Taste your way through the ‘City of Canals’ on a street food tour

Travels with Deb
November 14, 2022 at 6:00 a.m.
Photo by Debbie Stone
Photo by Debbie Stone

...by DEBBIE STONE

Food tours are one of the best ways to get to know a city. I like to take them not only to learn about the regional cuisine, but to get to know the area from a local’s perspective. It’s a meld of food, history, culture and geography. Plus, an extra bonus is the exercise you’re getting while walking.

Photo by Debbie Stone

On a recent trip to Italy, I joined a “Get Your Guide Street Food Tour of Venice.” Our guide Silvia led us through lovely squares, past impressive churches and other historical highlights and to various produce and fish markets. We sampled traditional foods, while hearing all about the “City of Canals” and its colorful past.

As we strolled through a number of the picturesque squares, Silvia explained that these squares are “campos” and not piazzas. She noted there’s only one piazza in Venice – Piazza San Marco. But there are many campos. Like most people, I assumed the two were the same, but the difference is that a campo was once a field, whereas a piazza was never a field.

When you get off the main touristy sections of Venice, you’ll discover the more peaceful side of the city and get a glimpse into everyday life in this fascinating town. Children play in the street, clothes hang outside the windows to dry, women shell fava beans on the steps and neighbors chat amongst themselves. It’s here where you’ll discover the shops, cafes and markets often frequented by residents.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The food tour included tastings at five places. The first stop was at Casa del Parmigiano, a traditional family-run shop that’s been in existence since 1936. You’ll find cheese, glorious cheese, plus meats, regional fruits, oils and balsamic vinegars and wines. We sampled some Montasio cheese and Nostrano salami.


Photo by Debbie Stone

Montasio is an Italian cheese originally produced in the 13th century by Benedictine monks at their monastery in the mountains north of Venice. Made with cow’s milk, this cheese is delicious at whatever its age. We enjoyed it in several stages of maturation. The Nostrano salami is traditionally made with the finest quality pork thigh meat. It’s seasoned with several spices and is mild with a touch of sweetness.


Photo by Debbie Stone

Our next stop was Do Mori, a small, dimly lit bácaro or Italian pub, that accommodates about ten people standing up. It’s the oldest bácaro in Venice, founded in 1462, and reputed to have been one of Casanova’s favorite hangouts. Do Mori serves seasonal homemade cicchetti, or Venetian tapas, and wine. It’s an old school place with a cozy, dim lit interior, adorned with wine barrels, old photos on the walls and antique copper pots hanging from the ceiling. No chairs, no tables, just a long wooden bar, where people stand and eat, drink and socialize.


Photo by Debbie Stone

We sampled the cicchetti, of which there was an ample selection – everything from fried meatballs to crostini topped with sardines, shrimp and zucchini, roasted pumpkin with brie, prosciutto with honey and peppercorns, calamari with eggplant and more. And there were also tramezzini, crustless oversized sandwiches stuffed with deli meats, cheese, veggies, tuna and the ever-popular baccala mantecato or salted codfish simmered in milk and whipped into a creamy mousse. I think the latter is an acquired taste, which I have yet to acquire!


Photo by Debbie Stone

At Mauro El Forner, the aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries fills the air. This well-known bakery is more than eighty years old and boasts the experience of four generations of bakers. They use only the highest quality products and maintain traditional artisan techniques. And they make over fifty types of bread plus a variety of Venetian sweets. We tasted Sfogliatine, a typical cookie from the region. The Italian word sfoglia means sheets, which describes the layers of puff pastry dough in the cookies. They are then coated with an apricot glaze and baked to a crisp for a light, not too sweet, delicious treat.


Photo by Debbie Stone

Our fourth stop was at Basegone, a bar, ciccheteria and winery. In addition to the wonderfully innovative cicchetti, this establishment specializes in spritzes, from Aperol and Selecta to Campari and Cynar. Aperol spritz is the most popular and you’ll see tourists and locals alike drinking the neon orange libations everywhere in Italy. I liked each of the spritzes except for Cynar, which is very herby and artichoke-based.


Photo by Debbie Stone

The tour ended at award-winning Gelateria al Doge. Tucked in a corner of the Campo San Toma neighborhood, the shop has a walk-up window where you order your gelato. Choosing your flavor, however, can be a process, as there are more than fifteen flavors available – all homemade, of course. If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll be in heaven, as they have eight versions of chocolate, like the signature Crema di Doge, a candied orange and chocolate melt in your mouth concoction or the spicy chocolate (with pepper!) or dark-pink Himalayan salt and cocoa. And if you’d rather drink your gelato through a straw, the shop blends a variety of milkshakes. And there’s traditional Sicilian granita, too.


Photo by Debbie Stone

As I walked away, I murmured, “Gelato, amore mio, I wish we could always be together!”

Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries spanning all seven continents, and her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications.

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