Elaborate facades of grand marble palaces hiding quaint squares where time seems to have stopped. Glittering hand-crafted masks gazing at you from shop windows and gondolas drifting along the canals. Unexpected, and breathtaking, paintings in neighborhood churches, silent garden-like islands, fiery-red sunsets portrayed in Tiepolo’s paintings, and real ones on the lagoon to lose yourself in. not to mention the scrumptious local cuisine.
Truman Capote once said: “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go”. Well, I worship chocolate, and must confess I have had my share… as for Venice, which I’ve visited again and again, I’ve lost my heart to it, now and forever.
Just like a liqueur-filled bonbon Venice is a daring dream come true.
The problem with boxes of luscious chocolates, and with Venice, is that everyone wants a bite. Especially when it comes to the exquisite local fare and superb wines, often over-priced at the many guidebook-recommended Venice restaurants and cafés.
Unquestionably unique, the city has a one-of-kind atmosphere at once mysterious. Alluring, intriguing and altogether fascinating. But, harder to catch from the windows of your no doubt charming Venice hotel, it’s also buzzing with life, amiable and cheerful.
Wondering where the locals sit, and relish the aromas of the best Italian wines? Wishing you knew where to go, instead of standing in line in front of the restaurants in Venice with the main crowd, to find Venice’s friendly warmth and discover the local lifestyle?
Follow me for a taste of Venetian gusto, a bite of authentic flavor and a cheering sip of the signature local drink, authentic Venetian spritz! Let me take you for a walk, lead you across quiet footbridges and through the maze of cobblestone-paved back alleys where Venetian signore stop for a chat, to discover a quintessential part of real Venetians’ life, the bàcaro.
Enjoy a memorable insider’s view, an authentic gastronomic experience off-the-beaten track and a sample of the best food in Venice!
What’s a bacaro?
Probably deriving their name from the ancient dialectal expression “far bàcara”, which means to celebrate in the name of Bacchus, bacari are small, rustic, neighborhood bars, something in between a tavern (osteria in Italy) and a pub. The front door is often not much more than a narrow opening in a wall, the atmosphere is intimate and the furnishings, mostly wood, are simple and full of character: a bar and stools, or a few tables, walls lined with bottles of wine, hand-written boards with the “menu”; depending on their location some also offer outside seating.
Venetians of all kinds, ages and professions, stop at their favorite bacaro, to meet with friends or on their own, for a drink and a snack all through the day but mostly at “aperitivo” time, i.e. before lunch or dinner.
The bacaro’s trademarks: ombre, cicheti and the Spritz
The ombra de vin
Unlike everywhere else in Italy in a bàcaro you don’t ask for “un bicchiere di”, a glass of, you ask for “un’ombra”, namely “a shade of wine”! You’ll find a fine a selection of excellent local labels (which I love!) Prosecco, and a good choice of the best Italian wines.
Would you ever have guessed that Venice has its own version of tapas?! That’s what cicheti are: morsels of local delicacies so delicious and varied that it’s easy to turn a snack into a real meal! Carefully prepared and home-cooked cicheti, the best food you will ever taste in Venice, come in an immense range. These include dainty little sandwiches, fresh seafood speared on toothpicks, canapé-like tidbits with prosciutto, cheese and artichokes, and signature Venetian classics served in small portions.
According to the place and the season you’ll find tantalizing bites of seppie (cuttlefish) grilled or steamed, bottarga (tuna roe), folpeti consi (baby octopus in vinaigrette), sardelle in saor (fried sardines marinated in vinegar and onions), polpettine (Venetian meatballs). And my personal all-time favorite: luscious, velvety baccalà mantecato, an utterly divine concoction of codfish, cooked and then beaten into a creamy paste and served on, or with, toasted bread crostini or squares of grilled cornmeal polenta. Heavenly!
Cicheti are always prepared with typical seasonal products and fresh catch-of-the-day seafood, and generally made exactly according to age-old traditional recipes, although some bàcari serve innovative versions of classic dishes. Last, but by no means least, cicheti are always very reasonably priced… so go ahead, order on, indulge all you like!
Venice’s flagship aperitif, and probably one of Italy’s most famous drinks. The Spritz’s origin dates back to the 1800s, when the Veneto region was ruled by Austria. The foreign generals and soldiers were, apparently, the first to come up with a version of it: they had to add water (so spray/squirt, spritzen in German) to the hearty Veneto wines which they thought too strong. The drink then developed when seltz was invented, but (obviously!!) the locals found it tasteless, so they varied it by adding liqueurs.
Nowadays signature spritz is a delicious a mix of white wine, Aperol (sweeter) or Bitter Campari and Select (bitterer) with a squirt of seltz or sparkling water.
My favorite bacari
Family owned and managed this friendly neighborhood osteria serves some of the best food in Venice. Make sure you try the cannocchia (mantis shrimp) with pumpkin and roe!
Where: Calle dell’Ochialer 436, San Polo neighborhood
Cantinone gia’ schiavi
Cantinone gia’ schiavi, dating back to the 19th century, is located right by the San Trovaso squero (gondola repair shop). The bàcaro’s interior is charming, with original period furnishings and the walls covered floor to ceiling by bottles for purchase (the cellar is one of the most extensive ones in town) and the cicheti are delicious and inventive.
Where: Fondamenta Nani 992, Dorsoduro neighbourhood
Walk down to the San Basilio pier, where some of the world’s most lavish yachts and sailboats dock before setting off for faraway lands, to work up an appetite, and stop at Codroma’s to satisfy it. You won’t regret it, the cicheti are scrumptious, it’s warm and welcoming inside, and offers outside seating. Plus, the owners and staff are simply delightful. Once I was supposed to have lunch here with friends before catching a train. Delayed, we swung by to apologize and cancel our reservation, but the owner wouldn’t hear of it: he whipped up a bunch of fresh cicheti and packaged them all up. We had a Venetian feast on the train (envied by everyone present!)
Where: Fondamenta Briati 2540
Osteria da Carla
In a hidden courtyard just a few meters from Piazza San Marco, Da Carla is at once modern and ancient, has a somewhat sophisticated atmosphere, and serves spectacular food and the best Italian wines. I’ll never forget an evening spent here with a bunch of French friends. There were so many of us we virtually filled the place up, our aperitivo turned into dinner and once the glasses had heaped up we, and the owners, sang the night away!
Where: Corte Contarina 1535
I’ll always associate Bancogiro’s Prosecco and cicheti with romance and love: I was here with a lovely couple of friends on the evening when he proposed to her! Strategically located at the foot of the Rialto Bridge, and right by the lively Rialto Market, housed in the premises of what used to be a warehouse it’s right across the Grand Canal from the ancient Fondaco dei Tedeschi building, which was recently restored and transformed into a luxury shopping mall.
Where: Campo S.Giacometto S.Polo 122
Namely “the little anchovy”! This picturesque bàcaro is right behind the famous historic Hotel Danieli and beloved by locals for it’s delicious little anchovy pizzas, and for it’s great wine selection.
Where: Campo SS. Filippo e Giacomo Castello 4357
Vini da Gigio
Classical Venetian specialties, such as the flagship fegato alla veneziana, prepared with the utmost care, a great selection of different wines and warm yet professional style. Very popular with Venetians and visitors alike!
Where: Calle Stua Cannaregio 3628A
Cantina do mori
More than an osteria, and much more than a restaurant, Cantina do Mori is a Venetian icon and a legend. Dating back to 1462 it’s probably the most ancient bàcaro in Venice and, apparently, used to be one of Casanova’s favorite night-time haunts! The interior, extremely picturesque with its period furnishings and architecture, has been used as a set for several movies.
Where: Sestiere San Polo 429
Do Spade is another very ancient tavern (historical records mention it as a popular venue back in 1448!) conveniently located close to the Rialto Bridge. Rustic, typical and very lively it’s renowned, and sought-after, for its specialty: fiori fritti, deep-fried stuffed zucchini flowers… superbly decadent!
Where: San Polo 859
I have spent my whole life working on high end events and travelling both for job reasons and for real passion; now, it is time to share notes with you! My passion for travel started when I was a child and now it is not just a passion, it is part of my business as I work in the field of luxury travels and events. In private life, luxury is the joy I find also in details and in small things.