Culinary Discoveries of a Venetian Cicchetti Crawl

Eating in Italy is, on the whole, easy – in my experience, at least, I haven’t exactly struggled to find good, solid food all over the country. Except, that is, in Venice.

Yes, the food scene in Venice is a bit trickier than other parts of Italy. While I ultimately discovered a few restaurants that I quite enjoyed during my time in the city, the truth is that there are SO, so many other places that are unfortunate: super cheesy, poor quality food, and exorbitant prices. Not surprising, given how frustratingly touristy Venice can be.

That’s why, when it came to planning my time in Venice, I knew a food tour would be more essential here than elsewhere. And that is what, in turn, led me to discover a term that was heretofore unknown to me: cicchetti, which are essentially to Venice what tapas are to Spain. As I learned on my Walks of Italy food tour, in a town where high quality sit-down restaurants can be tough to find, hopping from bar to bar in search of cicchetti just may be a hungry visitor’s safest bet.

Venice Ciccheti Tour6

Cicchetti are served at bàcari, little, local bars hidden among Venice’s winding streets. We visited three bàcari on our tour, plus made stops at the Rialto Market, the fish market, and a cafe for a grand grappa finale.

First up was Al Merca, a tiny bar not far from the Rialto. Here, we tried two sandwiches. One was made with sopressa, a typical local salami. It was good, but the other was the star: it contained San Daniele ham, a soft robiola cheese, and grated truffle, and was amazing – the cheese complemented the meat perfectly. We washed it all down with a local Prosecco, made in the hills around Treviso and naturally fermented (unlike much of the Prosecco you will find in Venice, which is artificially created like sparkling water).

Venice Ciccheti Tour8

Venice Ciccheti Tour12

Venice Ciccheti Tour11

Venice Ciccheti Tour10

As we made our way to our next stop, we passed through Venice’s bustling Rialto Market (more on that in a later post), wandered along a cute stretch of canal (though, aren’t they all?), and peeked into shop windows (the spice shop was definitely my favorite).

Venice Cicchetti Tour

Venice Ciccheti Tour5

Venice Ciccheti Tour3

Venice Ciccheti Tour4

Venice Ciccheti Tour7

Venice Ciccheti Tour2

Venice Ciccheti Tour13

We finally reached our next stop, All’Arco. This bàcaro was all about the seafood: we tried one piece of bread topped with baccalà mantecato (a cod spread) and another with anchovy and gorgonzola. I was initially unsure how I would feel about the anchovy, though this turned out to be a tasty bite, albeit a strong, salty one, especially when paired with a sharp gorgonzola. We accompanied these bites with a glass of verduzzo, a white wine from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.

Venice Ciccheti Tour13

Venice Ciccheti Tour14

Keeping with the fishy theme, we next popped into the fish market selling seafood fresh from the lagoon around Venice and the Adriatic Sea. Each stall was fascinating – and more than a little smelly.

Venice Ciccheti Tour9

Venice Ciccheti Tour19

Venice Ciccheti Tour15

Venice Ciccheti Tour16

Venice Ciccheti Tour18

Venice Ciccheti Tour17

Our third stop was Do Spade, a venerable institution dating back to the 15th century; in fact, Casanova even mentioned the bar in his memoirs. While sipping on glasses of merlot, we tried several tasty snacks: mozzarella in carrozza (little fried mozzarella sandwiches with ham or anchovy inside), meatballs with tomato and polenta sauce, and fried calamari.

Venice Ciccheti Tour17

Venice Ciccheti Tour18

Venice Ciccheti Tour19

We finished our walking tour at Caffe Del Doge. Here, we ended our meal with two very strong drinks: grappa (a variety so strong I could not finish my glass) and espresso (paired with an essi, an S-shaped cookie). Talk about ending with a jolt!

Venice Ciccheti Tour21

Venice Ciccheti Tour20

Venice Ciccheti Tour22

I loved learning about Venice’s bàcari; these are exactly the sort of tiny, unassuming places a visitor to the city might easily overlook if they weren’t playing close attention. I was delighted to try a few of them (as was my stomach).

2 thoughts on “Culinary Discoveries of a Venetian Cicchetti Crawl

  1. I had no idea that Italy had their own version of tapas! I guess it’s no surprise though, because Italy truly knows how to do food right! My mouth is watering just reading about this tour. Looks like a delicious experience 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.