“Eating ciccheti seems inextricably tied to Venice’s pedestrian way of life,” writes Sally Spector in Venice & Food. “It is natural for people to run into each other, stop to chat for a moment, going into the nearest bar to have something. There are few, if any, other cities where the ciccheto ritual could take place. One cannot go for cicheti in a car.” Going for ciccheti (Venetian tapas) is “a cheap way to socialize, grab a bite to eat and wonder the best parts of the city, all in one,” notes Emiko Davies in Food52. “And it’s not only an evening thing -- you’ll find bacari are open from early morning onwards.” To get an idea of what you’ll find on a Venetian cicheti plate, Saveur’s rundown is replete with images and recipes of tried and tested favourites.
When Venetians invite each other for ciccheti you may hear them say, prendere un’ombra (literally, let’s grab some ‘shade’). This affectionate colloquialism survives from the 18th century when Venetian wine merchants would set up shop in the shadow of the St Mark’s campanile, moving their wares throughout the day to stay out of the sun. “The world of bacari, ombre, and cicheti is the real Venice,” says Luca Marchiori at Great Italian Chefs, which details a typical Saturday night bacaro (bar) crawl.
And here’s a cicchetti cheat sheet from Lucy Fennings at Mr & Mrs Smith:
Follow your nose: “The best bacari are nothing much to look at – they’re too busy serving customers to care about hipster lighting or natty napery. If there’s a buzz, a crowd spilling onto the pavement, the chatter is mostly Italian, and something tasty catches your eye, go for it.”
Take plenty of cash: “Most local bacari don’t take cards (or don’t take kindly to them); come prepared with plenty (nothing worse than running out just when you’ve spotted some freshly made swordfish carpaccio…).”
Check the daily specials: “There’s almost always a mini set menu based on whatever’s freshest that day (especially near the Rialto fish market); otherwise, just point to individual cicchetti in the cabinet.”
It’s never too early for wine: “Venetians pop in for a mid-morning pick-me-up, a quick post-shopping perk or pre-dinner aperitivo. A tot of wine at 11am is completely acceptable.”
It’s sometimes too late for coffee: “Italians wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a latte after lunchtime.”
Know your baccalà from your bresaola: “Genning up on a few key terms will make it easy to earmark your preferred morsels: Venetian salt-cod baccalà is an unmissable mainstay on cicchetti menus.”
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