On any trip to Venice, food lovers must treat themselves to a visit of Venice’s famed Rialto market. Cross the famous bridge, and enter first into the multitude of fresh produce stands, displaying a stunning variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Right next to the vegetable stands are the butcher and cheese shops, in permanent buildings, again offering a much broader range of cuts and variations than you will ever see in your home grocery store. The star of the show, however, is the fish market.
Venice has relied on fish from the waters of the surrounding Adriatic for its entire existence. It is the mainstay of their cuisine, and its no wonder when you see the choices they have. Literally dozens of types of fish, plus shellfish, crustaceans, mollusks, all fresh and gorgeous. You will see a few familiar varieties – swordfish, tuna, sole, sardines – and a host of fish that may not be familiar to you if you haven’t visited Italy before – John Dory, orata, cuttlefish, mullet, many types of shrimp, moleche – soft shell crabs.
The perfect post-market snack, and the meeting place for the locals after they finish their shopping for the day, are the small traditional wine bars (bacari) that are located within a few blocks of the market. Serving little snacks called cicchetti or cichetti , similar to the Spanish tapas, these snacks will feature many of the wonderful seasonal foods you just admired in the market. A walking tour of the bacari is a great end to the morning; called a giro d’ombra, or tour of shadows, as ombra is local slang for a glass of wine.
Here are 5 of my favorite stops on a giro d’ombra.
Cantina do Mori, Calle do Mori
I stop here pretty much every time I am in Venice. A classic establishment, it is rumored to have opened in 1462, with luminaries such as Casanova as patrons. Many wines to taste, fancier ones from the bottle, and many ‘house’ wines from large casks behind the counter. Try the traditional baccala, both vicentino (dried cod, cooked in milk with anchovy, parsley, cheese) and mantecato (dried cod, whipped with potato and olive oil), as well as all types of artichokes which were just becoming available on my visit last March. They are grown on the islands surrounding Venice. Also, you will see frittatas, and tramezzini – little thin sandwiches, filled with a variety of yummy combinations, made with crustless white bread.
All’Arco, Calle del Arco
Literally just around the corner from Do Mori, this little spot was ranked #2 for restaurants in Venice on Trip Advisor – pretty good for a wine bar in the midst of the many wonderful restaurants in Venice. Francesco and his son Matteo vary the cicchetti they produce daily, depending upon what’s in season. The baccala mantecato is a favorite, as well as various crostini type treats with prosciutto, cheeses, and grilled vegetables.
Osteria alla Ciurma, Calle Galeazza
A large wine selection here, all available for only 2 euros a glass. You can even try a taste before investing your 2 euros! A large selection of traditional cicchetti, including polpette – fried meatballs – both with meat, and also tuna. Just a few stools for seating, but just move on up to the bar and rub elbows with the many locals that frequent this place.
This spot is a great place to explore some of the local wines along with your cicchetti; from a sparkling rose Chiaretto to a robust Raboso or a Teroldego from Trentino, you’ll have a hard time deciding which one to try next! One of the oldest restaurants in Venice, you find the classics here – fried calamari, polpette (meatballs), baccala mantecato (salt cod), as well as ancient dishes like spienza and nerveti, made from calve’s spleen and cartilage.
If you are in this area and searching for something a bit more substantial, with a view of the canal, check out Osteria al Pescadore. Located next to the market,a along the canal, you may want to choose a table close to the building during periods of high water! Enjoy a classic Venetian dish, Sarde al saor (sweet and sour sardines), or something with a more modern twist, like scallops in coconut flour with passion fruit sauce.
Kathy Bechtel is Owner of Italiaoutdoors.