Being a fan of the long and leisurely many-course Italian meal, I'm still happy to say that this time I ate my way through Venice in little bites and small plates. Partly due to the fact that I didn't want to miss out on the festivities and also due to being a solo traveler, where long leisurely meals aren't as fun, I grazed my way through Venice on cicchetti and mixed plates of it.
These small plates or Venetian-style tapas, Cicchetti, suit Venice's pedestrian culture well. You walk a little, stop for a bite, maybe baccala mantecato or cured meats on a crostini, or some fried treats. (Don't forget the little shade of wine to wash it down.) You walk some more, winding your way through the labyrinth of calli and along the rii that line the canals, stop for a few more bites, this time going for some of the many seafood cicchetti. And, repeat. If you're a little hungrier or need to sit a while, you can order a plate of mixed cicchetti . The mixed plate of seafood is one of my favorite treats and I'll often order it as an antipasto course when I sit for a whole meal.
Types of cicchetti are as numerous as Venice's bridges. Besides being a great way to sample many Venetian specialties on a small scale, they are budget-friendly. Usually around 1-3 euros per piece, you can have a filling meal, along with a glass of wine for 15 euros. You can also split your meal between a few different places, this practice is commonly known as a cicchetti crawl or a bacari crawl. Bacari being the name for the wine and cicchetti bars in Venice. My ideal cicchetti crawl looks a little something like this:
Ca' D'Oro alla Vedova
Ca' D'Oro also known as La Vedova is right off the Strada Nova and near the Ca' D'Oro vaporetto stop. Lucky for me, it was also right around the corner from my apartment. Being the first time I've been in Venice during artichoke season, I fell in love with their fondo di carciofi, soft and succulent artichoke bottoms in a simple marinade of oil, vinegar and parsely. I stopped by for at least one whenever I was there early and the crowd wasn't yet spilling out in the alley in front of its doors. All of their seafood cicchetti is exceptional, too. I especially liked the little marinated seppie and octopus. They also serve a mixed cicchetti plate or a vegetable plate at the table, which you could order by itself or as an antipasto before a pasta or main course.
Osteria La Bottega ai Promessi ai Sposi
Near La Vedova is one of my favorite places in Venice, Osteria la Bottega ai Promessi ai Sposi. Often, I've had two- or three-course meals there, but the osteria also serves up cicchetti at the bar and as antipasti. One afternoon I stopped in for their antipasto plate. Their bacala mantecato is amazing. Dried salt cod soaked in water then drained, it's whisked into a creamy spread as olive oil is slowly drizzled in. Everything on the plate was good; the marinated anchovies, an octopus and potato salad, a pea and green bean salad.
La Cantina Carbonera Vecia
On my food walk with Monica, we stopped into La Cantina Carbonera Vecia. Crostini topped with a variety of spreads line the bar as you enter. The wine offerings are scribbled on a chalkboard across from the bar. In the summer, cicchetti crawlers sit at tables outside or along the steps of the nearby bridge. As it was March, we went to the back room. It was a convivial place to sip and nibble while talking with each other and those sitting at the long table with us. We shared a plate of crostini, topped with baccala mantecato and others spread made from local seasonal vegetables like zucca (pumpkin) and radicchio.
Recommended to me by a few Venetians, I sought out Anice Stellato along one of the quietest calle in Venice. In Cannaregio, behind the bustling Strada Nova and after crossing two bridges, I found it among the silence and the fog. I even forgot for a moment I was in Venice during one of the busiest times of the year. I had the mixed seafood cicchetti plate. As many of you know, I love a good agrodolce, and their sardine in saor was exceptional. I would definitely return again and order only a plate of that.
Antica Osteria Ruga Rialto and All' Arco
After a visit to the Rialto Market, I stopped by the Antica Osteria Ruga Rialto for their cicheti misti, a mixed plate of seafood dishes. Then I moved on to All' Arco. It's a tiny cicchetteria that was packed inside. I squeezed my way up to the bar for crostini topped with prosciutto and a baccala Vicentina washed down with the house white wine. Baccala Vicentina is salt cod in the style of the nearby city Vicenza. The cod is soaked then whipped, in additional to olive oil, anchovies, onions and parsley are added to this variation.
Canitnone gia' Schiavi
Cantinone gia' Schiavi is a not-to-miss stop on a cicchetti crawl. The long ciccetteria has wines completely filling the side walls. Mamma dishes out the 1 euro cicchetti at this family run spot that's always filled with both locals and tourists. On the rio San Trovaso, it's right by the bridge of the same name. The weather in March was warm enough for many of us to sit on the short brick wall outside and enjoy the sun, the boats and gondole passing along the canal.
Caffe Rosso or Al Rosso
Although Caffe Rosso in Campo Santa Margherita has small sandwiches from which to choose, I go specifically to finish a cicchetti crawl with a Spritz con Aperol and to people watch in the campo. Besides sampling cicchetti, a day in Venice isn't complete without at least one Spritz.
Ca' D'Oro: Ramo Ca' D'Oro, 3912 Cannaregio
Osteria la Bottega ai Promessi ai Sposi: Calle del' Oca, 4367 Cannaregio
La Carbonera Vecia: Strada Nova at Ponte Sant' Antonio, 2329 Cannaregio
Anice Stellato: Fondamenta della Sensa, 3272 Cannaregio
Antica Osteria Ruga Rialto: Ruga Rialto, 629 San Polo
All' Arco: Calle dell' Occhialer, 436 San Polo
Cantinone gia' Schiavi: Ponte San Trovaso, 992 Dorsoduro
Caffe Rosso: Campo Santa Margherita, 2963 Dorsoduro