The city of Venice has a long and fascinating history that's heavily reflected in its cuisine. A mirror to the flavourful culture and travel, Venetian food is kaleidoscopically compared to most other Italian food. But what exactly makes Venetian food so special? Head Chef Federico Destro and Partner Barney Bako at Bàcaro explore Venice's rich culture (and food).
A quick introduction to Venetian cuisine
Chef Federico Destro explores how Venice's long and fascinating history is heavily reflected in its cuisine.
The Influence of The Adriatic Sea
Venice is a city nestled in the Adriatic Sea. Fresh seafood is a cuisine staple for this place, and the city is known for its delicious dishes. Outside of the U.S., this is one of the only places where soft-shell crabs are routinely gathered and eaten. Step inside any good Venetian restaurant and experience the freshest ingredients.
Federico tells us: "It all started in Venice. The city of the water, the city of my mind, my heart, my home. It's magical."
Bàcaro Menu Highlight: Experience quintessential Venetian seafood with “Gamberi in Saor”, Venetian-style sweet ‘n sour red shrimp.
Trading Influences Taste
So, water makes Venice a special place, but what else?
Venetian dining is a dialogue between cultures and the interpretation of that conversation in flavours. And, to get to the heart of the matter, we must dig deep into the city's unique history.
Once known as the market to the world, Venice flourished through naval trading between the Middle East and Europe as early as the 12th century. And there were few types of trade more lucrative than the spice trade.
In Venice, cinnamon, saffron, ginger, and pepper all came into their own in the cuisine. And as their prevalence grew, spices were used to enhance the flavour of the fresh ingredients to hand.
This exotic, fragrant seasoning is still in some dishes to this day – a hallmark of the cuisine that separates Venice from its counterparts in Italy.
Federico expands: “Historically, Venice was the Emporium of European spices. Venetian cuisine today is a storybook of food, culture, and spices.”
Bàcaro Menu Highlight: A journey with every bite; Try the Lobster Croquettes with Saffron aioli.
The Seeds of Many Grasses
The trades with the East also bore another fruit for the Venetians: rice. Venice is now somewhat renowned for its risotto dishes, often paired with fresh seafood. However, rice was only sometimes a staple.
When rice first blessed the streets of Venice, it was sold in grains and counted one by one; such was the exorbitant price. Luckily, these days, rice is a luxury served in many restaurants.
On risotto, Federico says, "Rice dishes are a specialty of Venice, and risotto is no exception. The secret for a good risotto is a great stock."
Bàcaro Menu Highlight: Squid ink risotto is a classic Venetian dish.
The Liquid of Life
And what city is without alcohol? Scattered throughout Venice, you could pick up a quality wine from one of the many malvasias (old wine cellars) in days gone by. Indeed, Venice's Rialto Bridge was once surrounded by small wine bars called bàcari (and, yes, you guessed it, a single wine bar is a bàcaro).
These wine bars simultaneously influenced two critical concepts in Venetian food and drink that we know (and love) today.
First, they added small nibbles to their menus to keep people drinking for a bit longer. And thus, Cicchetti was born – a staple of any Venetian restaurant!
On Cicchetti, Federico says, "It's not the classic huge dishes. Instead, you have all small plates so people can share, and you can order many different courses... Sharing is the best way to eat."
Chef Federico Destro
Next, and sometime later, a drink was devised to appease some Austrian travellers, there on diplomacy, who found the wine too strong for their liking. The drink these Austrian diplomats had accidentally created later became the Venetian Spritz.
On drinks, Partner and Founder Barney Bako explains the history of Bacaro's own wine (which they serve by the glass or by the bottle, as an exclusive wine created just for the restaurant): "You can taste all the layers of this wine on your palette – just like our restaurant, it has all these layers of complexity."
Bàcaro Menu Highlight: The Venetian Spritz is not to be missed!
The Best Venetian Cuisine Outside of Venice
Few can boast comparable quality as Bàcaro, Grand Cayman, BWI.
With an outstanding range of delicate yet flavourful dishes, it's easy to see why this restaurant is a stalwart with travellers and locals alike. Fresh, local ingredients combine classic Venetian flavours and more than a little innovation to produce an exquisite menu.
Unlike traditional Venetian bàcaro (most of which don't even have tables!), Bàcaro offers full seating and excellent service in several different environments, all within the same venue.
So, whether you're seeking a waterfront view or a relaxed lounge area, Bàcaro has it all.