Stefania Colecchia
Article by Stefania Colecchia

Fritola: a very Venetian word and a delicatesse!

for all of us! The Association Bestveniceguides invites you to learn about a very Venetian tradition: this recipe can be found in any family. It is also true that now not so many people cook them in their houses, but they are extremely popular. Who has not eaten a fritola in Venice?

This recipe is first mentioned in the Libro di cucina del secolo XIV, a collection of 135 recipes. They were not originally made with sugar and they had no yeast.

a temting selection of 'fritole' in a window
a tempting selection of ‘fritole’ in a window

What is a fritola made of? Sugar, flour, eggs, raisins and pine nuts (pinoli): then you fry them in deep oil. It is a pasta similar to bignè, as found in another recipe from the 16th century. According to a new fashion they can be filled instead with cream or zabaione sometimes even with ricotta, apples or chocolate, in this case they are richer and yummy.

yummy fillings of 'fritole' in a window
yummy fillings of ‘fritole’ in a window

You can eat them in the Carnival, but also in other times of the year, for instance during the Festa della Salute in November. They were prepared in huge amounts. Now we also have a local championship to state which is the best fritola in which category.

It is also a spicy word, but not vulgar at all, mentioning the secret love garden to be reached in love entertainments, synonymous to call a woman’s treasure. But in the Venetian dialect if you are called fritola, may be it is because you are complaining, you are being fussy and naughty. So you can hear the saying: Do not be a fritola, please!

What else is more enjoyable in life than good food and love? Venice was absolutely renowned for these experiences.

In the 18th century we had a renowned artist named Pietro Longhi, who gave us a perfect representation of how desirable this street food was. His oil painting on a canvas to me is quintessential.

Pietro Longhi, the 'fritole vendor', Ca' Rezzonico
Pietro Longhi, the ‘fritole vendor’, Ca’ Rezzonico

You find it in the MUVE collections in Ca’ Rezzonico, the Museum for Art and Culture in the 18th century but it was originally in the Morosini private collection and before in the Grimani from Cannaregio Palace. We can pretend to listen to the conversation the characters are having in the year 1750: the lady vendor puts together a string of freshly made fritole and sells them to the elegant man in front of her. Probably he is going to offer this little treasure to the nice ladies visible in the back. There is also a boy carrying more fritole to be sold.

These vendors inherited their job and we preserve documents in the Venetian State Archive related to the guild created to protect their art: they prepared and sold their products at the same time.

different shapes of 'fritole'
different shapes of ‘fritole’

Let us meet and enjoy this simple pleasure here in Venice, then! See you soon.

Stefania Colecchia