Street Food in Venice: Cicchetti & Bacari

Aperitivo

Much like any eating practice in Italy, street food is a ritual, and as such it is made of a few rules (of sorts). Knowing them will not only save you from tourist traps and perplexed local glances, but it will also enable you to taste some authentic fare along the way. Another factor to keep in mind is that street food is not the same all over Italy. Rather, it reflects its regional differences, and every city will have its specialties and some delicious treats that are not to be missed. 

Spritz time

Time is key. No matter if consumed in the corner of a street or sitting in a piazza, street food is always food, and as such, it involves a pause – a hiatus between daily activities – and a good deal of enjoyment. Eating at any given time is regarded as mildly barbarian. Lunch time is usually between 12 and 3 pm, dinner from 7.30 pm onwards. In between these, falls the golden hour that is aperitivo time.

Break

Even when eating food in the middle of a street or piazza, it’ll remain an activity which is performed in stillness, standing or sitting on the stairs of a monument, a wall, a fountain, a bench. One of the few exceptions is gelato, which can be enjoyed while strolling peacefully, glancing at shop windows or contemplating ideas. Coffee, in contrast, is not a drink you usually see people walking with. Coffee in Italy, particularly after 11 am, is usually just a short espresso: two minutes between ordering an espresso at the counter and emptying a little cup doesn’t make any difference in terms of time keeping. Coffee is rather seen as a break, a hiatus between daily activities, a moment to savour with one’s eyes closed.

These are some good, general rules to consider while approaching the realm of street food in Italy. But besides those, as I said, every region, every city has its own differences. As a Venetian, I have a good dose of experience in testing the street food of Veneto – but beyond that, I remain an amateur and I never stop learning.

Spritz

Enjoying food in Venice often takes the form of an errand – a ritual that in the local dialect is called andar par bacàri. It consists of hopping from a hole in the wall to another, grabbing a drink and a bite at each stop. The nibbles are finger-food bites called cicchetti, while the drinks are often called ombre. Typical cicchetti are fried tuna balls, fried meatballs, fried anchovies, sarde in saor (fried sardines topped with sweet and sour white onions), hard boiled eggs with anchovy, fried squid on a skewer, panino col baccalà mantecato (a small roll smeared with salted cod paté). More recently, a few bàcari have started to cater to clients wanting a more substantial meal, serving portions of seafood pasta and other traditional Venetian dishes. As for drinks, a very very classic choice would be spritz – a drink that was indeed invented in Venice. However, most bacàri also have a good choice of local wines by the glass, prosecco còlfondo (on the lies) being a local gem rarely exported – an absolute must-try!

When it comes to finding a good, traditional, inexpensive bàcaro, don’t worry about having to walk hours from the main attractions. Many of the best bàcari in Venice are tucked just around the corner from the main touristy areas, hidden in some dark alleys often overlooked by the least adventurous. After a few bites, a proper meal might be in order. Some good restaurants around town serve traditional fare at modest prices, including baccalà, bigoi in salsa, seafood risotto, gnocchetti…but more on that another time!


Dehor

A quick list of favorites around the corner from the Rialto Bridge:

– All’Arco, San Polo 436
– Cantina Do Spade, San Polo 859
– Al Mercà, San Polo 213
– Cantina Do Mori, San Polo 429
– Osteria Bancogiro, Campo San Giacometto 122 , Rialto

No excuses now, no more “Venice is so expensive” kind of moaning. Your alternative to bad pizza is just around the corner – a bit hidden, but present, cheerful, cheap and fulfilling. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll never go back.

Here are great tips from Emiko to eat along the Tuscan coast, from Giulia to try Lampredotto in Florence, and from Jasmine for a refreshing Sicilian granita at the end of a meal.

24 Comments

  1. Reb July 9, 2012

    The spritz's shot is simply amazing. But what I really mean is that you're amazing.
    I've never loved the city that much, but now I'm starting to see it under new lights and more enjoyable points of view.

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      yep yep, torna e vedi, c'è tanto di bello dietro al turistume…metto in saccoccia l'amazing, che mi serve un sorriso in tutto sto grigiume di Londra.

      Reply
  2. chiara July 9, 2012

    What. A. Post. I miss Venice, I miss home and I miss you. Uh, and I miss sarde in saor, so much!

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      yes, I miss it too already. Miss u. Let's all go back to Italy and do occupy piazza delle erbe!

      Reply
  3. rossella July 9, 2012

    che foto meravigliose (pupille dilatate e sorrisetto ebete sulle labbra)

    Reply
  4. Regula July 9, 2012

    Loving the Italian table talk series from you ladies!
    I was fortunate to discover the 5/5 in Livorno last week with Juls and Emiko. I love street food, it's so beautiful to have simple but good food.
    No fuss, nothing posh! Just decent food!
    You made me long for Venice again, I love Venice! I discovered a small chicheti bar in the student area of Venice but as Venice is such a maze, I never found it again!
    Now I always remember to ask a card with details!
    Lovely pictures!

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      Exactly, decent, unfussy and cheap! Next time you go, ask for those places, amazing experience and really good food! 🙂

      Reply
  5. bruna July 9, 2012

    Bel post e belle fotografie!! Grazie per diffondere nel mondo le tradizioni locali italiane!!
    Un abbraccio

    Reply
  6. Michael July 9, 2012

    Beautiful Clicks!

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      Thank you so much, Michael, your words mean a lot to me!

      Reply
  7. la domestique July 9, 2012

    Great tips and photos! I'm loving this Italian table talk, and wish I could hop a plane there today. 🙂

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      Oh, do it soon! October is the best time to visit Italy! 😀

      Reply
  8. ilgamberorusso July 10, 2012

    Ciao che bello il tuo blog…unico limite per goderlo appieno è la mia scarsa conoscenza dell'inglese…anzi nulla; però le tue foto sono così eloquenti e magiche che è stato un piacere seguire seguire italian table talk anche a Venezia!:-D piacere di conoscerti laura

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      traduzione arrivata, scusa tanto del ritardo! piacere mio, grazie mille per essere passata!

      Reply
  9. Alelunetta July 12, 2012

    Al Marcà e Do Mori sono le mie tappe preferite tutte le volte che vado a Venezia. Soprattutto la Cantina Do Mori mi piace per l'atmosfera inimitabile.
    Poi, adoro l'andar per bàcari, perdermi tra le calli, respirare l'aria salmastra della laguna e ovviamente assaggiare polpette e sarde in saor! Bellissime foto! Ciaoo

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      Eh si, la cantina Do Mori ha quel mood inconfondibile! Il bello di Venezia è proprio quello che dici tu, avere il coraggio di perdersi e provare di tutto un po', se più persone lo facessero, sarebbe forse una città un po' più amata!

      Reply
  10. Venezia itinerari July 14, 2012

    Di articoli sulla nostra tradizione gastronomica se ne leggono tanti, ma così esaurienti e precisi era da tempo che non se ne vedevano, davvero complimenti quindi!
    Solo due piccoli dettagli:
    l'ombra cui risale il termine usato oggidì (e che corrispondeva ad un decimo di litro esatto) non era tanto l'ombra delle calli ma l'ombra dei campanili dove si trovano un tempo le mescite di vino.
    Inoltre l'origine del termine bacaro è piuttosto dibattuta, recentemente sembra essere tornata in auge questa versione:
    l'origine risale all'annessione di Venezia al Regno d'Italia. La barriera doganale sorta di conseguenza tra Venezia e la Dalmazia (che per mille anni fu possedimento veneziano), da cui provenivano gli apprezzati vini da osteria, aguzza l'ingegno di un mercante pugliese che terminato il suo servizio militare nella Regia Marina si era stabilito in città. E' sua infatti l'idea di importare dalle Puglie un vino locale per rivenderlo nel suo locale. Il vino in questione è molto corposo e forte, al punto che un gondoliere lo battezza "vin da bàcaro", cioè vino da baldoria.

    Reply
    • Valeria July 16, 2012

      Grazie mille per la precisazione, sono felice che ti sia piaciuto il mio post!

      Reply
  11. argone July 15, 2012

    Gorgeous pics, you know how to catch the italian mood … Love it !

    Reply
  12. Alen Agaronov August 12, 2012

    The negroni speaks to me <3

    Reply
  13. Michelle Y March 18, 2013

    Hi Valeria, I am travelling to Venice in April and this is some great advice. Only problem is that both my fiance and I are vegetarian. Would you have any suggestions for us? Thanks!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *