I didn't truly know what to expect before visiting Venice for the first time. It always held a mythical place in my heart - the canals, the architecture, the romance, the history. The existence of such a city seemed impossible.
But Venice is an actual living, breathing city. One that's just as romantic yet more real than imagined. One where people live and work - a city where people seek respite after a long day, often at a bacaro.
The bacaro is an everyman's bar, a place where you congregate with friends for a quick break at lunch or a small bite just before dinner. A place where a glass of wine and a few bites will cost you under 5 euros and 2 euros, respectively.
You might think Italian wine or the Spritz Veneziano is the main draw, but after looking a little closer, you'll see that these small bite-sized eats, called cicchetti, are actually the stars of the bacaro.
Cicchetti aren't hard to spot - these colorful morsels are often lined up in glass cases at the front of the bacaro as a tactic to lure you in. And if you're anything like me, it tends to work.
After sampling a few too many cicchetti, I noticed something interesting. Some bacari seemed to boast about their cicchetti as if a point of pride, setting them apart from the other bacari. They would explain, with enthusiasm, about where the farm they get the cheese and vegetables from is located. And, of course, it's all seasonal.
So naturally, I did the hard, arduous work of finding all the places to eat the best cicchetti in Venice. You're welcome.
One final note – Venice is full of bacari. Wandering the streets and canals, you'll encounter countless bacari beckoning you with the siren calls of their cicchetti and wine. So even though the ones above are a good start, let yourself get lost. And after a while, when your feet are tired, or you're feeling a bit peckish, just stumble into a bacaro, any bacaro, calling your name.
The place where it first hit me that cicchetti are the key to the bacaro. The staff speaks with enthusiasm about their farm, located outside of the city, where they source many of the ingredients for their cicchetti. What's more, they have a fantastic wine selection, eager to suggest something you might like.
I probably spent most of my drinking hours here during one trip to Venice. Located just around the corner from La sete, Vino Vero is always bustling. The canal-side joint has only a few tables inside but plenty of outside seating.
A departure from a traditional bacaro, Il Mercante is primarily a cocktail bar. But that doesn't mean they skimp on the food – after a few cocktails, cicchetti are required.
Another cocktail bar, Vinile, is an excellent place for a drink and some bites. But go a little earlier in the day for the cicchetti.
A canal-side wine bar in the Cannaregio neighborhood of Venice. The wine selection is incredible, and the cicchetti are just as good.
Osteria Al Squero
A classic bacaro in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. A beautiful canal-side view and generous, inexpensive pours of the Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz) will have you eating cicchetti for hours.
Looking like it was pulled from another era, Enoteca Schiavi is another bacaro in the Dorsoduro neighborhood. A relatively popular spot where people-watching is prime.
Osteria alla Ciurma
Right in the heart of Venice, this bacaro is more seafood-focused cicchetti. So if it's late at night and you find yourself needing some fried fish, head here.