have take their place. The original recipe is without cream but with raisin and in Venice you can still find the frittelle Veneziane, soft fried little balls with raisin and sugar on the top. The recipe come from the XIV century and it is the oldest Venetian recipe today known, stored at the Biblioteca Nazionale Canatense in Rome.
During the Carnival period you will also find the galani (also called crostoli, chiacchiere, frappe bugie, cenci or lattughe) thin, crispy, sweet, fried rectangle pastries. They are quite addictive so if you try one you probably won’t be able to stop eating them.
Personally I love creamy pastries and cakes. Crema pasticcera is delicious but if you are in Venice you have to try our zabaione. Zabaione is a soft cream made with egg yolks, sugar, and a sweet wine (usually Marsala wine). It can be a dessert, used to fill up pastries and cakes or served as hot beverage. It is known that in ancient Venice there was a common drink called zabaja prepared with sweet wine coming from the East, probably from Zara, a Venetian domain in the Adriatic Sea. It is said that Casanova was a great user of that drink, especially during his parties and encounters as it was a particularly energetic and warming drink… So probably the zabaione is born in Venice and it’s not a coincidence that here this cream is a very common dessert, used to fill up the most delicious Carnival frittelle.
During epiphany you can find the pinza (or pinsa), a rustic, poor cake made with corn flour or old bread, raisin, pine nuts, apples, dried figs or whatever was available at the time.
Another delicious typical dessert is the crema frita, a custard of eggs, milk, sugar and flour covered with breadcrumbs and then fried. Yes, it is very heavy, but so yummy.
The most delicious dessert in all the world for me is and always will be the Tiramisu’. Many tales date its invention to the 1960s in Treviso at the restaurant Le Beccherie where Mrs Alba presents herself as the inventor of this dessert. A very common story in the Treviso area is that Tiramisu’ was served in brothel to reinvigorate clients and prostitutes and from there comes the name Tiramisu’, pick me up and maybe is not a coincidence that the upper floor of the Le Beccherie used to be a brothel.
Among cookies there are the baicoli. They are crispy, thin, dry cookies, usually sold in yellow, tin boxes to preserve crispness during long sea trips.
Other typical biscuits that you can still find in pastry shops are the zaleti, made with corn flour, sugar, eggs and raisin. The zaleti need to be mogiai nel vin dolse (drunk in sweet wine) or in hot chocolate –I definitely prefer in sweet wine.
The pan dei dogi is an oblong cookie made with wine, raisins, pine nuts and almonds.
I bussolai buranei or esse buranei are biscuits from Burano made with eggs and sugar, as the zaleti to be drunken in sweet wine or chocolate. The bussolai are ring shaped, the esse buranei have a S-shape.
Now, where can you eat some of those delicious desserts?
Melita is a small cake shop in Castello, Fondamenta Sant’Anna, far from tourist and main attractions. It looks (and is) like an authentic neighbourhood cake shop with no sitting down and just stand up or take away delicious pastries. Lovely meringhe and tiramisu’. Closed on Monday.
Pasticceria Tonolo is THE place to go for the Carnival frittelle. Veneziane, alla crema, allo zabaione..one more delicious than the other. The shop is small and usually crowded of people waiting for a coffee and a piece of cake, but it definitely worth a visit. I love the thin small caps in which they serve espresso, and I am madly in love with their ricotta cake. Closed on Monday and Sunday afternoon, located between the Basilica dei Frari and Campo Santa Margherita.
Pasticceria Bucintoro is one of the oldest pasticceria in Venice, still located in its original place, near Calle del Scaleter, in the Sestiere di Cannaregio near Campo San Polo. The scaleti were very thin, crispy wafers and the Scaleteri were the scaleti makers becoming in time a synonym of pasticcere (pastry chef). Now Gino, the kind owner, and his staff prepare delicious traditional Venetian and more in general Italian cakes. Try their frittele veneziane or alla crema in Carnival period, their cookies or croissant all the year while drinking an espresso or a cappuccino for breakfast (remember, no cappuccino after 11 am). Closed on Monday
Pasticceria Rizzardini opened in 1742 and you can still feel the traditional atmosphere of the old Venice. It is small, busy, without tables and toilette, but have one of their krapfen (cream puff) is the best way to start the day. There is where you have to go to try a good zabaione –have a fiamma allo zabaione or the frittelle allo zabaione during Carnival. Very good also the cake with coconut and chocolate and the hot chocolate is superbe. In Campiello dei Meloni near Campo San Polo.
Rosa Salva is an iconic patisserie in Venice and the largest city’s cake makers, born in 1870. Well know for catering and banqueting it is also a very good place for breakfast, snacks and aperitivi. The main shop is in Calle Fiubera, near San Marco and they have branches in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, on the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, near San Salvador, inside Palazzo Grassi and inside Palazzo Franchetti. The shop near San Mark (closed on Sunday) is the most furnished in pasties and snacks, especially Venetian. Mind that prices: there, as almost everywhere in Venice, it can change a lot if you decide to have your coffee and croissant sitting at the table. If you just stand on the counter, for coffee and croissant you will pay 2€, 2.20€ max. If you sit down, you’ll see the bill duplicate.
Marchini Time in Campo San Luca, near Rialto and also San Marco is the ideal place for breakfast or a snack if you are in the city centre, hungry and not willing to spend your monthly salary for a cappuccino. No tables, just the counter, very busy, but the staff is always fast and very kind. The pastry chef is the same from 1954 and prepares delicious pastries with crema Chantilly and fragoline (ideal for the afternoon snack together with a coffee), croissant with raspberry marmalade (to try for breakfast together with a cappuccino) and traditional Venetian cookies (perfect at every hour of the day). Closed on Tuesday.
Torrefazione Marchi is where you go for a really good coffee. It not a pasticceria and there you’ll find just coffee, nothing more, and even so you’ll have an embarrassing wealth of options. Ice coffee with handmade cream, coffee with coconut and chocolate, cappuccini with nutella, coffee with amaretti cream and creamy milk, or just a good espresso made with their special blend called Caffe della Sposa.
Pasticceria Gobbetti in Dorsoduro, near Ponte dei Pugni is the place to go for the best chocolate mousse in Venice.Exclusively homemade chocolates of all sorts, prosecco or zabaione cakes, creamy tiramisu’ and unusual bite size pastries like the pumpkin cup or the pears cup. Their set piece is the so called Bomba, a chocolate covered chocolate mousse, no other comment needed.
Gelatoteca Suso prepares a beautiful, delicious biological, artisanal ice-cream. Lots of people think it is the best ice-cream in Venice. Well, I haven’t tried all the gelaterie in Venice so I can’t say if it is true, but I can say for sure is that their dark chocolate and the salted pistachio is to die for. Standing out among the ice creams is the king, the panino Suso, a panino made of artisanal panettone al mandarino tardivo filled with vanilla ice-cream. You can choose the panettone and the ice-cream you like more but the slightly bitter taste of the mandarino tardivo perfectly embrace the sweet, creamy vanilla. In Calle della Bissa near Rialto.
Gelateria Grom is a company born in Torino, now with shops all around Italy (and the world). Usually commercial companies tend to have worst quality but Grom keeps a great high quality using only seasonal, fresh ingredients, biological eggs and milk. I love their pistacchio and the fruit tastes, so fruity! Shops in Strada Nuova, in Campo dei Frari, and Campo San Barnaba.