I spent Thanksgiving in Venice last year, which was absolutely fabulous! Since Italy does not celebrate Thanksgiving, I signed up for a cicchetti food tour through Venice’s Cannaregio neighborhood to celebrate Thanksgiving!
A cicchetti is a small plate, similar to tapas, that Venetians eat daily. Cicchetti come in many shape and forms and are sold from mid-day on out of tiny restaurant fronts. While covered in most travel books, legitimate, non-touristy cicchetti restaurants are difficult to find and can be quite intimidating. Since I was traveling with a group, I decided to sign up for Venice Bites Food Tours’ Progressive Dinner through Cannaregio instead of navigating the cicchetti restaurants myself, and the tour ended up being one of our favorite memories of the trip!
Our tour started in an easy-to-find location near the Rialto Bridge. We met our awesome guides, Adam (above) and Maya, promptly at 6:30 p.m. and set out on our tour! Our first order of business was taking a traghetto across the Grand Canal to Cannaregio, where our first food stop was located. Now if you don’t know, traghetto are gondolas that cross the Grand Canal at certain points where bridges are lacking. Locals use these, at a cost is about 1,50 a ride, and you pack lots of people in the gondola (some standing) to cross the Grand Canal. I definitely wanted to take a traghetto when in Venice but I did not think it would happen on this trip around since I was with my mother (who does’t swim)! But nope, it happened! Thank goodness it was dark and I’m not sure she (or anyone else) realized what was going on!
In any case, we finally made it across the Grand Canal to Cannaregio for our first stop. And for anyone considering taking this tour, know that Adam and Maya were very good in ensuring that everyone on the traghetto was safe!
Our first food stop was Osteria dal Riccio Peoco! Osteria dal Riccio Peoco is a tiny cicchetti restaurant that was packed with locals, even spilling into the square. Luckily, Adam and Maya reserved a table for us in the back! If you come one your own, you will most likely have to stand outside (like the locals!).
At Osteria dal Riccio Peoco, we tasted three foods with our choice of red or white wine or beer. Our first food tasting was gamberi in saor (or shrip in sauce!). According to our guides, this is a very traditional Ventian cecchetti and beloved by most Venetians! And I agree, it was delicious! For those allergic to shrimp, there is also sarde in saor (sardines in sauce). Myra tried this and loved it, too.
Our second food tasting was probably my favorite tasting of the entire evening – baccalà mantecato! Baccalà mantecato is whipped codfish served on bread (kind of similar to whitefish salad and a far cousin of tuna salad, in a good way!). It is absolutely delicious and one of my favorite Italian dishes!! Even if you do not take this tour, you must try this dish in Venice – its quite easy to find!
Our final tasting at Osteria dal Riccio Peoco was another Venetian classic, polpetta – or a fried meatball! The meatballs were large and really tasty! This may have been Dan’s favorite at Osteria dal Riccio Peoco. I was very excited about this dish but I ended up preferring the baccalà mantecato!
After lots of tasting at Osteria dal Riccio Peoco, we walked a bit down the street to another small cicchetti bar – Ai Divini. Our hosts reserved us space in Ai Divini’s tiny courtyard, where we tasted SO MANY Italian meats and cheese, along with our choice of red or white wine or beer. See below, I did not even get a picture of all the food. Our hosts explained each piece or meat and cheese to us, including where it is and a bit of history surrounding it. My favorites – every single piece of cheese and the truffle honey that accompanied it!
We stayed in Ai Divni’s courtyard for quite a while, which was really nice. The courtyard, unlike the bar, was not crowded and it was really interesting to see a legit, interior Venetian courtyard. Our guides did not rush us at all and answered all of our questions (and there were A LOT)! After eating all the meats and cheese, we walked a bit further down the street to yet another cicchetti bar, Un Mondo di Vino, which ended up being my favorite stop!
Un Mondo di Vino is another super crowded, very local cicchetti bar. Adam and Maya found us seats along the wall. Here, since we were a little more comfortable with the way cicchetti bars work, everyone got to choose two cicchetti. That was really fun!
After Un Mondo di Vino, we took at fifteen minute food break and walked to our sit down dinner restaurant, Trattoria Storica! Our walk was not a waste; Adam and Maya told us some local tidbits and tips and the walk was pretty amazing. When we arrived at Trattoria Storica, I was totally impressed. For all of the touristy restaurants in Venice, Trattoria Storiaca is a legit Venetian spot. Real Venetians own this place and real Venetians eat here. A rarity in Venice! For our meal, we split a beef dish, vegetable risotto, salad and a number of other treats, in addition to lots of wine!
Post dinner, we walked about ten minutes to the MOST delicious gelato spot – Suso Gelatoteca! Suso Gelatoteca is a super fancy gelato bar with the BEST flavors and so many of them!!
Everyone got to select two flavors, and it was really difficult to make a decision! I went with the Manet (pistachio and chocolate, as recommended by our guides) and my favorite, stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate bits)! Everyone agreed that this was the best gelato on our trip!
Our lovely evening ended with the famous cocktail, the Aperol Spritz at Ancora, a bar located on the square where we originally met! Adam and Maya gave us information on several Venetian liqueurs and then we had our drinks. A great end to a wonderful Thanksgiving in Italy!
As you can probably tell from this post, this food tour was excellent and one of the best that we have ever done (and we have done A LOT of food tours!). In addition to visiting local spots and delicious food, Adam and Maya were extremely nice and definitely catered to the people on our tour! This tour would be extremely difficult to recreate on your own. However, Venice Bites Food Tours list their favorite bars, restaurants and foods on their website. If you cannot take this tour, I definitely recommend check our their recommendations.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Venice Bites Food Tour: We did the Progressive Dinner through Cannaregio tour, which cost €105/person and included all food and drinks. Definitely book in advance via their website; tours are small and fill up quickly.
ON A BUDGET
If a food tour is not in your budget, cicchetti bars are all over Venice! We visited a couple random ones on our own the day after our food tour. You can just walk into any bar and point to what you want. You typically pay upon ordering and take your food and drink at the bar or just outside of the bar. Most cicchetti are priced between 1 and 5 euro (5 being the very high end – the ones below were 1.50 each) and wine runs around 1.50 a glass!