Venice is like a brilliant and eccentric artist, jealously guarding its secrets and skills from those who don’t know where to look. Its soul is made of a wide variety of virtues and vices; the city itself is full of quality and boasts a lot of beauty. If you want to unlock the soul of Venice, you simply must indulge in the magnificent gourmet street food available around this city of canals.
Street food will give us an authentic glimpse of Venice you say? Yes! Remember that food is like a religion for us in Italy. When you eat like local Italians, you’ll discover that our street food is always gourmet, fresh and of high quality ‒ especially in Venice.
When you’re traveling and want to make the most of your time exploring all that Venice has to offer, ordering from gourmet street vendors is also just an easier and less formal way to enjoy the local cuisine.
When in Venice, do as the Venetians do
If you want to experience Venice, Italy like a local, you need to walk around the city. As you make your way along the paths the locals take to work and home, there are three Italian words you will grow to love, we promise! These three words we want to teach you are: bacaro, cicchetti and ombra.
Bacaro ‒ The archetypal Venetian inn, a bacaro is often hidden in small alleyways (known as calli) or alongside canals. You can expect a bacaro to be very small, but full of history and character. The furnishings might be simple, often just a few stools and tables partly inside and partly in the street. This is where locals meet for a chat, to complain about the government and taxes (you’d think everyone in Italy could be a fine statesman!), to moan about the foibles of their wives or husbands (who they love despite these flaws) or for talking about sports (everyone in Italy believes to know as much if not more than the soccer coaches!). Aside from the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, locals congregate at bacari because they serve sensational food and drinks. You’re not going to get a fancy menu and several courses at bacari, but you’ll have your pick from a showcase of rich and filling aperitifs.
Cicchetti ‒ This term refers to the small bites of delicious local food. (Trust us, don’t call them tapas!) These include delicacies such as special meatballs, fish-balls, sardines marinated with onions, wine and vinegar (sarde in saor), or local cheese and cold cuts. One special Venetian cicchetti you simply must try is called baccalà mantecato. It is creamy, slow-cooked cod fish served on polenta and garnished with oil and garlic.
Ombra ‒ This Italian word means shade, but when you’re dining in Venice, it refers to a local red or white wine served right from the barrel. In ancient times, the wine sellers took their wine barrels by push-cart to sell the wine in the shade of St. Mark’s bell tower. They would follow the shade as the sun moved through the sky, so people used to look for the shade to buy wine. This is why even today you ask for an ombra rather than vino when you stop for food and drinks at a bacaro.
Summer sips and stops in Venice
If you visit Venice in the warmer months, you’ll spy many people drinking an orange cocktail with a slice of orange or an olive for garnish. This refreshing drink is called a Spritz and it’s the most trendy and popular Italian cocktail served in Venice during summer. The secret to a cool and restorative Spritz is just the right mix of dry white wine, seltzer, and a splash of a slightly bitter alcoholic liqueur made from infused herbs and fruit like Select, Aperol or Campari.
Trust us, once you’ve tasted a freshly made Spritz on a hot Venetian day your mouth will water at the thought of it even months later.
While in Venice, you must visit several of the countless bacari around the city to determine who serves the best cicchetti, pours the finest ombra or makes the most refreshing Spritz ‒ all while having a good time chatting with friends and mingling with the locals.