A GUIDE TO THE BEST CICCHETTI IN VENICE BY VENICE'S BEST INSIDER

With the ever evolving exciting food scene in Venice, we are so excited to be teaming up with the wonderful Nicoletta who lives in Venice and writes a fantastic blog: https://www.naturallyepicurean.org which covers all things food in Venice, with a mix of stories, tips on the where and what to eat in Venice, recipes and photographic reportages of her culinary wanderings in and about the lagoon. 

Having had the opportunity to meet with her in Venice, she will be sharing with us her wonderful insider knowledge by writing some fantastic pieces for our blog.  We are so excited and we hope you will appreciate her insider knowledge as much as we have. Her first blog post is all about Cicchetti, those fabulous small nibbles that we cant seem to get enough of in London.  Here it is over to Nicoletta:

If you are on Enrica Rocca’s blog, I suppose that, like me, you love good food, Italy and, more specifically, Venice. So let me introduce myself: my name is Nicoletta, Venetian born and raised still living in the city, precisely in the Castello district, and what I will do today is tell you a bit more about our local food. A single blog post is surely not enough to describe all the culinary wonders of the lagoon so, for now, let’s start from Venetian cicchetti.

I’m sure you have heard this word many times, but do you really know what they are? We’ll begin by saying that cicchetti are small nibbles normally eaten standing, street food, something you can either hold in your hand or eat in one or two bites. The variety of cicchetti is endless and every place has its own speciality, the one thing you go there for. Here I will list some of the most traditional and then I will share my 6 favourite spots in Venice for the best must have cicchetti, one for sestriere (district).

What to expect:

Mezzo uovo: half boiled egg topped either with a pickled onion or an anchovy

Sarda fritta: fried sardine

Mortadella e peperone: pickled pepper with a thick slice of mortadella

Cipollina con l’acciuga: pickled onion with rolled anchovy

Folpetto: boiled baby octopus

Insalata di piovra: octopus salad with potatoes, celery and –sometimes- black olives.

Seppia fritta: fried cuttlefish

Fondo di carciofo: the heart of the artichoke

Baccalà con polenta: grilled polenta topped with creamed stockfish

Polpetta: fried meatball

Fagioli con la cipolla: borlotti beans and onion salad dressed with a generous amount of vinegar

Spienza: boiled veel spleen

Nervetti: Boiled eef or veal cartilage dressed with pepper and vinegar

Crostini: slices of bread with different toppings (excellent to do at home if you have friends over for the aperitif!)

Consider that in the past, in general, people were less fussy and much poorer, therefore many dishes are difficult to find today, in particular the ones involving bowels or other meat parts. The way of cooking and eating fish, instead, has not changed much. I have always found curious that in the rest of Italy people say they clean the fish (pulire), while in Venice we say we take care (curare) of the fish, which gives you the idea of how important this ingredient was and still is in our local diet. Obviously the demand has changed, so traditional dishes like risotto di go or fried locally sourced soles (sfogetti) have become real treats and hard to find.

Anyway, traditions are hard to die and –thank goodness- it’s still possible to find a few places that still propose these delicacies. Now, for a serious cicchetti tasting these are the 6 places I feel like recommending:

Osteria All’Arco, Address: Sestiere San Polo 436, 30125 Venezia VE

The most written about osteria in Venice and, according to me, absolutely the best when it comes to cicchetti. Located in the heart of Rialto, Osteria All’Arco continues to be run by the same family and quality is guaranteed. Francesco, the father, and Matteo, his son, are the two that take care of the food. Francesco is a brilliant traditional style cook and in winter he sometimes makes a tripe soup which is absolutely mouth-watering, not to mention his mixed boiled meat, while Matteo is the one I look to when I want a dish with fish and veggies. If you stop here look beyond the window to see what’s on the pot or pan and don’t forget to try the fried baccalà and the assortment of crostini… delicious!

Trattoria da Fiore (Fiore piccolo), Address: San Marco, Calle de le Boteghe, 3461, 30125, Venezia VE

Another old style osteria where you can really get a taste of Venetian food and lifestyle.The furniture and style has remained unchanged at least since I was a child and this is the place I come to when I want nervetti. If you are not into this sort of food don’t worry, also everything else is delicious, from the meatballs and fish and veg fritters to their homemade baccalà mantecato. From about 6:30 to 10:00 pm many locals stop by for their long aperitif, people come and go and it’s the type of buzz that I enjoy most. Highly recommended.

Cantinone del Vino già Schiavi, Address: Dorsoduro, Fondamenta Nani, 992, 30123, Venezia VE

Schiavi is famous for its crostini. The quantity of alluring toppings will make it difficult to choose, so my recommendation is to try as many as you want (1,20 each!). They also have the pickled onion with anchovy and the pickled pepper with mortadella! Schiavi is also the best place to buy wine and spirits, excellent selection at very good prices.

Alla Vedova, Address: Cannaregio, Calle Cà d'Oro, 3912, 30121 Venezia VE

A quintessential experience in Venice? The fried meatball of Trattoria Alla vedova. I don’t know what they put into it, but it must be some sort of drug, because it’s addictive and rigorously with garlic! Oh my… Since you’ve come all the way to Venice and you are in this osteria, you might as well try some other local delicacies like latti di seppia (boiled squid eggs dressed with parsley, pepper and oil) or folpetti (boiled baby octopus), obviously accompanied by an ombra (small glass of house wine).

Adriatico Mar, Address: Santa Croce, Calle Crosera, 3771, 30125 Venezia VE

Lovely wine bar offering natural wine and slow food products, like cured meats and cheese selections, fresh salads and small nibbles. Beautiful location, small, with wooden beams, appealing watercolours on the walls and jazz music in the background, the type of place I’d like more of. Perfect if you enjoy good wine and want to savour high quality Italian products.

El Refolo, Address: Castello, 1580, 30122 Venezia VE

This tiny wine bar is the best place to be from spring to late autumn at around 7 pm, when the view is spectacular and the crowds thirsty. This easy going bar offers delicious toasted sandwiches with prosciutto, different types of cheese and grilled veggies. A must try is cravanzina cheese and zucchini. Stop at El Refolo if you enjoy lively places and want to enjoy a good spritz with a view.

Before saying goodbye, don’t forget to check out My Venice Food Guide https://www.naturallyepicurean.org if you are travelling to Venice, or, if you have just returned home from your holidays…invite some friends over for a drink and surprise them with some Venetian style crostini!