Living in Umbria six months a year, we are only a short drive from Venice, and in fact it takes us just about four and a half hours from our farmhouse to the parking garage in Venice. Once we realized this, we have been taking short trips to Venice each year to enjoy the architecture, the ambience, and most of all the food. Living in landlocked Umbria, we truly appreciate fresh seafood, and Venice has some of the best we have ever tasted. One unique dining feature in Venice that we love are the wine bars, or bacari, where you can get a glass of wine and some finger foods, called cicchetti, which are often seafood based. On every trip, our lunch in Venice includes walking to two or three bacari and enjoying a glass of local wine and a number of cicchetti.
We first discovered the bacari in Venice many years ago and we were told that these establishments were created for the locals who stopped by on their way home from work for an aperitivo and cicchetti. Ladies out shopping will also stop off at their local bacaro to grab a quick glass of wine, and a tasty treat before they head home. Back in the 1990’s when we first discovered Venice’s bacari, there were a handful that we found, many in the Rialto market area. Often these wine bars were small, dark places, packed full of locals, and hidden away on tiny streets and alleyways. Today, we can find a bacaro on just about every street in certain districts, and in fact many restaurants have started to include a cicchetti menu due to the growing popularity of this wonderful Venetian experience. Bacari have become quite trendy in Venice now, and offer a unique dining experience for tourists and locals alike.
A year or two ago, we met up with a Facebook friend, Monica Ceserato, who gives cicchetti tours around Venice, along with cooking classes in her bed and breakfast. Monica was kind enough to meet up with us, and took us to some of her favorite bacari. We have since visited the ones Monica shared with us, along with our own old favorites, again and again. (see list below) There is nothing better than to experience Venice bacari with a local resident to get a true feel of traditional Venetian wine bars, and I highly recommend taking a guided bacari tour with Monica, as Venice can be a difficult city to locate addresses if you are not familiar with it.
I have always been a big fan of finger foods, called sputini or stuzzichini in other parts of Italy, but find the cicchetti served in Venice very unique to the region. Usually when you walk into a bacaro, you will see a large selection of cicchetti arranged on top of the bar, or under glass, and you simply go up and choose a few that will be plated for you to enjoy with a spritz (Aperol based drink) or a glass of local wine. The selections often include raw seafood options, deep fried polpettini (balls) of vegetables, seafood, or meat, open faced sandwiches or crostini topped with just about anything under the sun, and many cooked seafood selections sometimes served on squares of polenta. One of our personal Venetian cicchetti favorites is Baccala Mantecata, or whipped salted cod served on polenta, although if you like raw seafood, you won’t find fresher selections than at a Venetian bacaro!
El Sbarlefo – The BEST Baccala Mantecato!
Our favorite bacaro for raw seafood!
Choosing a cicchetti selection at El Sbarlefo.
Our third bacaro selection.
Whipped salted cod (Baccala Mantecata) at El Sbarlefo along with calamari in pesto, and a slice of artichoke tart.
The freshest raw clams ever.
Raw shrimp and fresh porcini mushrooms and cheese on crostini.
A List Of Just A Few Venetian Bacari (Our Personal Suggestions Are Starred)
Alla Vedova – The Widow’s Place – is the ultimate Venetian bacaro, run by the same family for over a century.
Ramo Ca’ d’Oro,
041 528 5324
Cantina Do Spade * – Only a short walk from Rialto, Cantina do Spade offers fish based recipes from the traditional Veneto cuisine, often made with creative flair.
San Polo 859,
041 521 0583
Vecia Carbonera *– Wine-barrel tables are rough around the edges in this historic coal-hole-in-the-wall bar, and that suits regulars just fine.
Ponte Sant’Antonio 2329
041 524 23 88
Alla Rampa – The sign outside may say ‘trattoria’, but this venerable locale on the ground floor of a 17th century palazzo has been a traditional ‘bacaro’ for over a century.
El Sbarlefo * – Sbarlefo has expanded to a new location in Dorsoduro, in the calle just behind the church. Select from a spread of delectable cicchetti from classic polpette of meat and tuna to tomino cheese rounds to speck and robiolo rolls, and more.
Salizzada del Pistor (off Campo Santi Apostoli),
041 523 3084
Cantinone Vini gia Schiavi – Known to Venetians as the Bottegon – the bottle shop – this legendary ‘bacaro’ is a favourite haunt of fashionable Venetians. The Bottegon sits on the idyllic San Trovaso canal, opposite one of the last workshops still making gondolas, and in summer, crowds mill around the water’s edge while rowers glide along the canal, moor their boat and then head in for a drink and ciccheto.
Ponte San Trovaso,
041 523 0034
Alla Ciurma * – A centuries-old storeroom has been converted into a tiny bar that resembles the inside of a boat – ‘ciurma’ means ‘the crew’ – and it is easy to spot because the place is so packed that customers spill out onto the street.
San Polo 405,
041 523 9514
Cantina do Mari * – This is the original bacaro—in business continually since 1462. Cramped but warm and cozy under hanging antique copper pots, it has been catering to the workers of the Rialto Market for generations.
Calle dei Do Mori,
San Polo 429,
041 522 5401
Al Merca – A busy, tiny bacaro shoved into corner of the campo just beyond the Rialto Market. A local favorite, choose from various cicchetti (meat, tuna, or eggplant croquettes; crostini and panini with imaginative combos of radicchio, artichokes, fish, soppressa, ossocollo, and more)
Campo Cesare Battista,
San Polo 213,
347 100 2583
Osteris Ca’Doro * – Often reputed to have the best polpette in town, this bacari is also a trattoria so it gets very busy.
Calle del Pistor (off the Strada Nova),
041 528 5324