Savouring Venice

December 5, 2014 / Food & Wine
Venice, Veneto
Rialto Market, Venice

Last week I joined a Venice food tour of the Rialto Markets and cicchetti tasting with wine.
Many of you will not have eaten cicchetti (pronounced chee-KEH-tee) and may never have heard of this food culture in Venice. They are bite-sized snacks eaten with a glass of wine.

Bacaro in Venice

Cicchetti can be crostini with tasty toppings, small panini, fritti (fried things, often fish) or polpette (meat balls). These delicious snacks are served in “bàcari”- a type of wine-bar unique to Venice. Here, to accompany your cicchetti you will have an ombra, a small glass of local wine. Legend has it that the word “ombra”, which means “shadow”, comes from the days when people would drink their “ombra” in the shade of the campanile (bell tower) in Piazza San Marco.

Polpette with white polenta

One of the favourite cicchetti toppings is baccalà mantecato – creamed salt-cod. Others are speck, salami, prosciutto crudo or robiola cheese mixed with black truffle. Diving down the side-streets close to the Rialto Market, we began our food tour with an aperitivo of Prosecco and two cicchetti each.

Cicchetti with an ombra
Next stop was a visit to the Rialto markets where we learned how the various fruits, vegetables and fish would traditionally be prepared.

Octopus (polpo) at the Rialto market

Heading down a maze of alleyways, we arrived at a cosy bàcaro for a lunch tasting of polpette with polenta, and calamari fritti on a skewer. Accompanied by some local Merlot, this was followed by yet more cicchetti and a glass of Verduzzo.

Calamari fritti

Finally, it was coffee at an old coffee-house, where the coffee selection seemed limitless.
Then a bottle of grappa was produced. I did as my guide recommended and rinsed the leftover coffee out of my tiny cup with a splash of grappa; this is known as a “grappa rinse”.

Grappa & bussola

Saying mellow goodbyes, we wandered, once more, into the shady alleyways of Venice.

Cicchetti tour was courtesy of Walks of Italy.

by Orna O’Reilly

Orna is a former interior designer who practised in South Africa, Mozambique and Ireland. Now writing full time, she moved from Ireland to the Veneto area of Italy in 2013.

She writes her way around Italy by blogging about it (at Ornasite) and is currently writing a novel set in Venice. You can follow her tweets @OrnaOR, and her Travel & Design page on FB.

13 Responses to “Savouring Venice”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Brilliant note Orna! You really take us there, even to the texture of those rolls!

  2. Great to hear about the wonderful cicchetti at the bacari! Welcome, Orna.

  3. Carol Rizzolo

    Your post was delicious, delightful, and I so look forward to spending time in Venice next fall. Grazie!

  4. great post! can you provide contact information for the guide? we will be in venice next june and would like to schedule a cichetti tour

  5. Colleen Simpson

    Welcome Orna! Great Note and makes me want to hop on the train for Venice right now! Looking forward to more wonderful Notes and photos about Venice.

  6. Robyn Smith

    Orna -Most enjoyable article. Look forward to cicchetti at the bacari when in Venice June 2015.

  7. Yum yum yum! I’ve only had cicchetti one time but plan to do a real “crawl” next spring – your wonderful article & delish photos have me counting the days!

  8. Jack Litewka

    Made me hungry…and left me wishing my airplane was landing at the Venice airport in 10 minutes.


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