Italy on the road
Venice out of season. Discovering the city, between one cicchetti and another
Tasty itinerary, during the less crowded period, into the Venetian tradition of the aperitivo with Spritz and cicchetti
Venice is the most romantic city in the world, it is amazing during the Film Festival, magical during its incredible and unique Carnival, charming during the Biennale days, but it always has one huge and gigantic problem: it is crowded.
Even during the Christmas holidays people can choose to see Venice dressed up, illuminated by luminarias and with a great participation for the Regata delle Befane on 6 January. Or perhaps wait until the city empties out a little, in the days after the Epiphany.
And if we cannot expect to see the dolphins return to the Grand Canal as they did during the pandemic, why not go to Venice out of season, when the calli are not crowded and you don’t have to queue for everything? January offers the chance to discover a more authentic Venice and share the bacari only with Venetians, take advantage of cheaper hotel prices and above all eat local specialities without rushing.
What are the bacari?
Here is a small glossary to help you get the most out of your Venetian aperitif.
A bacaro is not a bar, it is not a restaurant, it is an osteria where to drink a Spritz or one of those drinks that the Venetian people call ombra (a glass of wine), accompanied by the classic ‘cicchetti’ (snacks, often widely filled slices of bread). The ambience is informal and fun. These are around the various sestieri (the six areas into which Venice is divided) of the city. The décor is rustic, and people often share tables or perhaps sit on a boat moored in front of the venue.
Andar per bacari – means going on a mini-tour among these gourmet places – a typical Venetian style of enjoying yourself and one we invite you to make your own. You hardly ever stop in one place, you hop from one bacaro to another around the various sestieri, to taste the specialities of each one. And, of course, compare the spritz drinks to decree the best.
Here is a tested and selected tour of the city’s central areas, to choose the best of the bacari for both ambience and, of course, food.
Cicchetteria venexiana da Luca e Fred
Cannaregio, 1518, 30121 Venice VE
Cuttlefish polenta and squid, polenta in carrozza with anchovies, tuna meatballs. These are some of the most famous cicchetti. Actually, all the meatballs here are so tasty and it is easy to fill your plate with delicacies.
Fondamenta dei Ormesini, 2754, 30121 Venice VE
No problem if you run out of tables: sit on the boats moored in front of the restaurant. Dining is also possible (the meat selection is varied and extremely tasty), but this place is famous for its cicchetti. The baccalà mantecato with polenta croutons is a classic (and if you fancy making it at home, here is our recipe). The counter at this bacaro, with its infinite options of crostini fillings, could be so tempting for anyone, so the best thing to do is try them all.
Cantina Vecia Carbonera
Rio Terà de la Maddalena, 2329, 30121 Venice VE
What used to be an old coal workshop is now a cosy and rustic osteria. The most curious feature of this place is undoubtedly the door that opens directly onto the canal, through which the goods are entered. Try the crostini with leek and gorgonzola or prawns and radicchio, which, accompanied by Select spritz, can make a great lunch or a simple aperitif.
Sestiere Santa Croce
Bacareto da Lele
Fondamenta dei Tolentini, 183, 30100 Venice VE
Perfect for tasting freshly cut crispy rolls on the go: salami, ham, soppressa and mushrooms or artichokes and bacon. Why on the go? Because here cicchetti are eaten while leaning on the large wooden barrels at the entrance, or you can sit on the edge of the canal. Wine prices are very low, so you need to be extra careful not to overdo it.
Santa Croce, 183/a, 30135 Venice VE
Right next to Bacareto da Lele, this cosy place (with tables and seating) is a great alternative: with cicchetti bursting with delicious baccalà mantecato or with cured meats and cheeses. Arcicchetti is a favourite both for its very low prices (€1 for cicchetti and €1.80 for Spritz) and for the quality of its cocktails and wine.
Sestiere San Polo
Cantina Do Spade
San Polo, 859, 30125 Venice VE
A trattoria where you can grab a quick drink while chatting, but also a place where people can stop and eat the great classics of Venetian cuisine. What is special about this place, however, is that you can find all the traditional and seasonal gastronomic delicacies that have been somewhat lost, such as mutton castrated during the Festa della Madonna della Salute (on 21 November), or ‘moeche’ (‘naked crabs’ from the moulting period of March/April and October/November). The very typical ‘sarde in saor’ are always available, as well as Venetian-style liver or meatballs with red sauce. But in a place like this, one can venture a little more.
Ostaria dai Zemei
San Polo 1045, b, 30125 Venice VE
The fact that it is so close to the Rialto Bridge immediately makes one think of a tourist trap, but this small place is historic, as well as extremely quaint. The very name is linked to the two owners, twins, who have been running the place for a long time, plastered with photos of twins, customers or not. Here the food combinations are a tad more daring, and the cod is served with celery, while caramelised onion is embraced by bacon. If you should manage to grab a seat, beware that the prices are somewhat higher-than-average.
Cantine del Vino già Schiavi
Fondamenta Nani, 992, 30123 Dorsoduro, Venice VE
This charming venue in Venice’s university district is where you can enter to buy wines and stop to enjoy some delicious cicchetti. This is a well-stocked wine shop, where purchases need to take time because it is always better to taste before buying. And there is no shortage of tastings here: while standing at high wooden tables amidst hundreds of bottles of wine, customers share space and chat over cicchetti and pairing them with the many wines on offer.
A hop and a skip around the Lagoon
Venice is also its beautiful Lagoon, with islands, each one different. In addition to Murano, do not miss the opportunity to pop over to the colourful Burano, a favourite of artists. Here too, as ‘in the city’, you can wander through narrow streets, canals and bacari. The cicchetti of fish and the inevitable tramezzini (sandwiches) will provide the right comfort after a walk among brightly coloured houses that bravely defy the thick lagoon fog.
And after the cicchetti?
If the effect of these appetisers, combined with spritzes and wine shadows, has been to increase your hunger, then all that is left is to sit down at the table. Some advice? You could take a trip off the tourist track by waterbus or water taxi and reach the island of Mazzorbo for lunch or dinner at the contemporary Osteria Venissa. Here the products of the Venice Lagoon meet a creative cuisine, in an ambience that calls for relaxation.