If you are walking around Venice, and at one point you feel like you should eat something, you are going to have a very wide selection of inns and traditional restaurants to satisfy your taste buds. But if what you are looking for is an experience that is more typical and authentic, then I would suggest letting yourself be tempted by Venice’s street food.
And when I talk about street food, I do not mean those characteristic and appealing trucks that you often see in the main squares of many Italian cities. I am actually talking about a different kind of living and tasting Venice, trying its most popular dishes without necessarily “having to stop to eat”.
In Venice, streets are called calli, they are made of water, so you can see why even street food becomes something unique, as unique as the town we are talking about. It is worth pointing out that there are two types of street food in Venice: the traditional take away concept to eat on the go, and the so-called “cicheti” offered by the “bàcari”.
But first things first.
Venice’s street food: “El scartosso de frito”
Venetian takeaway par excellence is “el scartosso de frito”, which translates from the dialect into “il cartoccio di fritto” which in turn in English means “bag of fried food”, more specifically fried fish served in the cartoccio. The “scartosso” (cartoccio) is the cone-shaped paper wrap filled with calamari and squid fried rings, often coupled with battered vegetables or a small slice of roasted polenta.
A petite version of the traditional course that you would normally order at a restaurant. A true source of energy to walk off with the longs and fast steps that Venice requires.
When you feel like slowing down to enjoy the beautiful settings that the city offers without giving up on having something authentic and good to eat, this solution is ideal: enjoy some good food in the street while exploring the several streets and follow them as they lead you to St Mark’s square.
And while you are there, with one hand inside your cartoccio and the other one holding it, do not forget to slow down. Look up. Whether you are in a field or on the street, stop to enjoy that special moment made of beauty and flavors.
On the other hand, if you would rather live Venice’s street food experience in a more raw and authentic way, than you cannot miss the chance to “andar par bàcari” which means to try the “bàcaro tour” tasting “cicheti” and some “ombra”.
First of all, it is essential to provide you with a little glossary in order to understand all these weird terms. The “bàcari” are typical Venetian venues. The name might derive from the god Bacchus and the story goes that it was the same wine sellers that at the end of the 19th century began to be called “bàcari”. They are simple establishments, very rustic, where the famous “cicheti”, actual snacks in a finger food format, are served.
They are dishes from the Venetian tradition: toasted bread with creamed cod, small portions of baby octopuses, roasted polenta, stewed beans, marinated anchovies, half egg with anchovy, meatballs. And let us not get started on pumpkin in saor, sardines in saor, and Venetian style liver. Of course you cannot miss a good glass of wine, usually Prosecco, to couple with these delicacies of Venice’s street food. “Andar par bàcari” is an experience that should you ever be in Venice you must try at least once in your life.
What can you drink while walking around Venice?
Ombra de vin is the saying used all around the Veneto region to refer to a glass of wine. There are many ideas as to what is the origin of this specific wording. Perhaps an ancient unit of measure or perhaps the fact that in ancient times wine sellers in St Mark’s square were used to move their booths around following the shadow of the bell tower (ombra is the Italian word for shadow).
Whatever the reason, “un’ombra de vin” continues to be in my opinion a fun and folkloristic way that is very entertaining.
Walking around the streets, even those less known, before lunch to find some shade or in the evening for a happy hour with good Venetian food and wine, if this is not street food then I do not know what is.
Whether it is “fritto in scartosso” or “cicheti”, Venice’s street food is one of a kind.
Featured image: Meeters