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Bacari and Cicchetti: the Aperitivo in Venezia at a fair price - Drink Italian
Venezia Canal Grande

Bacari and Cicchetti: the Aperitivo in Venezia at a fair price

Bacari and Cicchetti are the true Aperitivo experience in Venezia. The first name refers to the place where people meet, the second one refers to the delicious bite-sized appetizers that are served with the drink.

Venezia can’t be imagined: Venezia must be seen and lived!
Probably nowhere else in the world has a patrimony of art, architecture, craftsmanship, history, and breathtaking views like you can find in the city in Veneto, in the North East of Italy.

Gondolas on Canal Grande in Venezia
Gondolas on Canal Grande in Venezia – credit Pixabay

History of the city

According to tradition, Venice formally came into existence at the stroke of noon on the 25th March, 421 A.D. while the Roman Empire was collapsing and the Barbarians were threatening the local populations of the areas who decided to find protection in the Lagoon.

For nearly 1400 years, the two or three miles of shallow water separating Venice from the rest of Italy, had not only protected Venice from invaders but effectively isolated the Venetians from the Italian political life. In that period, from 697 AD until 1797 AD, La Serenissima reigned on the city and the famous aristocracy then expanded their possessions also in the Mainland.

The traditional flavors of Venezia

Expert voyagers and traders, the Venetians built the important Maritime Republic and brought to Italy many spices, ingredients, and traditions that shaped the culinary and drink culture of the area, and of the whole of Italy. Venetians imported to Italy most of the Malvasia grapes that we have nowadays, Marco Polo brought cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg which are used in many Italian liqueurs today.

One of the most famous dish of Venezia actually comes from the fishermen’s tradition: sarde en saor, literarly translating “herrings on flavor”, where saor was a seasoning based on vinegar, sugar, onions, pine nuts, and sultanas – that the fishermen invented to preserve their fish, in the absence of refrigerators.

People having Aperitivo with Cicchetti at a Bacaro in Venezia – Credit Venezia Autentica

Cicchetti menu

Sarde en soar on a piece of bread is now a popular cicchetto. And the list of these typical appetizers is very long because, besides the favorites that you can find in each bacaro, there are also some unique recipes that are proprietary to each chef. The name ‘ciccheto’ (pronounced “chi-KET-to” and “chi-KET-tee” plural) probably comes from the Latin word “ ciccus” that means “small quantity”, which refers to their small size,

Eating Cicchetti and having a drink at the Bacari is the ultimate example of Aperitivo experience in Venezia. They can range from uovo sodo con arringa (hard-boiled egg topped with herring fillet) to acciughe marinate (vinegar marinated anchovies), to a small portion of seppioline alla griglia (grilled baby squid), to panino con il salame (a small bread roll filled with local salame).

The most typical cicchetti, the ones that Venetians love and that you can find in almost every bàcaro, include succulent polpette (fried meatballs), slices of grilled polenta topped with mouthwatering creamy baccalà mantecato (creamed cod) and bite-size crostini with sarde in saor (sardines in an onion and vinegar sauce), just to name a few. 

Cicchetti are freshly prepared and are generally created with seasonal and local products, as are all of the most authentic dishes found in Italy. Cicchetti can be ordered individually or you can opt for a cicchetada, a platter that includes a selection of the house specialties. The price for an individual cicchetto ranges from €1.00 to €2.50 depending on the type and size.

Bacari, aka the Venetian Wine Bars

Bàcaro is a typical tavern, featured by simple furniture, where the local Venetians meet for chatting and socializing while having an “ombra” and some cicchetti. Again, the elements for the perfect aperitivo in Venezia: Bacari, cicchetti, and some good friends.

The name ‘ bàcaro’ seems to come from a Venetian expression as “far bacara” that means to have a party, to make noise, so in the end to have fun. And in fact, after many drinks with friends, some of the clients after leaving the bar to go home were often “disturbing the local quiet” ??

The name Ombra, which literally translates to “shade”, can refer to a small glass of red or white wine. One legend says that the name comes from the fact that Venetian wine sellers used to stand in Saint Mark’s Square selling wine from their stalls under the shade of the church tower. As the shade shifted, they moved their stalls, thus keeping their drink cool.

“Andiamo a bere all’ombra del campanile,” meaning, “Let’s go and drink in the shade of the church tower.” became shortly “Andiamo a bere un’ombra,” or, “Let’s go and drink a shade.” Another theory suggests that the term ombra comes from the fact that the small glass and the serving size is only a “shade” of a proper glass of wine, so that is why the locals refer to it in that way! Regardless of which explanation you believe, the pleasure of a nice ombra, enjoyed in the company of friends, still lives on today, always accompanied by a cicchetto or two.

Wine serve on tap. in a Bacaro in Venezia. Photo by Eric Parker via CC

What to drink at the Bacari?

The most typical wine to order with your cicchetti is a Veneto wine. Not many people realize that Veneto produces the largest variety of red and white wines in Italy! Locals participate in consuming much of this wine ?

When you are at a bacaro, and you want to be a little fancy, a glass of Prosecco DOC is a must! While in the rest of the world consider Prosecco a very good inexpensive sparkling wine, at the Bacari, it is probably one of the most costly options. It is also one of the only wines that will be poured from the bottle.

In fact, wines at the bacari are usually on tap. There can be some Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay as a white option, while Merlot, Cabernet, and Raboso are the most popular red wines. Typical Veneto wines are young, smooth, refreshing, and cheap – an ombra will usually cost around €1.00.

Bacari and Cicchetti: the Aperitivo in Venezia at a fair price?

Just to recap. Yes, an ombra and a cicchetto are very affordable: they might be €3-4.00. However, don’t expect a full glass of wine and a seated service: you will eat and drink standing up. Moreover, one is not going to be enough. The tip is to plan a tour of Bacari, stopping here and there maybe on your way to Piazza San Marco. The most concentration of bacari is in Sestrier Canareggio and San Polo.

To have a nice experience and to be able to take some different cicchetti, you will need probably 3-4 stops. So the budget you should consider can be around €15-20. Not bad at all: new friendship and wonderful views of Venezia are a nice free addition.

There are many great websites where you can explore Venezia and what the city has to offer. We like Venezia Autentica, because they promote sustainable tourism, supporting local artisans, and giving back some of the profits to the community.

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