The annual Venetian Carnival is known for a lot of things, like the gorgeous masks you’ll see around town and the fun parties along the Grand Canal. But for the locals of Venice, it also means something very, very important: frittelle time!
Frittelle are sugary treats that are only available at this time of the year. Right after Epiphany (January 6), you’ll these tasty desserts start to appear in almost every bakery and pastry shop window throughout Venice. They’re small, deep-fried balls, similar in consistency to a doughnut, but fluffier, with raisins, pine nuts, and candied citron, and a sprinkling of sugar on top. They can be plain (called “Venexiana”) or filled with any cream mixture, from Chantilly cream to Nutella. Every shop has its own specialty, and the treat was once so famous in Venice as to be named the national dessert by the medieval Serenissima Republic, and could only be made by an authorised fritoler. This job was so exclusive that you could only become one if your father was one.
But enough with the history! Want to know where to eat these delicious treats? Here are five of our favourite places for finding these small balls of goodness. (And even if you’re not in Venice during Carnival, keep reading, as we’ve got some tips for making frittelle at home.)
Calle S. Pantalon Dorsoduro
If you are in the Dorsoduro area or near the university, Pasticceria Tonolo is a must. Immediately after lunch, it’s fully packed with students and residents treating themselves to a coffee and a frittella. Their specialty is with apples — the best version in town.
Calle del Papadopoli S. Polo
One of the oldest and best-known pastry shop in the city, Rizzardini is tiny inside but you’ll have enough space to come face-to-face with their frittella filled with cream. Oh, and while you there, have a look around by the door to find old signs from Venice’s high tides over the years.
Lista di Spagna Cannaregio
You arrived in Venice by train or your hotel is by the train station? You’re in luck, because along Lista di Spagna, hidden among all the souvenir shops, is one of our favourite bakeries: Pasticceria Dal Mas. Their frittelle filled with chocolate or Nutella is to die for! You’ll thank us later.
Ponte delle Paste Castello
This bakery is just few minutes away from Rialto Bridge, but tucked away from the main street. Just step in, order one of their fritelle venexiana along with a coffee and simply relax. Everything at Ponte delle Paste is made by in-house, and they also have a selection of super yummy vegan treats.
Calle degli Albanesi Castello
Away from the craziness of St. Mark’s Square is Bonifacio, a small pastry shop that sells the most amazing frittella with rum and chocolate cream. It’s called a Cubana, and trust me when I tell you it is pure sugar heaven!
While traditionally, you can only have frittelle in Venice, during Carnival, sometimes it’s okay to break tradition! If you have tried them and loved them, and want to recreate them at home (or if you haven’t been to Venice but want to try a taste), here’s a simple recipe for making your very own frittelle.
Mix the water, milk, butter, and flour in a deep pan and bring everything to a slow boil. Stir until it turns into a thick paste.
Remove the mixture from heat and mix in the remaining ingredients. (Warning: you’ll want it well-mixed, but don’t over mix or you’ll end up with a gummy paste).
Bring the oil to a boil and, using two tablespoons, make small balls from the batter and place them directly in the pan to deep-fry. Watch them carefully because they can easily burn. Once they’re golden brown, remove them and dry them on a piece of paper.
Serve with granulated sugar sprinkled on top. And most importantly, enjoy them while they are still warm!
Step into Giancarlo Tamburini’s shop, where he’ll tell you the stories behind the famous Venice Carnival masks.