In my guide to finding great food in Venice, I talked about the tradition of cicchetti, small morsels of food served alongside drinks in the bacari (bars) of Venice. Bacari can be found throughout Venice, with a concentration in the areas where the four sestiere (districts) of San Polo, Cannaregio, Castello and San Marco come together (near the Rialto bridge).
Venetians will usually remain standing during their quick visits for a drink and a cicchetto or two, but I’ve never been a fan of eating on my feet, so our favourites were those venues with plenty of seating available, friendly staff and a delicious selection of cicchetti. (Note that some venues have seating that is reserved only for customers ordering a full meal).
Il Paradiso Perduto
Self-described as an osteria and jazz club, Il Paradiso Perduto is a traditional tavern along the Fondamenta della Misericordia in Cannaregio. Just inside the door are a cicchetti counter and bar, with a few tables for casual visitors, and behind that, a restaurant dining area. More tables are available outside, at the edge of the Rio della Misericordia canal.
The selection of cicchetti is excellent, including huge arancini, whole baby squid, fresh seasonal vegetables, more seafood including classics such as sarde in saor and a variety of battered and fried items. We visited a couple of times for an early lunch and loved every cicchetto we had, and the relaxed and friendly atmosphere was a pleasure.
This small wine bar is located in a quiet corner of eastern Cannaregio has an impressive drinks menu of wines, cocktails and spirits. The gentleman serving us patiently talked me through everything on display, before I made my choices, and we particularly enjoyed the cicchetti here, including polpette (meatballs) in a spicy sauce with a real kick, and mozzarella stuffed with anchovies and fried in batter.
Like Il Paradiso Perduto, el Sbarlefo also have live music some evenings.
Osteria ai Storti
This tiny osteria near to Rialto Market in San Polo, appealed in part because of its clientele, a mix of elderly Venetian men and some other fascinating characters! Although it’s busier during main lunch and dinner hours, for our late morning visit, it felt like we’d stumbled into a local hangout. A old man grinned at us as he drank a glass of wine and tried in vain to communicate, hampered by our woeful ignorance of the Italian language.
We had a lovely mix of cicchetti here, my favourites were the bread-crumbed balls stuffed with anchovies and olives, but everything was good.
We popped in for cicchetti at a number of other places across the city, and to be honest, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. Order a drink and one or two items to eat… if you like them, stay for some more, if not, move on to the next place. You can always ask at your hotel for their favourites in your neighbourhood or simply take a chance on whichever ones take your fancy as you stroll of a lunchtime or early evening.
Find out more about eating out in Venice, and more of our favourite places.
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