Cicchetti: The story behind Venice’s famous cuisine

(CNN) – “Cicchetti is the glue that holds Venice together,” says mask designer Sergio Boldrin of Bottega dei Mascareri. “It’s impossible to imagine finishing work without taking a break for a drink and a meal on the way home, meeting friends, catching up on the news of the day. . ”

Ask a Venetian to describe cicchetti and you’ll get answers like different types of delicious finger food. In town moving on foot or by canoe, eating cicchetti while having a glass of wine called ombra and chatting with friends at a bar called bacaro an important part of life in Venice.

Cicchetti can include everything from squiggly seafood stuffed on toothpicks, and fried meatballs called polpette, to colorful toppings spread on baguette pieces called crostini. – and that’s just the beginning. You would usually eat them standing in the yard or outside the gate. The regularity of drinking and eating at a reception is important – this is not a street food to be eaten while walking around town.

Cicchetti, which costs around € 1 – € 5 ($ 1.10 – $ 5.50), is not for sale, depending on the ingredients. Each cicchetto is as thoughtful as its creator, making the giro de ombre – a bacaro roll – a chance to savor the spirit of Venice.

Like many Venetian traditions, the actual consumption of local cicchetti has changed over the years, but it remains the same. In Italian, the word “ombra” means shadow or shade; The “ombre” is great. According to legend, vendors sold wine in St. Louis. Mark’s Square, following the shade of the Campanile (the main tower) with their cars to store the wine. The end? The term “unʻombra di vino” or “a shadow of wine.”

The Venetians did not like to drink without an empty stomach, so “cicéti” was born, which is thought from the Latin “ciccus” which means “small.” The first gifts were simple pieces like a boiled octopus or an egg boiled on top with an anchovy. Houses called “bàcari” were set up to serve ombre and cicchetti, which is said to have been inspired by an ancient Venetian saying “far bàcara” or “to celebrate” – a term from which Bacchus, Roman god of wine and pleasure.

In Rialto, the headquarters of world trade under the world -famous bridge, merchants did their business under the auspices of the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto (also known as San Giacometo), in close to Banco Giro, the circular credit bank. Cicchetti wash with ombra is a type of fast food eaten by shoppers who quickly finish the business while standing on their feet when there is no time to lose. Or the story.

Tuna and brown cicchetti

Stanley Tucci went to find the cicchetti inside "Looking for Italy."

Stanley Tucci went in search of cicchetti on “Searching for Italy.”


A glass display box filled with a kaleidoscope of sliced ​​baguettes topped with exotic toppings is the centerpiece of Schiavi on the Dorsoduro island. Named “Bottegon,” the bar began life as a winery in the late 19th century. glass and the sale of hundreds from the Veneto, as well as wines from the lands of the local aristocracy. You’ll find owner Alessandra De Respinis in the back of the store every morning, talking to her customer as she prepares her delicious meals.

When De Respinis’s father -in -law, Sisto Gastaldi, took bacaro in 1945, there was plenty of ombre, but the only cicchetti that was offered were the fragrant baskets speared by the natives. anchovies, mortadella and green peppers, and boiled eggs. De Respinis started working at Schiavi in ​​1970 after Sisto’s death and her husband Lino Gastaldi wore his father’s shoes. Expanding Schiavi’s cicchetti menu became his lifelong journey and he began making his own delicious pieces to go with wine glasses.

De Respinis is cut into fresh, crispy baguettes into large pieces that can be eaten with two fingers. Tuna and leek, as well as gorgonzola and walnuts excelled in his first performance. When he found his lump, he was aroused by the seasonal food. He experimented with mixing and matching colors and flavors, creating fresh cutschets that were eaten by locals.

In her seventies, De Respinis had a group of supportive children, but she always worked every day until noon. He made about 70 different specialties, with his tartare di tonno e cacao winning: tuna mixed with egg, peas, mayonnaise, and pasta, then sprinkled. with bitter blood.

“My point is to always serve fresh food,” De Respinis said. “At the end of the day, we give the leftovers to the last customers, or eat it ourselves.”

‘Cicchetti is a low -key food’

The current cicchetti - baguette pieces topped with toppings - is thought to have been made by Alessandra De Respinis.

The current cicchetti – baguette pieces topped with toppings – is thought to have been made by Alessandra De Respinis.


“No more cicchetti in Venice!” 73 -year -old Franco Filippi. “The last real bacaro was replaced in 1980.”

Filippi is the owner of Libreria Editrice Filippi, a bookstore specializing in Venetian materials and the oldest bookstore in the city. He was able to trace the roots of his family in Venice until 1340. He had no film and spent 40 years trying to explain the “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,” that mysterious Renaissance book that published by Aldo Manuzio in Venice in 1499 with great excitement. thinkers for centuries.

When it comes to cicchetti, Filippi is an ancient purist. In fact, he republished a book by Sandro Brandolisio called “Cichéti” (spelled the Venetian way), which describes the dishes the bacari prepared in the 1950s and ’60s.

“Cicchetti is a low -fat dish made from spienza, spleen, or trippa rissa, tripe – no part of the animal is consumed,” Filippi said. “It was prepared by the woman and bought by the husband and her son. When we went to a giro de ombre, because Maria made the best meat on Tuesday, and she made Sofia had the best run on Wednesday. But all those bacari were over. ”

Today there are hundreds of places to eat cicchetti scattered in the bacari and osterie of Venice, but Filippi is the standout. “Crostini – spreading a slice of bread – isn’t cicchetti!”

Where (else) to eat cicchetti

Today, many cicchetti are served.

Today, many cicchetti are served.


Wander through the calli on the west side of the Rialto Bridge, in the San Polo district, and you’ll stumble upon some good bacari serving cicchetti in various incarnations. Despite Filippi’s words, crostini is everywhere, and Alessandra De Respinis ’recipes at Schiavi seem to have encouraged many bacari to follow her lead, garnishing baguette pieces with developers.

Tiny All’Arco is always in touch with locals. Playing behind is the melody of undulating Venetian voices flowing and flowing like water rushing into the sea. Lots of fresh crostini that change constantly depending on the season, from shrimp to prosciutto and whatever in between, and small tables outside to enjoy them.
Cantina Do Spade has been around since 1488 and is one of Casanova’s oldest sites – in Chapter 17 of her erotic memoir, “A Story of My Life,” she tells the story of her seduction and his seven friends to a bride at. Do Spade’s last room at the Carnival of 1745. You can join the crowd in the calle for meat or squid, or sit down to dine on the wooden tables inside. .

Across the street is the oldest Cantina Do Mori, founded in 1462, with Casanova as usual. Here you will see a large local Venetian crowd and business people in the area with lots of tourists, and no other seats at hand. The dark wood pond illuminates the past, offering a classic cicchetti and a good selection of wines.

According to tradition, Venice was born at noon on March 25, 421 CE in Campo San Giacomo at the foot of the Rialto Bridge. Five bistros – Osteria Banco Giro, Ancòra, Osteria Al Pesador, Caffè Vergnano 1882 Rialto and Naranzaria – share the same large space as one large reception room, where you can stand inside the campsite to Banquet on one side, or pay more to sit at a table and watch the Grand Canal on the other. They all offer different types of cicchetti. Banco Giro has evolved from 17th-century pork to 21st-century oysters, and stands out with its fluffy homemade baccalà mantecato, a Venetian dish made from Norwegian fish, cooked and spread on crostini.

cicchetti-Michelin star

Gourmet or from the bar, cicchetti is made with love.

Gourmet or from the bar, cicchetti is made with love.


The local restaurant hopes to promote traditional Venetian cuisine in the future. With her dedicated team, 36 -year -old Benedetta Fullin has raised Venetian food to rockstar level and earned a Michelin star for the promotion. The interior is handmade by selected artisans and a delicious menu is served. But that menu began with a constant change of cicchetti, fueled by the availability of fresh and local foods.

From the shades of the old Campanile, to the low -rise kitchens of the 1950s, to the inventive crostini of the 1970s, to the 21st century “New Venetian Cuisine,” cicchetti is thriving but one thing is for sure: it’s made and Venetian. with love and affection.

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