Thursday, 1 December 2011

My Mini Guide to Venice Cicchetti Bars

The sunset behind Venice as the waterbus pulled into the various vaporetto stops between Marco Polo airport and Zatterre, a small amount of mist rendered the city into a Melville painting. Venice - a city so incredibly beautiful, romantic yet with a melancholiness about it too.

I spent 4 days there and this is my brief guide to the Cicchetti bars and coffee stops that I've roughly compiled and with much help from @misspigcheeks who took most of the pics.

Before the food though the two art highlights: Firstly the Venice Biennale - absolutely astonishing quantity of art - in particular Mike Nelson's bizarre and intriguing installation at the British Pavillion was like being inside an Orhan Pamuk novel. The pavilions not inside the main drag at the Giardini were great to route around. Secondly the standout spectacle of the two Pinault Modern Art spaces: The Palazzi Grassi & the Punta Della Dogana - both completely fantastic buildings  with awesome selected artworks of the finest quality placed with delicate finesse.

Cicchetti Bars are similar to the Tapas bars of San Sebastian - the food displayed on the counter for you to pick from and have a glass of wine with before moving on to the next one - also like the San Sebastian tapas bars they often have a formal seated part to them which are considerably more pricey to sit in.  All weekend I drank either spritz with Aperol, white Soave, fizzy red Robbosco,  house red or Prosecco - all were are €2.50-€3.50.

Although I went to Venice with a list of recommendations the best places you still chance upon whilst doing a Donald Sutherland and so after a few wrong turns we happened across a tiny square immediately after a low Sotoportego on the Scaleta road were we found our favourite Cicchetti bar.  N nestled in the corner of this street served great cicchetti and always had a buzz about it (I went back 2 more times over the weekend). Full both day and night - queues for the formal area and a youthful buzz missing from some parts of Venice it was a great spot.  Highlights here were baked radiccio with parmesan - confit baby onions that melted in the mouth - octopus salad  & bite size "pepperoni" peppers amongst many other dishes that constantly changed and refreshed.

Another great spot was the Osteria Da Alberto - a beautiful little restaurant with tiny bar by the entrance were we perched out of the cold drinking warming reds eating salt cod baccaro toasts, scallops, langoustine. We went back the following night to try and get a table for a sit-down meal - looking now at reviews it seems like definitely a great spot for something more formal too.

On our way to and from town to our hotel in Dorsoduro we stopped a few times at trattoria De Fiore  on one occasions they had this neat dish of razor clams.

Also of note was the relaxed Osteria Promessi Sposi where I was told told "tranquilo" as I garbled out at lightning fast rate the confused Italian I had learnt so far - a good spot that away from the main street seemed calm and simple but the food was still yummy though perhaps without the bells and whistles of the Alberto or the Scaleta road spot. - Also had a big dining area that was packed with people enjoying it.

The Ruga Rialto also had these tasty roe covered tuna tatare things:

And seriously healthy portions of "fried fish"

Breakfast / Coffee:

Again like with Cicchetti bars you can sit down but part of the fun seems to be standing around casually picking Brioche from the counter whilst your coffee is being readied. Brioche being  the filled croissants - very popular - served from help yourself clear plastic warming things.  Delicious chocolate, marmalade, custard. Dipped, dunked and savoured. all sorts of other pastries on offer too.  

Great coffee up near the jewish district at the Torrefazione on Rio Tera San Leonardo roasted & ground in house and served with a laugh & a smile.  We had great breakfast at the  Rizzardini pastry shop too.

Cicchetti was amazing and like the casual San Sebastian style tapas bars I'm surprised I haven’t seen it done in London - at least not with the same easy going informality of both places.  Perhaps it's thought the weary Londoner simply wouldn't stand up for that length of time - or that they would help themselves and not pay up.  In four days we only sat down for two meals - at one a great plate of pasta with squid in ink & a plate of pasta vongole - the second time a fishy feast at a formal family restaurant that cost 3x the equivalent meal ate as Cicchetti.  

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