The canals, the singing gondoliers, the crowds of pigeons and tourists in Piazza San Marco. These are the iconic images of Venice that you’ll see on all the postcards. But if you, like Jamie Oliver, center your trips around culinary exploration, the highlights of this romantic Italian city include spaghetti alle vongole, cuttlefish, fresh peach bellinis and tiramisu.
Join Jamie on his first-ever trip to Venice, and he’ll steer you clear of the tourist traps and into the delicious culinary traditions of Venezia. Jamie’s travel philosophy is simple: Eat like a local. “My advice is to go where they go, and eat what they eat,” he says on his website. “Don’t ask for dishes that have nothing to do with Venice! Look for local specialties like egg pasta, polenta, seafood, risotto and seasonal vegetables.”
Tourists usually walk through the Rialto fish market briskly to get to their next shopping destination. Jamie, however, stops to chat with a fishmonger, checks out the sweet vongole (clams) and gets down and dirty with the fresh cuttlefish to show us their briny black ink. Sure, the smell of the fish market is not for everyone, but don’t come to Venice without taking a moment to appreciate the amazing seafood on hand here.
Jamie gives the anti-tourist menu buzzwords to look out for in Venice. Pizza? No way. “That’s not even Venetian!” Think seafood, polenta, risotto, butter. Yep, in the Northern regions of this olive oil-obsessed country, they actually use butter quite often. Jamie stops by to cook with the “Risotto King” of Venice, who finishes his classic risotto bianco with a healthy knob of butter.
For a memorable trip to Venice that you’ll still be tasting when you return, follow Jamie’s lead and avoid the restaurants with English signs and fixed-price “menu touristici” lining the Grand Canal. Instead, seek out the indigenous dishes he highlights — risottos, fresh seafood, beef carpaccio. You could even (gasp!) skip that overpriced gondola ride.
Watch Jamie explore and prepare the food of Venice on Jamie’s Food Escapes, premiering Wednesday, February 16 at 8pm/7c on Cooking Channel.