Venice may not be particularly famous for its desserts, yet I find that there is something inviting almost at every corner and that in this city temptations chase you and not committing culinary sins can be a daunting task. From traditional dry biscuits to tiramisù, from buns and loaves to gelato, Venice really has it all.
Before delving into the actual tasting, I just want to remind you of the most known Venetian sweet treats, which are Baicoli biscuits, pinza (in Venetian pinsa, a poor cake made with dry bread, milk, sugar, eggs, raisins, dry fruit, apples and fennel seeds), the classic mascarpone cream served with spicy mustard and the above mentioned baicoli, and the world famous tiramisù (although the region Friuli Venezia Giulia obtained the legal paternity, the origin of this dessert was actually fought between Treviso and Venice (but Italian bureaucracy sometimes is really ridiculous!).
Anyway, here I share my favourite spots for bread, pastries, ice-cream, teas and coffees.
There is really nothing better than the perfume of freshly baked bread and croissants that comes out from bakeries and pastry shops early in the morning. It envelops you in a warm embrace that tastes of home, making you immediately hungry. Personally, I'm a creature of habits and the two bakeries I go to the most are Fratelli Crosera and Colussi. Fratelli Crosera has two small shops, one just before campiello Widman and the other in Salizada San Canzian. Here everything is really delicious. My everyday purchase is the filone integrale, a loaf of brown bread with seeds and walnuts to die for, perfect with anything even on its own; while when I want something to snack on I go for the croissants and the almond kieffels if I feel like sweet and for the square pizza (try rocket salad and stracchino cheese) when I feel like savoury. Their focaccia is mouthwatering too and the value for money is very good.
Colussi Il Fornaio,instead, is located close to campo San Luca and is the place to go to for special breads, homemade pasta, high quality flours and delicious biscuits and cakes. I am particularly fond of the pan del pescatore, a dry biscuit with hazelnuts, raisins and pine nuts that was used for long sea journeys, a must try. They also offer slices of fruit or chocolate cakes for about 2,50 euros and assortments of biscuits. With regard to the pasta, I suggest the stuffed ravioli and the gnocchi alla romana (buckwheat dumplings in Roman style), perfect baked in the oven with a little bit of butter, parmesan and pepper. Obviously their bread offer satisfies all tastes. Here I buy the small rosette with pumpkin seeds and the mini buns with chocolate chips. Another bakery I love is Baldin in Cannaregio, just before the Guglie bridge. Not sure if the best thing about it is the staff or the bread, I used to stop here everyday when I worked close by. Baldin offers delicious specialty breads and a wide assortment of pastries and savoury treats like fried bread, pizza, focaccia, delicious croissants and sweet breads. On Tuesday they make lasagna and on Fridays one of the best baccalà mantecato (creamed stockfish) in Venice. I recommend the dumplings too. Yum !!!
Another place I must add, although not a bakery, is Pizzeria Cip Ciap, a take-away pizza place in Calle del Mondo Novo between Santa Maria Formosa and San Lio, which, in my opinion, not only makes the best square pizza and savoury cakes (my favourite is the spinach and ricotta one), but also some incredibly delicious and buttery croissants and tarts. Excellent!!!!
This is a long one, in fact every pastry shop has its very own specialty, the one thing you go there for. Starting from my house, thus the Castello district, the first two that come to my mind are definitely Pasticceria Chiusso for anything with pastry dough, especially the apricot jam croissants, and Pasticceria Bonifacio in Calle degli Albanesi, literally two minutes from the Doges Palace, a super tiny historical pastry shop where I always eat the pizzette and savoury treats (my favourite is the small pizza with pastry dough, brie cheese and zucchini or radicchio, while my husband has the one with bread dough, tomato and anchovies). While, when I take the Strada Nuova in Cannaregio, a mandatory stop is Pasticceria Pitteri, close to Ca' D'Oro, where the leavened desserts are mouthwatering and the croissants more than special (I suggest the one with pistachio and the one with custard and jam). Another excellent pastry shop for what concerns leavened cakes is Dal Mas in Lista di Spagna, only two minutes from the train station.
If we go to the other side of the Grand Canal, in the Santa Croce district I suggest Pasticceria Gilda Vio in Rio Marin, where in summer it's also possible to sit outdoors (just standing in winter), while in the Dorsoduro district there are two very popular pastry shops: one is Tonolo, renown for its creams and, during Carnival, for its flat apple frittelle (fritters) and El Nono Colussi, the oldest oven in town, started in the 50s and still managed by the same family. The Nonno, grandfather, is the one who started it back then and continues to help his granddaughter who has taken over. Here you must try the deep fried cream kraftens and the focaccia. His focaccia is the most expensive in Venice, but you can get a small one for 2,50 and the coffee is very good too. Towards Rialto, instead, an excellent and historical pastry shop is Rizzardini, where I used to buy the salted almonds as a snack when I was still at university. Here the size of the pastries and the quality is incredible, my favourite is the ricotta and chocolate pastry but really... try whatever you fill like and consider that the savoury treats are mouthwatering too. Another must for Venetians is Pasticceria Targa in Ruga Rialto, where the quintessential experience is represented by the bread pizzetta, just perfect.
In Venice, differently from Ireland and the U.K., there aren't many tea-houses or places where you can have afternoon tea so, whenever I feel like relaxing with a good quality tea and a nice place of cake, sitting down, reading a book and without having to worry about time I go to Caco Nero and Fujiyama in Dorsoduro, Caffè Vergnano in Rialto -stunning location- and Caffè La Serra in Castello, a beautiful glass and iron greenhouse with a garden. A new entry, which is actually a super fancy wine and cocktail bar is Il Mercante in front of the Frari church, where in the afternoon you can enjoy a break with a slice of cheesecake and a tea or coffee.
If you are a chocolate lover, then you really ought to try Vizi e Virtù, which has a quite big laboratory and you can enjoy a nice slice of rigorously homemade desserts or pralines of all kinds... a bit pricey, but worth it!
For some reason I will have to admit that, unfortunately, where the pastries are good the quality of the coffee doesn't always match expectations. If you ask me, when it comes to the dark brown beverage to which I am totally addicted, the best places are Torrefazione Cannaregio in Rio Tera' San Leonardo, Caffè Doria in San Marco (just next to the Colussi bakery) and Caffe del Doge, the only one where you can sit down and take your time. The novelty, anyway, is the Torrefazione Cannaregio, which also produces other products with coffee and cocoa, like pasta, biscuits and coffee grains covered in chocolate!!!
Gelato, the supreme sweet Italian invention, invented in 1903 by the Italian Italo Marchioni and first patented in Washington D.C. The ice-cream scene is ever evolving, to the more traditional flavours nowadays so many creative combinations have been added and it is difficult to stay up-to-date. My favourite ice-cream shops in Venice are Suso, located in Sottoportico della Bissa, where you must try the Moro di Venezia flavour, the salted pistachio and the new entry Sepa, lemon and dark chocolate (seems absurd, but it is soooo good!); then I like Gelato Fantasy in Calle dei Fabbri, La Boutique del Gelato in Salizada San Lio, Il Pinguino in Castello, and finally Gelato Natura and Gelateria Alaska, especially the crushed-iced drinks with fresh fruit, in Santa Croce.