One of the most pleasant thing to do is to enjoy cicchetti in Venice at mid-morning or mid-afternoon. A cicchetto is the general name for a snack washed down with an ombra de vin, a glass of cask wine. The osterie prepare their own cicchetti, so do beware the many fake ones that are mushrooming everywhere: you can spot them easily – they don’t look like they have the space to prepare the food they so enticingly display since the early morning.
The snacks are various and often are the result of the chef’s imagination. On the contrary, classic cicchetti are baccalà mantecato (creamed salted cod), sarde in saor (sardines seasoned with sweet and sour onions), nervetti (veal cartilages boiled and served in vinegar and oil), bovoletti (sea snails), ovi duri (boiled eggs), and moscardini (freshly boiled small octopuses).
It definitely is a case of too many osterie, too little time! So how do you choose? You can find your way around the sestiere by yourself, which in itself can be a fun adventure, or you can book a friendly Prontopia local.
Alla Vedova is in a side alley of the busy Strada Nova and its polpette (meatballs) are heaven sent! Along the Rio della Misericordia, you’ll find many old and new osterie but one you don’t want to miss is Al Timon where, if you’re lucky, you can sip your ombra sitting in a boat moored in front of the restaurant.
Al Portego’s specialities are crostini: a rich portion of very good eats sitting on a slice of bread cut from a loaf. Venturing into the sestiere, in the area of the Arsenale, the genuine Alla Rampa offers its imaginative delicacies in a rustic setting with likewise patrons. In via Garibaldi, we recommend El Refolo for its very delectable rolls.
In a campiello close to Campo San Bortolo, I Rusteghi serve fabulous panini. The name comes from the play by Carlo Goldoni, it means “boor” and the owner boasts to be one. Al Volto is a wine house near the Rialto bridge that has been pleasing tastebuds for over 80 years with their tasty cicchetti.
Across the Grand Canal, a plethora of osterie serves customers non-stop. In the lively Campo Bella Vienna, which is partly devoted to fruit and vegetable stalls, you can find Al Mercà, a tiny bar with excellent sandwiches. On the way to Campo San Polo, All’Arco is a traditional minuscule osteria with exceptional food and wine. While you’re in the sestiere, do look for the 571-year-old Cantina do Spade located in a small alley and the spectacular Cantina Do Mori nearby.
For a different kind of local flavour, head out to the IUAV university, where students and cart drivers hang out at the Da Lele. It is so tiny that some elbowing is required, and then you consume your order outside in the large Campazzo dei Tolentini.
Cantinone già Schiavi on the bank of Rio San Trovaso without a doubt has the best cicchetti in town, original creations of Signora Sandra, the lady with the glasses behind the counter.
Their large cellar means you have limitless choices for drinks.
Not far, Bar alla Toletta is the proud inventor of il tramezzino: two slices of soft bread with various dreamy fillings. Da Codroma, in a secluded area in the vicinity of Piazzale Roma, with its long wooden tables, can sometimes get quite cramped but its all part of its charm.