In this guest post, Nicoletta Fornaro from the Naturally Epicurean blog writes about a great day trip from Venice to Chioggia to enjoy local fresh seafood.
Venice, really, is all about the lagoon. While the rest of the Veneto region is about cities and countryside, we, Venetians, are people of the lagoon who live in and with the sea. It may seem very strange, this sort of isolation typical of Venice and its islands, but it is what makes us feel free and allows us to keep our traditions alive. In fact, despite the small size of both central Venice and the other islands, every place has its specific dialect, customs and traditions.
In the days of La Serenissima, Venetians were never fishermen, they could have been Capitan da Mar (Sea Captains) or sailors. Most fishermen came from the island of Pellestrina and Chioggia. In the Ship Pavilion, just next to the Arsenale in central Venice, you can see two old fisherman’s boats from Chioggia decorated with beautiful religious paintings. They have tiny covered wooden boats attached to them. That’s where fishermen would put the catch of the day in order to keep the fish alive (at the time, one could sell fish only if it was still alive).
In Venice, the Rialto fish market is closed on Sunday and Monday, while in Chioggia it is closed only on Monday. So, one Sunday, my husband and I went to Chioggia to eat fresh fish and see the town. Venice can get very crowded in this summer period, especially at the weekend, so escaping somewhere beautiful is always a pleasure for us.
We left early, mostly to avoid the heat and the big crowds that –rightly – are going to the beach. After about an hour and ten minutes, we arrived to Chioggia and headed to Bacaro Le Sirene for a coffee.
The main street, Corso del Popolo, is large and with beautiful porticos on the right, studded with old and new shops and many bars. The fish market is on the left, small and covered with a red waterproof tarp. Smaller than the one in Rialto, the market is delightful. Here vendors sell what they fish locally, from gourmet treats like oysters and queen scallops, to mussels and sardines, all fresh and delicious.
We bought a big jar of marinated sardines (not anchovies, but sardines!) that we used to garnish our evening salad, so fat and tasty, incredible! It was the first time I saw sardines like this and I will definitely copy the idea.
After the market, we enjoyed another light spritz on the main road and then went off towards the canal. I was looking for a pastry shop called Ruggero, but, unfortunately, it was closed. It is said to be the best pastry shop in Chioggia and my intention was to ask them about the renowned torta chioggiotta, a typical cake made with radicchio (called the rose of Chioggia for its shape), carrots and hazelnut flour.
To recover from the disappointment, we went to Acquamarina for lunch, my all times favourite whenever I come to Chioggia. Acquamarina is a company of fishermen that in summer use three boats for culinary activities. The two bigger boats sail around Chioggia while tourists enjoy light fizzy table wine and fresh fish aboard. We had lunch on a boat, which was anchored on a fondamenta (a street with a canal on one side and houses on the other).
Don’t expect anything fancy, no silverware nor waiters in livery, but simple fresh food served by fishermen, a big long table where everyone sits together and chats with whoever is sitting next and house wine. If this doesn’t bother you, well… be prepared to eat heavenly things. We started with sarde in saor, a typical recipe consisting of fried sardines marinated with sautéed onions and vinegar, which were made in the old traditional way, this is with no pine nuts nor raisins. The quality of the sardines was excellent! Then we shared a plate of Chioggia-style sautéed mussels with onion and not – as we do in Venice – with garlic and, as a main course, we had pasta with seafood and tomato sauce. We drank some fizzy white wine and ended our lunch with a limoncello.
I was happy! I got to eat lots of Bussolai Chioggiotti – the roundish breadsticks, to distinguish from the sweet Bussolai biscuits from Burano – and meet a lovely family from a nearby town. We stayed there quite a while, enjoying the atmosphere and at the end paid €15 each for a 3-course meal.
Before heading back home, we stopped at Fronte del Porto and try fried cuttlefish that were praised in a national TV programme that I had watched. The cuttlefish was excellent!
Our day was wonderful, we couldn’t have asked for anything better: beautiful places, amazing food and great people. I highly recommend a day trip from Venice to Chioggia and try contacting Acquamarina for their full day on-boat experience!
Divertitevi e Buon Appetito amici!
How to reach Chioggia from Venice:
Reach the Lido island (from San Zaccaria take either line 1 or 5.2).
In Lido, take a bus number 11 (see timetable) and stay on it. When you get off, a vaporetto for Chioggia will be waiting for you!
Address: Calle Olivotti, 411, Chioggia
Try the Chioggiotta cake!
Address: Canal Lombardo, Chioggia
Fronte del Porto
Address: Fondamenta Canal Lombardo, 1429, Chioggia
Photos by Nicoletta Fornaro