Once upon a time, being a vegetarian or vegan in Italy meant cheese-less pizza and awkward ordering encounters. These days, it’s easier than ever to go meat-free in Italy’s top cities, and Venice is no exception. Plant-based options are becoming more widespread and chefs are getting inventive in catering to alternative dietary choices. While it’s not all kale smoothies and quinoa salads, healthy-eating is also becoming easier while travelling around Italy, which means visitors don’t have to compromise on taste or nutrition. (And if you’re self-catering, one of the best ways to keep costs low while eating vegetarian in Italy is focusing on fresh, seasonal produce. You can check out our guide to seasonal eating in Italy here.)
The spread of international cuisine has also resulted in greater variety, many of which focus more on vegetables, and less on meat. Indeed, you can find everything from Indian to Middle Eastern dishes around Venice at places like La Zucca and Frary’s. Of course, traditional Italian cuisine isn’t out of the picture either and there are a number of pizza and pasta dishes suited to both vegetarian and vegan diets. It’s just about knowing where to look.
This cosy little haven goes to show that you don’t have to compromise when following a vegetarian diet abroad. The oak panelled interiors complement the classic fare on offer and, with seating for no more than thirty five, the atmosphere is kept classically intimate. Although this restaurant isn’t exclusively vegetarian, there’s enough variety in the meatless dishes to fool you into believing it was. Vegetables take pride of place in their menu and, as its name suggests, their specialities focus on pumpkin (or ‘zucca’) based offerings, such as dreamy pumpkin flan and warming soup. They also have a number of authentic pasta-based dishes that cater to vegetarians, including a creamy tagliatelle with artichokes and pecorino cheese, or another whipped up with tomatoes and eggplant. With a huge wine list to peruse and zero compromise on taste, this is a great spot for vegetarians who still want to experience a classic Italian vibe. And for help deciding on the perfect wine pairing, take a look at our detailed guide to the best Italian wines.
Pizzeria L’Angelo is a unique spot that has plenty of satisfying options for both vegetarians and vegans. The store is essentially a counter-service and while it doesn’t cater for sit-downs, it’s perfect if you’re eating on the go. Boasting a number of vegetarian and vegan pizzas, Pizzeria L’Angelo also have a number of vegan sandwiches (which are specifically marked). For those opting for the pizza, the ‘normale’ size should be large enough (but we could easily finish off a large – they’re that good!). Located in the San Marco region, this is an ideal place to grab a bite before a day of sightseeing in legendary Venice, with The Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica conveniently nearby. It’s also suited to those who are wary of spending too much eating out, with sandwiches starting at just €3. The only thing you need to be careful about is where you take your food, keeping in mind the ban on eating on certain Italian streets.
Had your fill of pizza and pasta and want to try something different during your stay in Venice? Then Frary’s will come as a welcome reprieve. With a focus on mediterranean food, there’s a good selection on the menu for vegetarians and vegans alike, while the staff are also usually willing to adapt other menu items as well. Try a bite of their classic homemade falafel with hummus or go for the appetising vine leave dolmades accompanied by a side of creamy tzatziki. Above all Frary’s specialises in wholesome and nutritious fare, and compared to what you’ll pay elsewhere around Venice, it isn’t particularly expensive either. The restaurant itself eschews an intimate interior. Eastern inspired wall art sets the mood and the plates designs are in keeping with the tablecloth-classic vibe. Nestled in lovely San Polo next to the iconic Frari church it’s perfect for a filling dinner after a day of exploring the city on foot.
Ghimel Garden is a homely Jewish restaurant nestled in the Cannaregio quarter of Venice, or the ‘Venetian ghetto’. Because it’s a kosher restaurant, its well catered for vegetarians and vegans with a separate menu solely dedicated to meat-free options. Choose between potato gnocchi, eggplant & zucchini concha, gazpacho and vegetarian takes on classic dishes. Their ordinary pizza menu also has plenty of options for vegetarians to indulge in, including mushroom topped delicacies and a range of various cheeses. Perfect for a relaxed meal in a cosy environment, this restaurant focuses on homemade comforts, another great spot after a day of lots of walking when you find yourself in need of filling fare. Their dessert menu is also well crafted with everything from fresh fruit and sorbet, to panna cotta and dreamy tiramisu, to tempt the health conscious and indulgence seekers alike. You can also splash out on their enticing array of cocktails. (Or if you decide to re-create them after, take a look at our recipes for the best cocktails for summer in Italy).
A charming spot located on the quiet square of Campo drio la Chiesa, Fiumefreddo Bio is a vegetarian eatery bursting with goodness. Their menu centres on freshly made, organic food with plenty of options for vegans, too. Apart from the delicious dishes, the draw of this place comes from the quaint atmosphere that feels more like stopping by a neighbour’s house for dinner rather than a typical restaurant. Considering all of their food is made freshly on-site that day, they have an impressive variety of healthy and organic dishes. Think quinoa meatballs and vegan burgers, with plenty of twists on more classic Italian-style dishes. They also serve vegan wine. (Though you might think the grape-based drink would be vegan-friendly, many popular wines are actually made using animal products so this will come as a relief for those who don’t want to miss out on La dolce vita while in Italy!) Indeed, despite its focus on vegetarian cuisine, Fiumefreddo Bio provides a very authentic Italian dining experience, with an emphasis on vibrant flavours, fresh ingredients in a warm and welcoming environment. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or simply looking for a unique spot, every foodie should stop by this eatery while visiting Venice.
La Tecia Vegana
La Tecia Vegana is one hundred percent vegan with a mission to revisit classic dishes to suit a plant-based lifestyle. A restaraunt that should be high on every vegan’s radar while in Venice, this spot wins the creative cuisine award for vegetarian and vegan dining in Venice. Among their many inventive dishes are ‘fake fish’ and purple ‘gnocchi di patate al pesto viola’. Of course, they also have some more recognisable vegan dishes including tofu salads and burgers. Very much in keeping with their fresh take on well-known dishes, the style of the restaurant itself is a homage to classic Italy with a red awning outside and the ambience of a traditional Italian eatery within. Gluten-free options are also available and widely catered for. What’s more, while vegans usually have to content themselves with one option (if any) on a dessert menu, La Tecia Vegana proves a happy exception. It boasts a huge choice of vegan goodies to choose from, including cannoli and raw cashew pistachio cake.
Cocaeta is one of the top places to stop by in Venice for a crêpe. Due to its small size, this shop runs as a take-away only with no tables and chairs, so it’s an ideal spot for an on-the-go snack. (Although this really depends on what you get for fillings, as they can be generously stuffed!) The base of the crêpes are vegan, with no animal products used. That said, there are meat options so don’t assume you can choose anything. With plenty of filling options both savoury and sweet, there’s something for everyone here. Because this is a one-man operation, who makes all crêpes to order, there can be a long line at peak (and even off-peak) times. But if you’re not in a hurry, these crêpes are certainly worth the wait. Some of the varieties to choose from include mushroom and spinach or chocolate and banana, although there’s such a variety to choose from, you can really let your imagination run wild! (Ricotta and chocolate, anyone?). Cocaeta runs out of normal business hours and varies depending on the day of the week, so it’s worth checking their Facebook page to plan ahead.
The inside scoop on… vegan gelato!
While vegetarians won’t find themselves wanting when it comes to Italian desserts, vegans, however could run into some trouble. One of Italy’s most iconic desserts, gelato, for instance is the Italian answer to ice-cream, and is usually made with milk. Literally meaning ‘something frozen’ gelato is churned at a lower speed than regular ice-cream which results in a thicker density. Moreover while ice-cream is made for long-term storage, so it’s more fully frozen with a higher fat content. Gelato on the other hand is frozen quickly in small batches. That means it’s much fresher and higher-quality. Fortunately, a number of gelaterias in Italy have begun catering to plant based diets, which means vegans don’t have to miss out on this iconic Italian speciality. One of the best spots to pickup some delicious gelato in Venice is Suso Gelatoteca. They have some mouth-watering flavours of vegan gelato (and plenty more besides!). Some other great spots to check out for a heavenly taste of vegan gelato in Venice are Gelateria al Sole in Dorsoduro and Gelato Fantasy in San Marco. Just be sure to save some room after all the delicious vegetarian options above! And if you’re on the hunt for more delicious gelato on your travels, check out our guide on where to find the best gelato in Italy.