Small Plates Are a True Taste of Venice
Though Venice is known for romance and gondola rides, this Italian city also boasts some of the freshest seafood around, and a bacaro – a small bar with snacks and great wine – is just the place to get it.
Not limited to just great seafood, these backstreet, alleyway bacari offer Italian staples like meatballs, charcuterie (sliced meats and cheese boards), and fresh Italian bread, especially crostini (small slices of bread with toppings), but when a region is surrounded by water as much as Venice, seafood definitely becomes the highlight.
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Similar to Spanish tapas, Venice’s bacaro culture is all about the small plates (cicchetti) and the small glass of wine (ombra). In fact, if you order up a glass of vino you’ll probably get an expensive, foreign wine. Order up an ombra for the small local. The true bacaro is off-the-beaten tourist trap, so you likely won't have help when ordering.
According to The Guardian’s article on the romantic, buzzing, tasty bacaro culture of Venice, they even go so far as to warn travelers to avoid any supposed bacaro with a menu posted in the window, especially if it’s in multiple languages. And if you see a picture of a pizza on a posted menu, hail the nearest gondola and look elsewhere. Most of the time you get what you see, and what you’ll see for the most part is some serious seafood.
The bacaro goes back to the 1300s, when roughly 20 bacari were situated around Venice’s iconic Rialto Bridge, so eating at a bacaro is also a historical journey. The atmosphere inside is quaint, old-school, and packed, reminiscent of a speakeasy or even an authentic deli. The best way to experience multiple bacari on a short trip like a CITYbreak to Venice is by doing a bar crawl, or giro di ombre. If a CITYbreak is how you're experiencing Venice, a City Insider, or local, will show you the ins and outs and will definitely know where and how to experience the best bacari in the city.
Though Venice hasn’t been known as a foodie destination in the past, this approach is sure to please any so-called foodie. Venice especially transcends culture with its bacari scene because it mixes Italian cuisine with a Spanish tapas style and, most recently, even a Japanese-esque incarnation in that raw fish, or sashimi-style seafood, has become the norm and a very popular dish.
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Cooked or raw, the seafood at an authentic bacaro is incredible. Enjoy fresh shrimp, oysters, prawns, herring, cuttlefish, calamari, sardines, branzino, salmon, tuna, sea bass, and a bacaro staple – baccalá mantecato, a creamy salted cod served over a wedge of polenta. There are several must-visit bacari, like Do Mori (Sestiere San Polo, 429, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy), dating back to 1462, known for their francobollo sandwich, white bread with sliced meats, radicchio, gorgonzola, and roasted vegetables. Other must-visits include:
Ca’ d’Oro alla Vedova – Ramo Ca’ d’Oro, 3912, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
La Cantina – Cannaregio, 3689, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy
All’ Arco – Sestiere San Polo, 436, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy
Cantina Vecia Carbonera – Canneregio 2329, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
El Sbarlefo – 30121, Salizada del Pistor, 4558, Venezia VE, Italy
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Brush up on your Italian, and be ready to make your voice heard to get an order in. But when you do, it will be worth it. Time you giro di ombre’d your way into delicious – and, OK, also romantic – Venice.