Italy is often mistakenly though off as not very vegan-friendly, considering its deep love of cheese and the ubiquitous presence of cured meats, sausage, ham and seafood in local cuisines around the country. The truth is, however, that it’s easy to eat plant-based in Italy because it’s truly rich in fresh veggies and fruits, nuts, and grains.
Venice welcomes millions of tourists each year and hence, you need to navigate the ‘tourist traps’ and find the real hidden gyms. Definitely avoid any place that has a menu translated into more than just English or that displays a special ‘menu turistico’ – you don’t want to eat there even though you could find a vegan option by just asking for pasta with tomato sauce.
One of the best hidden gems in Venice is the Ghetto Ebraico, the Jewish quarter, that is home to the 5 synagogues within 3 tiny islands and also, to some delicious Jewish food. Gam Gam is my absolute favorite eatery and you will see a ton of locals. The kosher restaurant does not serve any dairy (hence kosher), and has an extensive menu with vegan dishes such as a Venetian eggplant platter and fresh hummus with mushrooms, served with oh so deliciously warm bread.
If you are taking a boat to Burano, which you absolutely should as it is home to the beautifully colorful little homes, you have to stop at Via Rosa. This place is written up in the Michelin Guide and has no official vegan options on the menu. But when I asked the waiter if they could make me something ‘vegan’ he said, ‘absolutamente’ and they whipped up the best fresh pasta and veggie dish I have ever eaten. (Yes, I’ve eaten a lot of vegan veggie pasta, so imagine that!!)
Another boat trip away is the little island of Mazzorbo and on it, you can find Venissa. Venissa has 2 Michelin stars and not for nothing–it’s an incredible culinary place, with Vineyard, a fancy restaurant, and a more casual Osteria. Again, while specifically marked vegan options are not on the menu, they will make their magic work and serve you an incredible dish if you ask for it. They made me the freshest veggie salad as an appetizer and an incredible sweet pumpkin dish as a main, with a pumpkin cream and freshly baked warm bread. Truly divine!
If you are looking for a quick snack, definitely go to the Rialto market early in the morning. Before 10am is best as you will avoid the tourist crowds and shop with the locals. When I was in Venice, both cacis (a kind of persimmon) and figs were in season. I also binged on fresh grapes–careful, they have seeds in Europe ;D
Another great street snack is a little bag of freshly roasted chestnuts. You will only find them in Fall and Winter but they make a nourishing, warm and filling bite for long days of walking around the Serenissima.
If you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, definitely visit Stringhetto–they sell chocolate covered oranges and ginger, as well as a variety of vegan truffles. They also sell incredible flavors of jam – all 100% fruit, no added sugar. My favorite is the pumpkin ginger–definitely pick up a jar to enjoy back home!
Have you been to Venice?
Also by Isabelle: The Most Delicious Vegan Eats In Miami
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Photo: Isabelle Steichen