Last Updated on December 20, 2023 by Laura Teso
Padua is my town so I’m always very happy to talk about her. I sometimes get asked: what to eat in Padua? Well, aduan cuisine stands out for its rustic simplicity, deep-rooted traditions, and emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.
What to eat in Padua
Spunciotti and wine or Spritz
They are nothing more than Venetian cicheti, except that in Padua they have a different name, spunciotti. That is, small tastes of different food, a sort of Veneto-style finger food. The word spunciotti refers to the fact that you have to spunciare (i.e. pierce) them with a toothpick. In short, the choice is more or less the same as what you can find in Venice: sweet and sour sardines, crostini with creamed cod, meatballs, tramezzini. Good stuff, in short.
And what can you accompany the snacks with? But with a glass of wine. Not me because I don’t drink. Local wines are from the Euganean Hills, located 20 minutes away from the center. But the most beloved drink is always a Prosecco from the neighboring city of Treviso.
The alternative to wine is the well-known spritz (prosecco, digestive bitter, and soda water). Which can have different variations. The main ones are two. The eternal struggle between Aperol and Campari (for a more or less light spritz). But there are also other versions, for example with Cynar.
You can find spunciotti, wine and spritzes in various places in town. I really like All’Ombra della Piazza in via Pietro d’Abano, 2 meters from Piazza della Frutta. More towards Saint Anthony Basilica there is Frascoli Bacaro, in via del Santo (precisely). Corte Sconta in via dell’Arco (in the Jewish Ghetto area, 1 minute from the squares) is also good. Below, Spritzs photographed by Spritz Federica Ariemma.
What to eat in Padua: Street food
Before we begin, always keep in mind that in Italy bar = café. What to eat in Padua when you’re looking for a quick bite?
- Tramezzini at the Nazionale Bar: What’s special about these tramezzini? Nothing, except that they are heated. But they’re very popular. I think the location has a lot to do with it. In fact, the bar is in Piazza delle Erbe, among the most beautiful in the center. You can sit at a table and admire the square, the market, the people passing by, the buildings.
- Folpetti (small octopuses): A few steps from the Bar Nazionale, you can find (only at certain times, check their Instagram account) a Paduan institution, La Folperia. It’s a little red kiosk in a corner of Piazza della Frutta. Here you can taste little octopuses and other specialties, mainly fish based. Max, Barbara and their helpers purchase the fish every morning atChioggia’s market and prepare it fresh.
- Porchetta sandwich at the Bar dei Osei: Next to the Folperia at the bar dei Osei (birds in Veneto, the name refers to the birds sale that took place here in ancient times) you can try their porchetta sandwich.
- Zita’s sandwiches: In via Gorizia, a stone’s throw from the squares, it is a tiny place with a couple of stools and an huge number of colored cards listing the names of the numerous sandwiches.
- Orsucci’s pizza: Close to Prato della Valle, and (unfortunately) only open in the evening from 5pm, it is another very small place with few seats (but very few, eh, like 8), where they make small but delicious pizzas. They are different from the usual pizzas, a mix between a pizza and a focaccia.
What to eat in Padua: main dishes at the restaurant
Paduan hen in saor
This is a dish that I love. It is usually served as an appetizer with some veggies. It is basically a boned Paduan hen cut into strips, cooked and then placed in a container in alternating layers with onion, pine nuts and raisins. The Paduan hen, characterized by its beautiful tuft, is also a Slow Food presidium. In the town center you can find it for example at the Osteria dal Capo in via Obizzi (it is not constantly on the menu so you should check). Not having any photos, I used the (splendid) one taken at the Trattoria Montanella in Arquà Petrarca by the photographer Alessandro Capuzzo.
Bigoli with duck sauce
Here’s another one of my favorite dishes. Bigoli are a type of pasta originating from Padua. It seems they were invented in the seventeenth century, based on soft wheat, eggs, water and salt. The condiments you will find most frequently in the area are “in salsa” (i.e. with sardines, which I don’t like, sorry) or with duck sauce/ragù. You may also find the wording “di corte or in the ancient manner”. It simply means that the meat is cut with a knife or shredded. You can find them practically everywhere in and around the city.
Risotto coi rovinassi or fegatini
It is a hearty risotto made with chicken livers (but also hearts and gizzards), onions, and spices, often served with grated Grana Padano cheese. You can (sometimes) find it at the Fuel Restaurant in Prato della Valle.
Goose in Onto
The goose in onto is another Slow Food presidium. It is a preparation of goose pieces (for example breast or leg) cooked with herbs, and a little red wine. Then placed in glass jars, covered with melted fat and hermetically sealed. It is a delicacy that unfortunately only two producers prepare nowadays, Michele Littamè in Sant’Urbano (Padua) and Agriturismo Mondragon in Tarzo (Treviso). I’ve tasted them both. Very different and both excellent. You can find the Goose in Padua at the Gourmetteria in via Zabarella or on the hills at the La Tavolozza restaurant. Warning: it is not always on the menu, it depends on season and availability.
Gran Bollito alla Padovana
You can find this dish only in a few restaurants (for example Da Giovanni in via Maroncelli) because it takes a long time to prepare it. It is basically a stew of various cuts of meat and different animals (veal, beef, cotechino, chicken, capon), accompanied by sauces. Not something I’m very fond of cause the parts are the less “noble”, such as tongue or head. It’s also a seasonal dish, that you can find in Autumn-Winter.
You can find it as an appetizer in most restaurants in town and surroundings. The actual name is Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo DOP but it is mostly known as Prosciutto di Montagnana. If you’re curious about this topic you can read about my visit to a prosciutto “factory”.
Sweets and desserts
What to eat in Padua when it comes to sweets and cakes?
Pedrocchi coffee with mint
It’s not a real dish but I couldn’t not include it. Caffè Pedrocchi is an espresso plus fresh mint cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. You can find at the historic and namesake Caffè Pedrocchi, a venue that dates back to 1831. Alternatively you can try their Zabaione Stendhal. It seems that the writer was fond of it when he was in Padua.
It is a Paduan cake which in my opinion takes its name from the fact that, being very elaborate, it takes a lot of patience to make it. The word pazientina comes in fact from pazienza, patience. It consistes of layers of Bresciana pastry (i.e. shortcrust pastry with almond flour), sponge cake soaked in liqueur and zabaglione, covered with sheets of gianduia. I tasted it at Pasticceria Graziati, in Piazza della Frutta.
Also here you can alternatively enjoy a slice of the famous Millefeuille. Yes, ok, it is not a typical Paduan dessert but I assure you that it is a very popular and beloved dessert in the city (the one from this pastry shop, I mean). To mention another love of Paduans in the confectionery field, I cannot fail to mention the tart with cream and wild strawberries (also available in a single-portion version) from the Pasticceria Tadiotto al Duomo, next to the city’s Duomo.
Dolce del Santo
I’m not crazy about it. It is the cake dedicated to Saint Anthony, who died in Padua on June 13, 1231. It includes amaretti sponge cake (that’s why I don’t like it, I don’t like the bitterness of amaretti), apricot jam and orange cubes. Below a photo by Pastry Shop Lilium al Santo along via del Santo.
If you’re interested to food and local dishes, you can now go to What to eat in Venice!