Acqua e Mais: the real Venetian street food experience
When speaking about Italian street food, one can't deny that it is mostly fried!
In Venice too there has always been the tradition of fritoini, small fried food shops that used to serve fish in the so-called scartosso, a thick and brownish paper shaped as a cone. Until the 80s they were quite common, then they all closed and the last one to remain open was El Vecio Fritoin in Rialto, precisely in Calle della Regina, now an elegant restaurant.
In recent years, with the incredible increase in number of visitors, the trend changed and there has been a great diffusion of take-aways and fast-foods; luckily, in addition to the many ethnic stalls serving kebabs and Asian food, someone decided to recover this local tradition, focusing on authentic Venetian street food and using local produce, and one of these places is definitely Acqua e Mais.
Acqua e Mais opened about four years ago and is all about traditional and local dishes. Here you can grab something to eat walking or to take home. The street where it is located can get very busy, so if you want to sit down I suggest walking back to campo San Polo where there are some benches and some bins. Looking at their window can be overwhelming, so many good things to eat that choosing is not going to be easy.
Starting from the fried foods, I recommend the mixed fish with polenta, which includes sardines, calamari and prawns. The polenta is rigorously white, the yellow one was more common in the mainland and is better to accompany meat dishes, while in Venice it was white.
The banquet continues with potato croquettes, meatballs, aubergine fritters, roast chicken, fried vegetables and more. In Venice we say that anything fried tastes amazing, and in this case it is so true: everything results dry and crunchy, with no signs of greasiness.
At this point, I think I have to make a confession: I hardly ever eat fried food, I'm more on the healthy side (you know, lot's of greens and steamed or baked fish) it's Vittorio the one who indulges in such treats, so what I normally do at Acqua e Mais is take away a second course or a rice or spelt salad to eat at home. If you step inside you will see a nice window with more delicacies on display.
Expect more traditional dishes, like seppie in nero ( squids in their ink), octopus salad, baccalà mantecato (creamed stockfish), baccalà in umido (stewed cod), rice salads and sarde in saor (fried sardines marinated in vinegar and caramelized white onion).
This is great because with this kind of offer, this place can satisfy every palate and taste (and vegetarians too!!!). The value for money is excellent, just glance at their menu to get an idea, and the service special. The two Venetian boys (or should I say young men?) behind the counter work hard everyday and despite the long queues of people that everyday throng the campiello dei meloni to savour their food, they never fail to smile. Alvise is the one you will see more of, a gorgeous blond and very toned fellow who I believe has conquered many foreign hearts.
The fact they love football is evident from the Venezia team scarf hanging on the wall, black and green (the original colours of the Venice Venice team) with the addition of an orange stripe (the orange was added in 1987, when it was "fused" with Mestre). They also have the dictionary of Venetian dialect by Giuseppe Boerio! I love that book, it's very interesting because it gives a lot of historical details. I know some of you live in Venice, so assuming you are familiar with the Italian language, you can have fun learning more about our dialect at this link.
Anyway, Acqua e Mais is a great place to try if what you are looking for is authentic Venetian street food. Whether you choose to eat on the go or want to treat yourself to a non-cooking evening, I highly recommend stopping by. Friendly people, great food and excellent prices. Thumbs up!!!!
Address: San Polo, Campiello dei Meloni, 1411-1412, 30125 Venice
Phone: +39 041 296 0530
Opening hours: 9:30 am - 7:30 pm
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