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Spanning the gap between upscale restaurants and cheap eats, Venice Cicchetti bars are having a moment.
Despite this trendiness, Cicchetti in Venice is not a new concept. Venetians have enjoyed finger foods and small plate snacks at wine bars known as bacari for decades if not centuries.
What Is Cicchetti in Venice?
As we first found out in Verona and then experienced throughout Venice, Cicchetti bars serve little plates of inexpensive food (i.e. Cicchetti) in addition to wine, prosecco and the occasional Aperol Spritz.
The concept is informal, simple and wonderful – a marvelous way to pass the time in between romantic boat jaunts on Venice’s network of canals and intimate, romantic afternoon strolls through the city’s narrow, maze-like alleys.
In many ways, Cicchetti in Venice is similar to tapas in Madrid. But the Venetian version features Italy bar classics like crispy polpetta (meatballs), miniature sandwiches (tramezzini, crostini and panini) and all kinds of fried and roasted seafood.
Eating Cicchetti in Venice doesn’t require reservations or a lot of money. Each Cicchetti item is typically value-priced at just a couple euros, give or take, with a handful of dishes adding up to a meal.
Food travelers with just a day or two in Venice can get a bang for the buck by taking a three-hour Venice Food Tour chock-filled with Cicchetti bars, a Rialto Market visit and a gondola ride.
How to Order Cicchetti in Venice
Don’t be shy when ordering Cicchetti at Venice bars. Instead, gently push you way to the counter and select little plates of seafood, tiny sandwiches and other nibbles. Just point if you don’t feel comfortable ordering in Italian or if you can’t quickly translate the menu.
Once you choose a selection of snacks, you’ll want to order an ombra, the local vernacular for a glass of local wine. Specify if you want rosso (red) or bianco (white). If you’re not in the mood for wine, you can always order an Aperol spritz or Negroni.
Where to Experience Cicchetti in Venice
As curious food travelers, we devoted a good bit of time hunting for the best Cicchetti in Venice when we weren’t eating at the city’s restaurants and gelaterias. We visited some bars in the morning when the wine flowed along with coffee and others in the late afternoon when crowds jammed tiny baccaro spaces.
Based on our self-guided Venice Cicchetti crawl, these are our five favorite spots to enjoy Venetian Cicchetti:
Osteria all’Arco stands out as the first Cicchetti bar we visited in Venice. This classic Cicchetti bar specializes in simple crostinis topped with local favorites including baccalà mantecato (codfish mousse), acciughe (anchovies) and porchetta (stuffed pork roast).
Options at Osteria all’Arco go beyond open-faced sandwiches, with much of the bacaro‘s seafood and vegetables sourced from the nearby Rialto Market. Overwhelmed by the choices, we ordered by pointing at food both behind the counter and on plates.
Squeezing our way into a table (or was it a ledge?), we nibbled with glee between sips of prosecco spritzes. And so began our Cicchetti adventure in Venice.
You may get lost if you follow Google Maps to Osteria all’Arco. However, once you find the popular Cicchetti bar, you’ll be happy you made the effort.
Osteria all’Arco is located at Campo S. Polo, 436, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy.
Cantina do Spade
Cantina do Spade is another classic Venice Cicchetti bar located near the Rialto Market. The popular spot fills with locals and food travelers all day every day. We were more than happy to join the party during our midday visit.
After securing a standing spot outside the 15th century building, we greedily scarfed down plates topped with mezze uova (boiled eggs), calamari fritti (fried calamari) calamari ripieni (stuffed squid) and polenta.
Our favorite snack was easily the bacaro‘s signature polpetta made with spicy sausage and smokey scamorza. Somehow, eating a trio of crispy meatballs on a stick made the meaty morsels taste even better.
Plan to stand while you eat Cicchetti at Cantina do Spade. Tables are typically reserved for people with meal reservations.
Cantina do Spade is located at Calle del Scaleter, 859, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy.
Literally translating to on the market, Al Mercà lives up to its descriptive name. This tiny yet popular cicchetti bar is located on a square close to Rialto Market.
The prime location isn’t what draws crowds to Al Mercà six days a week. Instead, it’s the bacaro‘s vast selection of affordable panini sandwiches filled with Italian meats, cheese and even truffle paste.
Beyond food, Al Mercá serves a vast selection of wine, Prosecco and other liquid libations. Our only question is how they fit so many tasty bits into such a small space.
Bring your spare change to Al Mercà. Unless prices change, you can enjoy a sandwich and a glass of wine for under €5.
Al Mercà is located at Campo Bella Vienna, 213, 30125 Venice VE, Italy.
Focusing on organic producers, Vino Vero is about as real as it gets when it comes to drinking wine next to a canal in Cannaregio. This should not be a surprise since vino vero translates to real wine.
A blackboard lists the bacaro‘s available glasses and breaks them down in the categories of red, white, rosé and bubbly. Additional bottles line the wall. And that’s just the wine.
Vino Vero also serves an impressive selection of Cicchetti snacks that pair well with the natural wine selection. We ordered a crostinisti to eat while we sipped red Italian wine. Our favorites were generously topped with a burrata and creamy baccalà mantecato.
Ironically, we later discovered that Vino Vero has a second location. Not only is it in Lisbon, but it’s literally less than a kilometer from our apartment. It truly is a small wine world after all.
Don’t attempt to order an Aperol Spritz at Vino Verde. This Venice wine bar is a no-spritz zone.
Vino Vero is located at Fondamenta Misericordia, 2497, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy.
Situated in a former salumeria (the Italian word for delicatessen) in Venice’s Castello neighborhood, Salvmeria is just far enough away from St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Market to feel like a local haunt.
We went to Salvmeria for a wine break and ended up eating meatballs gloriously drowned in tomato sauce. Had we been hungrier, we would have also ordered tuna tartare and typical cicchetti fare. However, even our stomachs have their limits.
Stop by Salvmeria after attending an event at nearby La Biennale di Venezia.
Salvmeria is located at Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 1769, 30122 Venice VE, Italy.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.