One of my favorite activities in Venice is tasting my way from bacaro (or bar) to bacaro, sampling bite-sized snacks (known as cichetti) and short glasses of wine (known as ombra.) Think of cichetti as Venice’s version of tapas in Spain. They can be crostini or polenta with toppings such as proscuitto, cheese, or baccala (salt cod), small sandwiches (tramezzini), meatballs (polpetti), or deep-fried items such as fish, rice balls with cheese (arancini), or vegetables.
Don’t expect to do a long bar crawl in the evening hours. Some bars remain open, but many are only open from the morning into the late afternoon/early evening. For the fisherman (who frequent the bacari) beginning their day in the wee hours of the morning, 11 a.m. is the equivalent to our happy hour.
FAVORITE BACARI (WINE BARS)
- Enoteca Ai Rusteghi: Small wine bar near the Rialto Bridge owned by sommelier Giovanni d’Este, opened by his parents in 1989. The walls are lined with bottles from around the world. Giovanni is extremely passionate about wine and food; he will happily chat with you about the wines he offers. Just don’t go here looking for cheap house wine — these wines are high quality, thus the higher price tag over a typical enoteca. Freshly sliced cured meats, cheeses, salads, and sandwiches are available.
- Bancogiro: Restaurant situated right on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge which also offers drinks and cichetti for your bar crawl. The food here is terrific, and the cichetti more interesting than some, such as the delicious creamy baccala (salt cod) served on squares of squid-ink polenta and topped with a curry sauce.
- Antico Dolo: A small traditional wine bar plus full service restaurant also near the Rialto Bridge. Sit at the tables devoid of place settings to enjoy the cichetti; the set tables are for regular diners. Very pleasant service.
- Al Prosecco: This pleasant bar with plenty of outdoor tables is located on my favorite square — Campo San Giacomo dal’Orio. Sip and eat their delicious snacks while watching local children and dogs playing nearby. If you get hungry for more substantial food, there are two favorite restaurants only steps away — Il Refolo and La Zucca.
- Dai Zamei: Aka “Twin Bar” because zamei is Venetian dialect for twins. This bar not too far from the Rialto Bridge has walls decorated with photographs of twins who have visited here from around the world as well as photos of the twin owners. On offering are several wine selections by the glass, many types of crostini, fried cichetti, and salads. Plenty of outdoor seating or stand inside.
- Naranzaria: This wine bar is located next door to Bancogiro, and has tables available on the Grand Canal for enjoying cichetti and drinks. They are known for their spritz — an aperitif with prosecco, a bitter orange Italian liquor such as Campari, Aperol, or Select, and a splash of soda, served on the rocks with an orange slice or olive. I love a good spritz! Aperol spritz is the least bitter of the bunch. Naranzaria has a wide variety of snacks, including sushi! It’s the perfect setting for cocktails at dusk along the Grand Canal.
- Bacaro Risorto: My husband and I refer to this as Angry Brothers Bar, not even remembering it’s real name for years, because the first time we visited, there were two arguing young brothers manning the counter. The food here is good, and the location is behind Piazza San Marco near San Zaccaria church. They are open late. Great people-watching spot, and good wines and spritz served here.