Venice is a magical city, but it’s a place where you have to put in a little effort to feel the true soul of the place. Those who only visit the main sites and don’t venture off the beaten track often find the city over-crowded and touristy. We’ve discovered, however, that you don’t have to go far to discover a quieter, more authentic side of the city where Venice’s real charm resides.
We love traveling to Venice without an agenda (an anomaly compared to our normal travel routine!). Part of the charm is wandering the tiny alleyways and navigating over and around the canals, discovering new neighborhoods and beautiful historic buildings. A favorite complement to all this wandering is to indulge in cicchetti as we go—small appetizer-sized bites of food (think Venetian tapas) often eaten standing up accompanied by a glass of house wine or an Aperol Spritz. Cicchetti are found in a number of taverns and bars around the city (also known as bacari), and these places provide a cozy atmosphere to rub elbows with the locals.
Cicchetti are purchased by the piece and come in a variety of forms. You will typically find a variety of crostini with veggie, cheese, meat, or fish toppings, as well as other Italian staples like meats and cheeses. Order the cicchetti you want at the bar (pointing to them helps if there is a language barrier!) and find a cozy place to prop up your plate and consume some delicious Venetian specialties!
Cantine del Vino già Schiavi | Fondamenta Nani, 992, 30123 Dorsoduro
This cicchetti spot and wine store is one of our favorite spots in Venice. They have one of the biggest selections of cicchetti bites we have seen, and the most extensive vegetarian options as well. Delicious artichokes, crostini with pistachio crème or cod, and great house wine are all on order. There’s no seating area, so prop your plate on a ledge near the wine shelves and enjoy some of the best cicchetti we’ve found!
Osteria Al Squero | Fondamenta Nani, 943/944, 30123 Dorsoduro
Right down the block from Cantine del del Vino già Schiavi we recently discovered the tiny Osteria Al Squero. With a cozy seating area up front and a compact bar, they had a lively crowd of locals and some great cheese, meat, mushroom and fish topped crostini on order.
Cantina Vecia Carbonera | Rio Terà de la Maddalena, 2329, 30100 Cannaregio
This cantina is another of our favorite cicchetti stops in Venice. A bit farther from the tourist track in the Cannaregio neighborhood, it’s on a main street but easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. They also offer a wide variety of crostini with toppings like mushroom pate or shrimp plus mini sandwiches and deep-fried fish croquettes. Unlike many of the other cicchetti stops, Vecia Carbonera has a lot of seating in the back making it a cozy place to linger for a while.
Osteria Bea Vita | Fondamenta de le Capuzine, 3082, 30121 Cannaregio
The northern reaches of Venice are much quieter and our preferential location when we choose a home base in the city. The neighborhoods are filled with locals out shopping or walking their dogs and the pace is a lot less frenetic. There’s a number of very local cicchetti options in this neighborhood if you know where to look. Osteria Bea Vita is one of these places—a full-fledged restaurant, they also offer a limited selection of cicchetti at their canal-front location. You can grab a seat by the canal in the nice weather and relax with a glass of wine and some small bites.
Cantina do Mori | Sestiere San Polo, 429, 30125 San Polo
This cantina is tucked on a small street right near the Rialto Market and was packed on a Saturday afternoon. They offer a modest selection of mini sandwiches, meats, and vegetables, and tons of atmospheric charm. There’s some stools up against the wall and a larger bar area, but it is a narrow space with doors opening to parallel streets on either end, and the crowd also had a tendency to spill out onto the street as well. The Rialto Market area is filled with a number of other bacari leaving us lots of places to explore on our next trip to Venice.