Cocktail Hour Venice Style: Venetian Cicchetti



Image © Italian Concierge

In Spain, you can get tapas anywhere, but the south is where the movement began and continues today in top form.

Italian aperitivos are similar.

Every city has its bar with small plates of food on the countertop at happy hour, but Venetian cicchetti (often called Venetian tapas or small places) are singular.

Many locals consider the Venetian cicchetti crawl, or giro di ombre (stroll of shades—a local term for small glasses of wine), the last hold out of Venetian cuisine in a city flooded with twice as many tourists as residents each day.

What Cicchetti to Order


venetian cicchetti

Image © Italian Concierge

When you walk into a bacaro (Venetian wine bar), the cicchetti are pre-made (freshly that evening, of course) and displayed in a glass case under the bar or on plates on top of the bar.

Cicchetti—like most food in Venice—usually focus on seafood, often whatever looked good at the Rialto market that morning.

There are few Venetian specialties worth trying out that most bacaro carry you’ll see few other places in the world:

    • baccala mantecato (salt cod that is pureed into a creamy spread)

 

    • sarde in saor (lightly pickled, sweet and sour sardines with onions, pine nuts and raisins)

 

    • polenta squares—or triangles—with fresh seafood



Each one runs 1-4 euros, but the price isn’t always displayed. If you’re watching your wallet, ask before you order. Quanto costa? (How much does it cost)

For spreads, you’ll often have the choice of an accompanying piece of bread or square of polenta, though some items come prearranged. At the popular locations, food can disappear early in the evening so stop in around 6 or 7.

What to Drink with Your Cicchetti


The quintessential Venetian cocktail hour drink is the spritz, a mix of white wine, red liquor, sparkling water and a blood orange slice. But since the Veneto is a big wine producing area, you have a lot of options:

    • Prosecco – made very nearby and typically inexpensive, a large selection you won’t find in the U.S.

 

    • Aperol Spritz – a spritz made with a bright orangy-red aperitif from nearby Padua flavored with rhubarb and bitter orange; half as alcohol as Campari

 

    • Campari Spritz – a spritz made with blood-red Campari, a bitter aperitif flavored with chinotto

 

    • Ombra – means shadow, but used in Venice for a small glass of local wine drunk at cocktail hour



Where to Get Cicchetti


venice gondolas

Image © Italian Concierge

One of the best areas to sample cicchetti hides in plain site: the Campo San Giocometto square right next to the Rialto.

Tourists typically snap photos in the market in the morning and then stick to the main, souvenir tout-filled street leading from the Rialto bridge back to the train station the rest of the day. The campo is left to the Italians for the prime cicchetti hours from lunch through pre-dinner.

The king of the Venetian cicchetti scene, both in terms of age and prestige, is Do Mori, which bills itself as the oldest bacaro in Venice, open since 1462.

Do Mori serves all the classics, but if you’re looking for something more inventive, nearby Bancogiro offers avant garde takes on the usual seafood preparations and polenta square toppings and Cantina do Spade offers a wider variety of plates.

In the summer, all the bars in the archway open their back patios so you can enjoy your drink and bites right on the grand canal.

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