The Italian culinary tradition offers a great variety of recipes that differ from region to region, from city to city, and even Venice, with its extraordinary thousand-year-old history could not help but stand out with a particular tasty habit: cichetada.
It sounds like an exotic term, but instead it is very dialectal and encapsulates the combination of bacaro and cicheto: it is the tour that every Venetian doc does among the bacari of the city to enjoy a cicheto and drink a ombra de vin (wine shade). All dialectal terms, have you noticed? It could not be otherwise because they contain years of Venetian history and culture, ancient traditions that are renewed but, fortunately, are not abandoned.
I'm ready to explain everything. And you, are you ready to do this tour with me?
The bacaro: from Bacchus to bacchus the favourite place of the Venetians
The term bacaro in Venice means a rather small place where you can have a chat with friends, sipping a ombra de vin and accompanying it with a typical cicheto. Now I will explain all these strange terms. But let's go step by step.
The term bacaro seems to derive from the Venetian dialectal expression "far bacaria", that is to make a racket, celebrate in honor of the Greek god Bacchus, protector of good wine, grape harvest and the pleasure of the senses. Or directly from the name Bacchus.
But what is it in fact? The bacaro is a very special place: it is not a tavern, as many people think, never serving a full meal inside. It's the triumph of the aperitif, the ideal place to spend a short time, usually on a lunch break or at the end of the working day: you have a drink, have a chat and then go home! We could say "short but intense" because there are not many seats in a bacaro, but you prefer to stand, at the counter or directly outside the bar. The bacaro was born with this very intention, to accommodate those who for reasons of time or even money could not afford a real full meal, so they had to make do with something fast and frugal, but still tasty. The lack of time and money makes one think of a rather modest clientele, workers or people of the people, completely excluding the noble and rich part of society. So these places had a modest appearance, far from the refinement and opulence of the big palaces: they were usually very small, often narrow and very simple looking. Wood was their distinguishing feature: floor, tables, chairs and counter were always dark wood, which gave the atmosphere a feeling of warmth and hospitality. Yes, because even if modest, in the bacari we had fun together, like a big family: modesty and humble roots must not at all make you think of something sad, but rather the opposite!
Since then, neither the name nor the characteristics have changed, it remains a modest place where the atmosphere is the master: in the bacari time seems to have stopped at the time of the Serenissima, the importance of values such as being together even with little, such as the beauty of simple things and especially as the welcome. The soul of these places is given precisely by the traditions and the people who animate them, in a warm embrace between Venetians and foreigners. Today as then.
And between one ciacola and another, between one embrace and another, you eat and drink. And also very well!
The city is really rich of all these very special places, in all its sestieri: some are very special and you can also find good music.
Try it to believe!
Cicheti e ombre de vin: the traditional Venetian happy hour
Cicheti and ombre de vin, this is what is served in a traditional bacaro. But what are they?
The term ombra de vin, but also just shadow de vin, is as particular as it is ancient: it has to do with St. Mark's Bell Tower and the shadow it cast on the square. In the days of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, at the foot of the high Marciana building, wine was sold loose in glasses at a stall. To keep the wine cool and shelter from the sun, the seller moved his stall following the shadow: hence the expression ombra de vin. If you say "Shall we take a shadow?" to a Venetian, he will understand that you want to sip a glass of wine in his company.
The term chicheto comes from the Latin ciccus, on the other hand, and indicates a small quantity: small tastes, small explosions of simple and refined flavours that will let you discover the secrets of the Venetian culinary tradition.
But which of these small specialties can't absolutely be missed? Well, here there's something for everyone! Let's discover them together...
Definitely to be enjoyed sardines in saor, mozzarella in carrozza, fried meatballs, eggs and anchovies, cuttlefish, and especially the fried squid skewers. When you find this type of food stop because it is the right place for you, enjoy a nice prosecchino and continue to the next tavern, the diet you will think about another occasion. If it's fish, it's better to stay in the market area, so Rialto.
Widely spread in the basins, the sandwiches, always fresh, tasty and super bottled, it is really hard to say no, one will pull the other. Insured! And if the soft bread does not convince you, opt for the classic small sandwiches, stuffed with ham, pork, olive pate. They are quite common around Venice, especially in the university area, like Campo Santo Stefano, Campo Santa Margherita and around the Accademia Bridge.
Obviously it is always better to choose the cicchetti according to the season, in winter you can enjoy tripe, musetto, beans and the inevitable polenta, different types of cod, fish carpaccio and meats to accompany with the excellent mulled wine, which spicy to the right point, will warm you up and light up your evenings.
Especially in the Cannaregio area, you can also find places that offer a level of culinary research much more gourmet, delicious and delicate croutons: simple slices with ricotta cheese, smoked tomatoes, cod, swordfish with special pairs, avocado, berries and chocolate. They are cheap and create a friendly environment in which to talk and make new acquaintances. Yes, because the cicheti have a small price, like their size. Trust me!
Young and old from all over the world, immerse yourself in this very special world of Venetian bacaro, embrace the idea of the party, always let yourself go in respect of an extraordinary city that will never cease to surprise you. Venice, always unique and wonderful.
The Venetian chicetada becomes almost a must when visiting the city, a pleasant and interesting experience that will make you discover the customs of the place and the very special gastronomic culture.