It can be a little tough to find Italian food in Venice that’s good, authentic, and doesn’t break the bank. That’s why we want to let you in on a little secret: Venice’s cicchetti tradition. (And stay tuned for a later post on our favorite restaurants in Venice!).
Pronounced “chee-KET-eeh,” cicchetti are Venice’s answer to Milan’s aperitivo and to Spain’s tapas. They’re small plates of food, usually nibbled over glasses of wine and among friends in the evening or at lunchtime. Served at bàcari (“BAH-car-eeh”), small, local bars hidden all over Venice, they’re also cheap, ranging from about €1 to €3. What’s on offer depends on the place; some bàcari lean toward fried offerings, while others specialize in fresh fish, meats, cheeses… the list goes on.
Try it as a pre-dinner nibble, or make a whole meal out of it by ordering several plates. We like the idea of a cicchetti “crawl” ourselves. Especially because your meal of cicchetti probably comes cheaper, better, and in a more local atmosphere than food in most restaurants in Venice! (Want to really make the most of cicchetti, and other local food traditions, in Venice? Then don’t miss our new Venice food tour, including cicchetti tastings and a trip to the Rialto fish market!).
Some tips: First, for an evening cicchetti crawl, make sure you start early (at about 6pm), since many bàcari close at 8pm or 9pm. Of course, if you’re just getting used to the Italian tradition of eating at 8 or 9pm, then that earliness might not be so bad!
Second, if you’re someone who can’t stand crowds or the possibility of having to wait in line and/or stand while eating, then be prepared to sacrifice—or at least seek out bàcari that are off the beaten path. Bàcari are where Venetians come to socialize and relax, and some of the more popular places, including those listed below, can get quite packed… which we think adds to your people-watching potential, but can be a little frustrating if you were hoping for a quiet, tranquil dinner!
Just to get you started, here are some of Venice’s most-loved places to find delicious cicchetti:
Ca’ d’Oro/Alla Vedova. Calle del Pistor, Cannaregio 3912. One of the most famous bàcari in Venice, this one’s both away from the city’s crowds and on the cheap (€1) end of things, ideal if you’re on a budget. Don’t miss the polpette, meatballs made of pork.
La Cantina. Calle San Felice, 3689. A stone’s throw from Alla Vedova, La Cantina features inventive dishes, using fresh ingredients like beef tongue or fresh ricotta. A local favorite.
All’Arco. Calle Arco, San Polo 436. Another one of Venice’s most-loved spots, All’Arco, near the Ponte Rialto, is packed at lunchtime with shoppers from the local fish market. Everything from calamari to liver to shrimp is on offer, and if it’s available, don’t miss the hot sandwich of boiled beef sausage and mustard.
Do Mori. Sestiere San Polo 429, Calle dei Do Mori. Myth has it that Casanova frequented this bàcaro, also near the Rialto Bridge. Even if he didn’t, it’s still thought to be the oldest in Venice, dating back to 1462. Ask for the “francobollo” (postage stamp)—a tiny sandwich with various fillings, it’s the house specialty.
Do Spade. Calle delle Do Spade, 19 S. Polo 860. Another bàcaro dating back to the 15th century, Do Spade has lots of seafood on offer, as well as a variety of vegetable and cheese spreads.
Cantinone–già Schiavi. Ponte San Trovaso, Dorsoduro 992. This family-run bàcaro, located across from a gondola workshop, boasts raw fish, meats, more than 30 wines available by the glass, and much more. Crowded with Venetians in the evening!
Al Ponte. Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina. One of the cheapest bàcari—and, therefore, places to eat—in all of Venice, Al Ponte has pasta and fish plates and a welcoming atmosphere.
Banco Giro. Campo San Giacometto, San Polo 122. A Grand Canal view, a variety of cheeses, fish, and wine, and a lively atmosphere. What’s not to like?
Any favorites you’d like to add? Tell us in the comments!
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