If the number of bacari (bars) – their shopfronts displaying sandwiches and other edibles prominently – are anything to go by, Venetians like to snack. In this region of Italy, these small bites are called cicchetti though the bars in the touristy parts of town have taken to describe cicchetti as “Italian tapas” too. Cicchetti is most often consumed in the mid-morning, during lunch and after work, basically whenever one is peckish. It is almost always eaten with a drink, often a glass of orange spritz, the Venetian aperitif of choice.
Of the various small bites, a budget traveller’s best bet are the triangular tramezzini, classic Venetian sandwiches made of crustless white bread. And if you like me find them looking oddly familiar, they were in fact “invented” in Turin as alternatives to English tea sandwiches eaten during afternoon tea. At Rosticceria Gislon tucked behind Campo San Bartolomeo, one elbows through the crowd to the bar and orders the tramezzini (more than a dozen options) from the bartenders, alternatively kindly or brusque, by pointing at the ready-made sandwiches on display. Pastas, roasted meats and seafood dishes are also available at this jam packed joint where the small number of tables are hot commodities, but at 1.50e-2e per sandwich, the value is hard to beat.
Particularly good is carrozza en mozarella, basically and deep-fried ham and cheese sandwich. Freshly fried and piping hot, it was extremely good, the grease be damned.
Dedicated winebars are also commonplace in Venice, and we found ourselves spending a happy hour at La Cantina ducking the pouring rain out on Strada Nova. While not big, the place lists a dozen of red and white wine by the glass from the Venetian region and the rest of Italy, making this a convenient stop for an impromptu wine tasting session.
Along with our ombras (small pours of wine) we let the kitchen make us 2 small bites each consisting of unctuous cured meats and flavorful cheese on chewy bread. At 2 mouthfuls per pop, they whetted our appetites without inducing any guilt about eating dinner an hour later. A capital way to spend a Venetian evening.
If you are looking for seafood instead, Venice eateries offer a wide variety of fish and mussels available in cicchetti format. The most typicals are sarde en saor and bacala mantecato, the former sardines marinated in a sweet and sour vinaigrette and the latter dried salted cod that had been treated in cream and whipped to marshmellow-like fluffiness. Osteria al Bomba’s versions were assertively flavored and very appetizing, though I can’t say they were my favorites.
Next time in Venice, why not consider joining the locals for some happy hour drinks and cicchetti while you’re at it?
Rosticceria Gislon: Calle de la Bissa 5424, Campo San Bartolomeo, 30124 Venezia, Italy
La Cantina: Cannaregio 3689, Campo San Felice, 30121 Venezia, Italy
Osteria al Bomba: Calle di Oca 4297/4298, Cannaregio, Venezia, Italy