Among the enchanting theatre that is Venice, lie many delightful small bites that are unique to the city.
There is nothing regular about Venice – & nothing regular about cicchetti. Everyone stops for one whenever they want, with an ‘ombra’, anytime of day. They are often appreciated though, as a prelude to lunch or dinner. Socialising, as the Venetians do – & catching up with each other between one thing & the next – as they go about on their way, on foot in the car-less city, through the piazzas that have become the Venetian living rooms.
I loved zig zagging my way through the piazzas. Hopping from one cicchetteria to another, strewn like pebbles in a stream through Venice, & sometimes even stringing together these stops into one beautiful meal.
You will hear people saying ‘Vado a fare un ombretta’ (I’m going for a glass of wine). The ombra is the glass generally enjoyed standing, with a cicchetto taken in hand or with a toothpick – possibly several times through the day.
Masterful small bites to open you up to the flavours of Venice so you can take in the atmosphere & the surroundings.
You will find a beautiful selection on display:
Gratineed scallops, tender baby octopus, sardines – fried or in a sauce of vinegary onions, fresh crab & scampi. Meatballs, boiled egg halves with anchovy & whipped fluffy salt cod slicked onto crostini. Squid in their ink on polenta, tiny artichokes & other seasonal goods glistening in olive oil or crisp fried mozzarella & anchovy sandwiches.
You could then slide seamlessly into the rest of the meal. A plate of the freshest seafood pulled directly from the waters. A beautiful risotto di mare of the region – or radicchio lasagne – & continue your way on then – in the typical Italian fashion.
You might decide to finish with a lemony sgroppino, or a bite of one of the wonderful biscuits of the region.
Roberto – a boat driver I met from the island of Burano told me they have a special biscuit – a Buranello, made with flour, sugar, eggs, cedro & vanilla. They can keep for up to 2 years he said. They smell so nice that they are even stored in linen & underwear drawers to perfume them.
I’d like to believe all of the stories I came home with from magical Venice.