Rialto Market

Lonely Planet review

Cutting-edge restaurants worldwide are catching on to a secret that Rialto markets have kept out in the open for 700 years: food tastes better when it’s fresh, seasonal and local. More vital to Venetian cuisine than any top chef are the fishmongers at the Pescaria . This is any foodie’s first stop in Venice to admire Venetian specialities in the making: glistening mountains of moscardini (baby octopus), crabs ranging from tiny moeche (soft-shell crabs) to granseole (spider crab), and inky seppie (squid) of all sizes. Sustainable fishing practices are not a new idea at the Pescaria, where marble plaques show regulations set centuries ago for minimum allowable sizes for lagoon fish. But read stall placards carefully, and you’ll notice seafood flown in from Latin America and Asia, and trawled, endangered bluefin tuna on offer alongside line-caught lagoon fish. Keeping up with gourmet demands isn’t easy, given depleted Mediterranean fish stocks. But savvy diners can make a difference: note the freshest, line-caught lagoon seafood here, and you’ll recognise tasty, sustainable options on dinner menus. Compared with the tame specimens you’d find at your average supermarket, the Veneto veggies on canalside produce stands look like they just landed from another planet. Tiny purplish Sant’Erasmo castraure (baby artichokes) look like alien heads, white Bassano asparagus is eerily spectral and radicchio trevisano (bitter red chicory) looks like a mutant Martian flower. Even familiar food goes wild here: suggestively shaped tomatoes and red peppers seem very fresh indeed, and those saucy little strawberries could make grown men cry.