Venice Food Guide

The Kiwi and I are getting so pumped about our Tour of Italy. {We leave in 4 days!} I cannot stop thinking about all the delicious, delicious food we are going to be eating. I’m just a little excited. Can you tell?

Since I have Italy and traditional Italian food on the brain today, I thought I’d share a few of my tips for where to eat in Venice. The Kiwi and I have both been to Venice pretty recently {him for the 2011 Biennale, me in April with my mom}, so we are not including it on the Tour. However, I do think that Venice is a must-see town if you’re in the area. Unfortunately, apart from the squid ink risotto, Venice is not necessarily known for great food, but I’m going to fill you in on a secret. Venetians love their cicchetti and they do it very, very well. This might as well be called “A Cicchetti Guide to Venice,” because every place on my list in a cicchetti bar.

Cicchetti bars were traditionally where folks stopped on the way home from work for a glass of wine and a bit of socializing. Here’s the rub though, folks didn’t want to be drinking all this wine on an empty stomach because they might end up in the canal before the dinner bell even rang. So cicchetti are small bites that you can have with your wine, but that won’t spoil the dinner that is waiting for you at home. Or you can do what we did–order several and make it your meal. {We saw Venetians doing this too. It’s kosher.} The best part about this is that they are generally pretty cheap and you get to try lots of different things!

So here is how it works. You walk into the bar and give the folks behind the counter your best ‘Salve!’ Most cicchetti bars are family run and the person you see behind the counter has probably been there since 5am. Smiles are nice. There will be a glass case full of cicchetti. Have a look at what they have to offer and get to pointing. “Uno {point}, due {point},” you get the gist. They will hand you your food and wine, and then you can find a spot to eat standing up with all of the other locals. I’m not going to lie, this is not for the faint of heart. You probably won’t have a clue what you are eating and it might not look like something you want to put in your mouth, but do it anyway. I never had a bad cicchetti. Not once.

Enoteca Al Volto
Calle Cavalli, San Marco

This was our first cicchetti experience and the owners were so incredibly sweet helping us figure out what to do/order. There is a restaurant part as well, but I can’t vouch for it as we just had cicchetti. The food was delicious {try the marinated artichokes, or the crostini with a big hunk of blue cheese drizzled with balsamic} and the atmosphere cozy. The whole ceiling is covered in wine bottle labels. A great first experience.

ProntoPesce
opposite the Fish Market, San Polo

Right opposite the fish market, the offerings change daily based on the catch of the day. It is pretty much a one man show. The owner gets the fish from the market fresh each morning. Then he cooks up some incredibly tasty bites and when it’s gone it’s gone. I think it’s safe to say that the bites here are a bit more of a modern take on traditional cicchetti recipes. I am not a I know little and less about wine pairings and usually defer to the Kiwi on that front. That said, I can remember that white wines go well with fish. This place has some great local whites that were just perfect with our little bites of brioche with smoked swordfish, mascarpone, and cherry tomatoes and a lemon marinated anchovy couscous that tasted like no anchovy dish I’ve ever had before {meaning that it was good and not crap}.

Cantina do Mori
just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is said to be the oldest cicchetti bar in Venice. It used to be where people would go to refill their bottles of wine from these huge ‘kegs.’ {That’s not what they are really called. I can’t for the life of me remember their proper name, so I’m going with keg.} Anyway, it is now a bar that offers some heavier cicchetti. There were lots of sliced meats on crostini and fried veggies. Along with these bites they have some great wines that are still served from the ‘kegs.’

Another anecdote… In each square in Venice there is a old well. Each well is different. Way back when, if folks needed water they’d go to the well and fill their copper pots with water to take home. The walls and ceiling at Cantina do Mori are completely covered with those old copper pots.

All’Arco
also just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is family run cicchetti bar is part of the slow food movement. I found it really interesting because they cook and prepare your food right in front of you when you order. The cook in me really enjoyed seeing how all of these spreads and bites are made. It takes a bit more time, but it’s definitely worth the stop. This is a lunch place and closes at 2.30, so get there early.

{Other Venice Advice}

I am not usually a big fan of organized tours. {My exception is bike tours, but we can talk about that another day.} However, I wholeheartedly recommend the Cicchetti Tour. Our guide, Cecelia, was a local whose knowledge of food culture and slow food blew me away. Plus it’s nice to be told what you’re eating one in a while, yea? Cantina do Mori and ProntoPesce were on our tour, but, as we were there the week after Easter, we apparently were not going to the usual places because they were closed for the holiday. So they may or may not be on yours.

If you’ve had enough of cicchetti bars and want to actually sit down to eat your food, Lauren over at Aspiring Kennedy has some great restaurant recommendations too.

Stay in one of the residential areas {the Dosoduro, the Cannaregio, or the Castello neighborhoods}. We stayed in an apartment in the Dosoduro and it was great! Nothing is really that far of a walk in Venice, but if it is, hop on a vaporetto.

Put down your map, get off the main route, and get lost. You see so much more that way!

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