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Looking for great vegetarian food in Venice

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I'm visiting Venice in May with a vegetarian friend. (I eat seafood but not meat).
My friend does not eat meat or fish (i.e she is a 'proper' veggie - she also avoids eggs but dairy is OK).
I've visited Venice several times before and know some great seafood places - but I don't know of anywhere that either does both great seafood AND veggie, or specializes in veggie food only.
We are happy to go well off the beaten track - in fact we'd prefer to.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Alla Zucca is a great place with a number of fine vegetarian dishes (which tend to be rich as well as delicious). They are not fish oriented tho they do offer some fish dishes); a few of of their veg dishes (I am thinking of the famous zucca (pumpkin flan) do contain eggs .

    Apart from that restaurant, most restaurants in Venice offer primarily seafood (a few specialize in meat) - so that your friend will have to put her meals together from the appetizer, contorni and primi (soup-pasta-risotto) part of the menu.i Of the contorni (veg sides) there should be a lot of wonderful asparagus. peas greens, fresh salad ingredients etc at that season) and veg pastas and risottos in addition to the ubiquitous pasta with tomato sauce should be available.Risi e bisi (peas) is a famous venetian dish tho the incidence of risotto on venetian menus appears to be dropping. Just be aware that risotto is going to be made with broth. Having travelled with a vegan daughter in Venice I have to say that Venetians (as well as Italians and French generally) are not into a vegan or vegetarian sensibility and vegetarians are not routinely catered to - it can be hard if you are not willing to make a few compromises and ignore possible orthodox issue (the broth for example).

    PS eating at bacari (wine bars) also might work for you - though many of the bar snacks they sell are fish-based, a lot of them are vegetable-based, and you can see what you are getting and pick and choose.

    Good luck, and hope you report back.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jen kalb

      ..of course, salads, side dishes.... silly me.
      Broth IS an issue - I can detect chicken stock at 50 paces, and I think my friend can too. But salad and desert will see us through! And cheese. And pizza. And a glass of Venetian hot chocolate (assuming it is served in May) is a meal in itself.

    2. It is pretty easy to be a vegetarian in Italy. I would try the cichetti or bacari tapas style restaurants. Also, the jewish quarter has several places to choose from.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Campania

        Campania, I wish I could agree with you. On the first point, I think it matters how much of a purist you are - if you are willing to turn a blind eye to cooking methods you will be ok. Italy is a great country for vegetables and vegetable dishes but they dont always keep the meat out of it or for a vegan, the dairy. The pasta fagiole in naples? woops. You may not see it but you can taste the pork.

        On the second point, Gam Gam, the main ghetto restaurant is pretty bad. Id rather sit and munch fruit on the street than eat there again. There have been more middle eastern restaurants opening, as well as more restaurants from other regions, including an interesting looking So. Italian one on one of the streets ear the Ghetto which could well have good vegetable dishes. Its worth looking up in the Scibilia book. Pizza is also always an option (tho it must get boring eventually for a veggie) and we've enjoyed the pizza at a number of Venice spots .

        1. re: jen kalb

          I think the point is to ask how the food is prepared and what ingredients are in it. I was a vegetarian for 6 years in Italy. No meat, but would occasionally eat cheese and I never had a problem because I asked, but thanks for your input. In terms of the Jewish quarter, I haven't eaten at Gam Gam so I can't comment, but I have eaten at a few places and thought it was just fine for something different.

      2. Your willingness to eat at restaruants well off the beaten track will bring up its own set of issues. The further off the beaten track you eat, the less likely you'll encounter someone who speaks English. How good is your Italian? I recommend you fortify youself by writing down a few useful phrases that you can use in restaurants.

        Many years ago, I was traveling in Rome with a Vegan who managed to eat, albeit with lots of repetition, by relying on the word "senza" (without). She didn't eat cheese so a lunch-time order might be, "Pizza senza formaggio." "Melone senza proscuitto." or "Melone solo."

        1. I was plowing through my copies of BON APPETIT and GOURMET trying to find an article about Mario Battali's visit to Emilia-Romagna. We hope to get in a bit more sightseeing than did Mario, but we're really looking forward to good eating. I had no luck finding the article. If anyone knowswhere I can find it online or if anyone will post the names of the restaurants he visited in Bologna, Ferrara, Parma, and Modena, I'd appreciate it greatly. (Bear with me. I really will get to the subject line of this thread!)

          During my hunt, I located an Epicurious.com recommendation for a restaurant in Venice for vegetarians:
          Bentigodi (AKA Osteria da Andrea)
          Cannaregio 1423
          Callesele
          041-716-269

          "Bentigodi (also known as Osteria da Andrea) is a great choice for vegetarians. It offers superfresh seasonal vegetables such as Sant'Eurasmo artichokes, Treviso radicchio, winter squash, or asparagus from the nearby Rialto market, treated with the same respect usually reserved for fish and seafood. Look for these Venetian classics: pasta with squid, gnochetti with fish sauce, braised cuttlefish, liver with onions, or sausage — all paired with polenta. Try ricotta with berries and chestnut honey or panna cotta for dessert. The decor is rustic and understated. The wine list is a joy, mostly from Veneto and Friuli."

          Closed Sunday