Tour Venice’s Hidden Wine Bars with an Insider
Venice's signature small bites, cicchetti, are found in these hidden bars (the bacari), best discovered when guided by Monica Cesarato.
Venice is the only city in Italy that has its own distinct bar culture: the bacari. Similar to the tapas bars of Spain, they took off during World War II as Venice’s extremely poor residents couldn’t afford food with their wine. Barkeepers would serve wine and allow customers to bring their own food, eventually they started providing inexpensive items that would normally be scraps, known as cicchetti. As Venice became a vacation destination for the Lombardis and other well-to-do families the cicchetti offerings were elevated to tastier small snacks. What wealthy person wants to eat brains or tendons with their wine?
Today these intimate wine bars offer an array of bite-sized, handheld nibbles—from breaded and fried mozzarella stuffed with anchovy and tomato to salt cod crostini to toothpick-clad little sandwiches. Where to discover the hidden bacari that offer the best cicchetti in Venice must be done with Monica Cesarato leading the way.
What to Expect:
Without giving away too many spoilers, here are a few of the highlights of the Cicchetti Tour:
Stop ①: Quanto Basta
Of course the tour starts with gelato, because even if you are going to snack on savory bites and sip wine, what is an afternoon without gelato? Her choice is Quanto Basta, which from the outside looks like it may not be artigianale, and in the inside with the neon lights, pizza to-go and kebabs—you may think to turn around and leave. Once you taste the deep, dark cioccolato, it is undeniable that this little takeaway joint bests most of the gelaterias in town. Quanto Basta, Cannaregio 148 (near Santa Lucia station); quantobastavenezia.com
Stop ②: Al Timon
At Al Timon is where you get your first introduction to the bacari and where Venetians often are lingering outside until they open. There they grab a glass and stand around the bar, sit at the long wood tables or spill outside along the rio della Misericordia. Monica does all the ordering so you don’t have to worry (non-adventurous eaters can select their own), but be sure to taste both red and white vino. Al Timon, Fondamenta Ormesini, Cannaregio 2754-30121
Stop ③: El Sbarlefo
El Sbarlefo is where you will find jovial old Italian men crowding the bar in the early evening. Peruse the array of cicchetti on display and then huddle up to the narrow marble counter and you will likely strike up a conversation with one of the locals. El Sbarlefo, Salizada del Pistor, Cannaregio 4556
No more teasers. Expect a few more stops on the tour and endless versions of cicchetti to eat. Along the rest of the route Monica points out bits of Venice’s history and many other bacari for you to visit during the remaining days in Venice.
Bitesee Tip: Some bacari will calcuate your bill (conto) based on the number of toothpicks from your cicchetti, so be sure to hang on to them.
Cost: € 35.00 per person, does not include cost of food and drinks
Dates: Inquire for dates
Length: 3 hours
Group Size: Maximum of 8
Monica is a native of the Veneto region, but with a few years spent in England her English is perfect. More importantly her enthusiasm for Venice’s food culture is off the charts. Do yourself a favor and don’t attempt to go on a bacari crawl without Monica.