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By Kiri Tannenbaum

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 the booze and allow customers to bring their own food, eventually they started providing inexpensive items that would normally be scraps, known as cicchetti. But as Venice became a vacation destination for the Lombardis and other well-to-do families the cicchetti offerings were elevated to tastier small snacks. I mean really, what wealthy person wants to eat brains or tendons with their pinot grigio?

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:

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 in Italy without gelato? This particular gelateria that the tour kicks off at from the outside looks like it could not possibly be artigianale, and inside with the neon lights, pizza to-go and kebabs—you may think to turn around and leave. But taste the deep, dark cioccolato, it is undeniable that this little takeaway joint bests most of the gelaterias in town.

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Then you’ll get your first introduction to the bacari where Venetians crowd outside waiting for the doors to open and linger long into the night. 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.

monica-cesarato-cicchetti-tour-el-sbarlefo-veniceHer next stop is where you will find jovial old Italian men crowding the bar in the early evening. Peruse the array of cicchetti on display (stuffed squid for one) and then huddle up to the narrow marble counter and you will likely strike up a conversation with one of the locals.

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 calcuate the bill based on the number of toothpicks from your cicchetti, so be sure to hang on to them.

Why We Picked It:

Monica is a native of the Veneto region and, 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.

Cook in Venice

35 euro per person (does not include cost of food and drinks)
Inquire for dates
3 hours length
From the U.S. 1 (213) 550-5452

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