Cicchetti. Say what? Here’s how: chee-KET-tee. Cicchetti. Say it again. There ya go. But what is it?
CICCHETTI are little snacks served in hole-of the-wall restaurants in Venice. They usually include tiny sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and small servings of seafood and meat. Similar to Spanish tapas, cicchetti can be made into a full meal by ordering a combination of several dishes. They are usually eaten standing up, with fingers and toothpicks, and hanging around the bar with a small glass of wine.
Venetians call this pub call the giro d’ombra — giro meaning “stroll” and ombra meaning “shade” — slang for a small glass of wine. The food is usually laid out on large platters behind glass over the bar. To order, simply point to what you’d like. Choose wisely!
Hungry yet? Typical cicchetti dishes include deep-fried mozzarella cheese, calamari, artichoke hearts, crostini, and prosciutto with melon. You’ll also find meat and fish, along with veggie plates, making several rounds of cichetti equal to a fully satisfying meal. You can also ask for “un piatto classico di cicchetti misti” — a classic plate of mixed cicchetti for an assortment of appetizers.
Part of the attraction of these cicchetti bars is the social scene. Where tables create a sense of formality, a true cicchetti experience means hanging about the bar interacting with locals and tourists alike. But don’t stop at just one bar. Explore the city of Venice by hopping around several spots, enjoying a small glass of wine or beer at each. These bars don’t stay open very late; you’ll get the best cicchetti selection starting your evening around 6pm. Once you think you’ve had your fill, head to St. Mark’s Square to finish the night off with gelato. You won’t regret it.