Cicchetti, Venice’s answer to Spanish tapas, are small, delectable dishes typically served at traditional Venetian cicchetti bars, known as bacari. These little bites are perfect for enjoying with a glass of wine, a spritz, or even on their own as you hop from one bacaro to another, exploring the city’s culinary scene.
The History of Cicchetti in Venice
Cicchetti’s rich history dates back to the 15th century when Venice was a major trading hub. The concept of these small dishes originated from the need to provide quick, affordable, and filling meals for the merchants, sailors, and other workers who frequented the city’s taverns between shifts. Thus, famous street food was born.
The Cultural Significance of Eating Cicchetti
Today, cicchetti has become an integral part of Venetian culture, offering a unique opportunity to taste the region’s diverse culinary offerings. From traditional seafood dishes to contemporary twists on classic recipes, there’s a cicchetto for every palate. Sharing cicchetti with friends and family over a small glass of red or white wine allows locals and tourists alike to connect with the city’s rich history and culinary traditions.
|A creamy, whipped salted cod spread that has been re-hydrated, poached, and then mixed with olive oil and garlic.
|Sarde in Saor
|Fresh, tender sardines are fried and then marinated in a mixture of slow-cooked onions, vinegar, raisins, and pine nuts.
|Venetian meatballs made from a blend of ground meat, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and herbs, then shallow-fried.
|Delicate triangular sandwiches made with soft, crustless white bread, filled with an array of ingredients like creamy tuna and artichoke, mushroom and truffle, or prosciutto and mozzarella.
|Crispy slices of toasted bread topped with fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Top 5 Types of Venetian Cicchetti
As you venture into the world of Venetian cicchetti, you’ll quickly discover the myriad of flavors and textures that these bite-sized morsels offer. Here, we dive headfirst into five of the most common and beloved cicchetti types. With each bite, you’ll immerse yourself in Venice’s culinary soul.
1. Baccalà Mantecato
The star of Venetian cicchetti, baccalà mantecato is a creamy, whipped salted cod spread that has been re-hydrated, poached, and then expertly mixed with olive oil, garlic, and sometimes a touch of milk or cream.
Slathered atop a slice of crusty bread, this cicchetto is a perfect symphony of flavors – the rich, garlicky, and velvety creaminess beautifully balances the salty, savory cod. It’s an irresistible combination that keeps you coming back for more.
2. Sarde in Saor
Sarde in saor is an exquisite marriage of sweet and sour flavors that pays homage to Venice’s maritime heritage. Fresh, tender sardines are fried and then marinated in a mixture of slow-cooked onions, vinegar, raisins, and pine nuts.
The result is a beautifully layered dish that dances on your taste buds – the sweetness of the onions and raisins contrasting against the tangy vinegar, with the nuttiness of the pine nuts adding depth and the sardines providing a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Venetian polpette are not your average meatballs. These little spheres of joy are made from a blend of ground meat, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and herbs, then shallow-fried to crispy perfection.
What sets them apart is the absence of tomato sauce, which allows the meat and cheese flavors to shine through, leaving you with a delectable, savory treat that’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
For the adventurous, you’ll also find variations like spicy polpette or ones made with fish or vegetables.
These delicate triangular sandwiches are the elegant Venetian version of a humble sandwich. Made with soft, crustless white bread, tramezzini are filled with an array of ingredients that showcase the region’s finest produce.
Sink your teeth into a combination of creamy tuna and artichoke, savor the earthy flavors of mushroom and truffle, or indulge in the simple luxury of prosciutto and mozzarella. With each bite, you’ll be transported to a world of simple yet refined flavors encapsulating Venetian cuisine’s essence.
Though bruschetta may be a staple across Italy, Venice has its unique spin on this classic dish. Crispy slices of toasted bread are topped with a generous layer of fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped basil, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
The Venetian twist comes with the addition of regional ingredients like marinated seafood or creamy spreads made from local cheese. The result is an explosion of fresh, vibrant flavors and contrasting textures that make this typical cicchetti an essential part of any Venetian experience.
|Cantina Do Mori
|Calle Do Mori, 429
|Cheese and Salumi
|Campo Bella Vienna, 213
|S. Polo, 436
|Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi
|Calle dell’Oca, 4367
|Calle dell’Oca, 4367
Top 5 Cicchetti Bars (Bacari) in Venice
There are likely hundreds of local cicchetti bars in Venice, and I admit that I haven’t been to all or even half of them. However, I’ve been to many wine bars throughout my Venetian journey, and these are some of my favorites.
Chances are you’ll love at least one wine bar on this list and some local finger foods. So go out there and try a few types of cicchetti and let us know you’re favorite!
1. Cantina Do Mori (San Polo)
Address: Calle Do Mori, 429, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
Cantina Do Mori, one of the oldest bacari in Venice, has been serving delicious cicchetti since 1462. Nestled in the heart of the Rialto Market, and near the Rialto Bridge, this historic establishment offers a wide variety of mouthwatering bites.
Some of the must-try cicchetti at Cantina Do Mori include the baccalà mantecato (creamed cod spread on toasted bread), polpette (meatballs), and marinated sardines with onions. Cantina Do Mori is famous for its francobollo, a small sandwich filled with ingredients like cured meats, cheese, and marinated vegetables.
The cozy atmosphere, with its copper pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, exudes an authentic, old-world charm that transports visitors back in time. Keep in mind that they do not offer tables or seating. Simply order cicchetti and enjoy an aperol spritz amongst the locals.
2. Al Merca (San Polo)
Specialty: Cheese and Salumi
Address: Campo Bella Vienna, 213, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
Al Merca, located just steps away from the bustling Rialto Market, is a small, standing-room-only bacaro that’s become a local favorite.
I recommend their delicious crostini (toasted bread with various toppings). Don’t miss out on the gorgonzola and walnut, or the salami and soft cheese options. Another must-try is their tramezzini, delicate triangular sandwiches filled with assorted ingredients like tuna, artichoke, and prosciutto.
Al Merca’s friendly atmosphere makes it the perfect spot for a quick bite and a refreshing glass of wine as you chat with locals and other travelers. Don’t forget to bring cash, though, as they didn’t accept credit cards the last time I was there.
3. All’Arco (San Polo)
Address: S. Polo, 436, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
Just a short walk from the Rialto Bridge, All’Arco not only offers some of the best cicchetti in the San Polo district, this family-owned bacaro serves up top-notch Venice cicchetti regardless of neighborhood.
Renowned for their seafood offerings, All’Arco’s specialties include sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines), seppie al nero (squid cooked in its ink), and baccalà mantecato. Their seasonal selections, like the luscious fig and prosciutto crostini, are also worth trying. While they don’t always have it, try ordering their fried meatballs. They’re some of the best-fried cicchetti in Venice.
All’Arco’s warm, friendly ambiance and delicious food make it an ideal spot for a cicchetti crawl.
4. Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi (Cannaregio)
Ambiance: Warm and Traditional
Address: Calle dell’Oca, 4367, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
Tucked away in a quiet alley near the bustling Strada Nova, Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi offers an intimate setting to savor an array of delightful cicchetti.
Their cicchetti menu features classics like baccalà mantecato and innovative creations such as smoked swordfish with arugula and parmesan. Make sure to sample their melt-in-your-mouth meatballs, which are a local favorite.
With its welcoming staff and charming decor, Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi provides the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
5. La Cantina (Cannaregio)
Specialty: Seafood Cicchetti
Address: Calle dell’Oca, 4367, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
Situated in the Cannaregio district, La Cantina is a contemporary bacaro that puts a modern spin on traditional cicchetti.
Their creative menu includes dishes like the octopus and potato salad, duck salami, and marinated anchovies. For a truly unique experience, try their inventive wine pairings, which perfectly complement each cicchetto.
La Cantina’s stylish interior, combined with their innovative approach to cicchetti, make it a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts.
What About The Other Cicchetti Bars?
While the list doesn’t encompass local cicchetti bars in the charming districts of San Marco, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, or Castello, rest assured that these areas remain home to delectable cuisine.
As a foodie, I’ve discovered my favorite dishes in various nooks and crannies of the city. Maybe your version of the best cicchetti in Venice isn’t on the list.
Venture out and sample the wide array of typical cicchetti found throughout Venice, and don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with us.
Expect to encounter an irresistible selection of little plates, including scrumptious fried fish, crispy fried calamari, tender grilled polenta, refreshing octopus salad, and flavorsome fried anchovies. You may even stumble upon some delightful fried sardines.
No matter where you wander in this enchanting city, you’re bound to uncover culinary gems in the local cicchetti bars that will tantalize your taste buds.
When visiting cicchetti bars, it’s really fun and respectful to embrace the local etiquette and eat like a native Venetian.
These little plates are typically consumed standing up, allowing for a more social experience.
It’s common to hop from one bacaro to another, sampling various dishes along the way. So don’t feel obligated to order cicchetti from the same place the whole night.
Remember to be adventurous and try a variety of traditional cicchetti– as it’s the best way to appreciate Venice’s diverse dishes.
Food Tours in Venice: Discovering the Best Cicchetti
One of the most enjoyable ways to eat cicchetti and experience the best cicchetti Venice has to offer is by joining a food tour. Not only do these tours allow you to explore the culinary delights of the city, but they also give you the opportunity to learn about the rich history and culture of Venice.
This food tour will take you on a gastronomic adventure through the maze-like streets of Venice, stopping at some of the city’s most beloved wine bars, or “bacari.” You’ll get to taste an array of delicious fried cicchetti, such as crispy fried seafood, grilled polenta topped with creamy gorgonzola, and succulent cured meats. The perfect accompaniment to these savory bites is a glass of local wine, which you’ll enjoy at each stop.
Whichever tour you choose, you’ll be sure to enjoy an unforgettable experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for Venice’s culinary scene. And who knows, you might even discover your new favorite cicchetti along the way!
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Be a local and embark on a typical Venetian cicchetti crawl through the winding streets and picturesque canals for an unforgettable experience. The city’s top cicchetti bars, with their mouthwatering dishes and unique atmospheres, provide an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in Venetian cuisine and culture. So, gather your friends, grab a glass of wine, and get ready to explore the best cicchetti in Venice!