Cicheti and Traditional Fare

Plan ahead – this is the advice you’re likely to find on most online forums about eating in Venice. With its unique setting on the lagoon, incredible architecture, canals lined with historical palazzi and bobbing with gondolas, breath-taking scenery, a truly magical atmosphere… Venetian cuisine usually ranks lower down on the list of highlights in Venice. After hours of sightseeing weary visitors are easily lured into tourist traps for much-needed rest and refreshment. Before you find yourself in that situation, do your research, or be spontaneous – follow the locals and let them guide you to the delectable Venetian cuisine the city has to offer.

Off the beaten track, away from the hustle and bustle, this is one of the most relaxed cities in the world. Venice owes its laid-back pace of life to the absence of cars. Not only is life literally slower without a vehicle but walking, or even catching the vaporetto, means bumping into people throughout the day and, of course, stopping for coffee or an aperitif – and so getting from one place to another takes locals a lot longer.

Needless to say, bars play a central role in Venice. Coffee and pastries are firm favourites first thing in the morning, but from about 10am the locals head to the bacari (typical Venetian wine bars) for a spriss (prosecco and Aperol topped with sparkling water) or an ombra (a small, inexpensive glass of the house wine) – pre-lunch drinks enjoyed with tasty tapas-like cicheti (pronounced chee-KE-tee). At the end of the day the bacari start filling up as the locals start moving again, enjoying a drink or two with colleagues and friends en-route home.Venice has become renowned for this evening ritual of stopping for an ombra and cicheti at one bacaro and then moving on to another, otherwise known as a giro d’ombra.

Cicheti offer bite-size tastes of the local food which makes them an ideal, inexpensive way to explore the Venetian cuisine, which is highly distinct from other Italian fare, steeped in seafood and local vegetables grown on nearby islands. Yellow and white polenta are Veneto staples, often grilled to accompany seafood and meat dishes; topped with seafood, cured meats or vegetables, or served soft with schie (lagoon shrimp). At bacari and traditional Venetian restaurants look out for baccalà alla veneziana – salted codfish Venetian style served with a slice of polenta and sarde in saor – fried sardines layered with onions, sultanas and pine nuts, and left to marinate – both make great starters. For mains try bigoli in salsa – a thick spaghetti-like pasta served with an onion and anchovy sauce; pasta e fagioli - a tasty dish of tagliatelle pasta cooked with beans – just what you want on a cold winter’s day; risi e bisi – rice with fried peas, pancetta, onion and parsley, and risotto de gò – risotto made with goby, also known as gò, fished from the Venetian lagoon. Other Venetian specialities include fegato alla veneziana – livers and onions, and sepe col nero – cuttlefish, a soft squid-like creature coated with its own ink and usually served with polenta.

Here’s our pick of Bacari and Traditional Venetian Restaurants:


Taverna San TrovasoSestiere Dorsoduro 1016. Tel. 041 5203703

Enjoy generous servings of traditional meat or seafood dishes and a homely atmosphere. Do try the spaghetti alla pirata, a tasty seafood pasta and the seppie alla veneziana in nero, cuttlefish in its own ink served with polenta.


Osteria al BacaretoSestiere San Marco 3447. Tel. 041 5289336

For over 40 years this osteria has been serving cicheti and ombre as well as timeless Venetian dishes like sarde in saor, baccalà, bigoli in salsa, fegato alla veneziana – to mention only a few. (Closed Sundays)

Bacaro Chic..chetteriaSestiere San Marco 2159. Tel. 041 2400001

Inside The Westin Europa & Regina hotel, only a short walk from St Mark’s Square, Chef Alberto Fol prepares a creative choice of cicheti with a traditional flavour, like the roasted scallops with a cannellini cream and baby spinach.

Hostaria GalileoCampo Sant Angelo 3593. Tel. 041 5206393

A mix of traditional recipes – both meat and seafood dishes – are accompanied by a good selection of wines from the Veneto and Friuli regions. (Closed Tuesdays)


Osteria Alba NovaLista Vecchia Dei Bari 1252. Tel. 041 5241353

Another gem for traditional dishes, some that date back to the 18th century likemoeche al cacao or the tagliatelle fragole e scampi from the 14th century. Dim lighting and dark wooden furnishings set the scene for a romantic meal.


Trattoria Da RobertoSestiere Castello 4707. Tel. 041 5221506

Besides the yummy pizzas Trattoria Da Roberta stands out for its traditional Veneto cuisine that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.


Osteria Ae BottiIsola Giudecca 609. Tel. 041 7241086

Hop on the vaporetto and head to Giudecca Island for polpettine della nonna(Nonna’s meatballs) and other scrumptious cicheti. An excellent spot for a sit down meal too, where you can enjoy a choice of Venetian favourites like thetaglioline ai peoci, risi e bisi or the seppie in tecia served with polenta.


Bentigodi Di Chef DomenicoSestiere Cannaregio 1423. Tel. 041 8223714

Come aperitif time be sure to get a good spot up near the bar counter to enjoy a delicious spread of cicheti. Being popular among the locals, expect to find a nice relaxed atmosphere at Bentigodi and some rather interesting characters too.

Al Timon. Sestiere Cannaregio 2754. Tel. 041 5246066

A huge hit among the locals and the few tourists who have made the effort to find it. With little seating indoors you’ll probably find yourself standing on the edge of the canal with the locals outside in the sun. Expect an array of cicheti and good wine, as well as simple, home cooked meals.

Alla VedovaSestiere Cannaregio 3912. Tel. 041 5285324

If it’s Venetian you want, it’s Venetian you’ll get – from the 19th century style furnishings and marble floors to the cheerful vibe and great traditional food. Enjoy a plate of cichetti (they’re famous for their meatballs), washed down with an ombra or local dishes such as the bigoli in salsa. Best to book if you want a table.


By Sarah Hardwick

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