Five years ago, Dan and I spent Thanksgiving in Venice, Italy with my mom, my friend and her mom, and Dan’s aunt. This year, we returned to Venice for Thanksgiving and decided to repeat one of our favorite activities, a Cicchetti progressive dinner tour! Cicchetti are small, elaborate bites, similar to Spanish tapas, that Venetians like to eat throughout the day, often served with an adult beverage. Cicchetti bars, or small restaurants serving Cicchetti and drinks, can be found throughout Venice and if you aren’t familiar with the concept, a Cicchetti tour is a great way to dive in! We loved, loved, loved our tour 5 years ago but unfortunately the tour guides no longer live in Venice. I found another online that provided a similar experience.
Our Cicchetti tour started by meeting just next to the Rialto Bridge in front of the Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto. After some photos and mulled wine, we met our guide and got started our our tour! Despite Covid persisting, most places were open and hopping with locals.
FIRST STOP: DESSERT AT PANIFICIO MAURO EL FORNER DE CANTON.
Our first stop on this Cicchetti tour was Panificio Mauro el Forner de Canton for dessert. We stopped here first because it closed shortly after our visit! This bakery has been around for nearly 80 years and goes back four generations. Panificio Mauro el Forner de Canton was packed with locals on our visit, so much so that we had to wait outside for space. According to our guide, Panificio Mauro el Forner de Canton is famous for its tiramisu, and that is exactly what we tried. Actually, we tried tiramisu and another baked good. Both were excellent and this was a great way to start our tour.
SECOND STOP: CANTINA DO MORI
Our second stop, and our first proper Cicchetti bar, was at Venice’s alleged oldest, Cantina do Mori. Cantina do Mori is a very old Cicchetti bar that looks and feels just as old as it claims to be. As is typical of Cicchetti bars, we walked up to the bar and each selected one Cicchetti from the offerings, which included quarter sandwiches, lots of seafood, eggplant, meatballs, cheese, and lots of other options. New things were constantly being put out. I went with the eggplant, which slightly fried and topped with cheese and tomato sauce and was just ok (I forgot a picture), and a few people in our group were brave and went with the baby squid. I think the general consensus is that this is a cool place to visit, but the food is just mediocre.
THIRD STOP: SALUMERIA – ROBY & GIUSY.
Honestly, I was a bit put off by our third stop. The shop window proudly displayed penis shaped bottles of “Italian liqueur” and pasta in the same shape… We always avoid these types of places, and it was a bit disturbing to be having a food tasting here. However, contrary to its outward display, the food we tried at Salumeria – Roby & Giusy was fantastic. After I got over the phallic shaped goods, which seemed to be placed any and every where one could possibly look, our group gathered in a circle and our guide opened a bottle of Malbec for the group to split. We then proceeded to taste prosciutto, salami, bread drizzled with olive oil, and two types of Parmesan cheese, one dipped in balsamic. Definitely a surprise from when we first stopped in! Tour guests also received a 10% coupon to use on a return visit.
FOURTH STOP: CANTINA DO SPADE.
We moved on to another one of Venice’s most famous Cicchetti bars named Cantina do Spade. More restaurant than Cicchetti bar, Cantina do Spade is incredibly popular with local Venetians. Our tour guide made us a super early reservation and there were people waiting for our table when we left. If you are planning to visit, Cantina do Spade is located in one of Venice’s tiny alley ways with a non-descriptive green door.
For food, we started with a sparkling white wine from the Veneto area and a real Mozzarella in Carrozza (or “mozzarella in a carriage”). Mozzarella in Carrozza is a little sandwich of ham and cheese friend in bread, hence the “carriage.” I was super excited to try the Mozzarella in Carrozza, as I had never tried a real one in Italy!
We were also served a delicious meatball in tomato sauce with a side of polenta. I really enjoyed this particular dish. I wish they had served us more!
The main portion of our food at Cantina do Spade was pasta with artichoke and squid. The dish was beautiful and it was also quite tasty. There was plenty for everyone to have seconds. We were also served red wine with this dish.
FOURTH STOP: OSTERIA BANCOGIRO VENEZIA.
We made our way back to the Rialto Bridge area where we stopped by sit-down restaurant Osteria Bancogiro Venezia (which happened to be right next to Ancora, a bar we visited on our last Chiccheti tour!). We tried a Venetian favorite that I don’t love at Osteria Bancogiro Venezia – Sarde in Saor. Sarde in Saor is fried a sardine mixed with onion, vinegar, raisins, and pine nuts. Ours was served on a small piece of toast. I love the saor flavor, but I am not a sardine fan. Shrimp are also done this way if you are looking to try this Venetian classic without sardines! Rather than sit inside the busy restaurant, we ate outdoors standing in the street.
FIFTH STOP: AL MERCÀ
Our anchovy bites were followed by a glass of Raboso Frizzante, a slightly fizzy red wine (somewhat similar to Lambrusco) made from the local Raboso grape. Our Raboso came from a popular bar in Venice called Al Mercà – or “at the market”! The name makes sense, as the bar is only steps away from the popular Rialto Market. Al Mercà also serves food, mostly in the Cicchetti style, and its open during the day and in the evening, perfect for a stop off post-market. On our evening visit, Al Mercà was popular with locals. We could barley get in to drop off our glasses when we finished.
INTERMISSION: A STROLL TO THE OTHER SIDE OF RIALTO.
We next took a little stroll over the massive Rialto Bridge to see the other side of the bridge. A film crew was filming at Rialto, so that was quite interesting to watch. For those in Venice, I do recommend a night walk, as the bridge looks totally different closed up at night than it does when its bustling during the day.
SIXTH STOP: GELATO DI NATURA!
Our final stop was for Italy’s most famous dessert – gelato! You probably know this, but gelato is like a better ice cream. Less milky, better flavors. We stopped at one of our guide’s favorite gelato shops in Venice, Gelato di Natura. Gelato di Natura is a local Venetian gelato chain that focuses on, what else, natural gelato (at least according to our guide) and loads of flavors, everything from traditional, to creative, to things you didn’t know could be made into gelato. Everyone on the tour picked two gelato flavors and enjoyed them sitting on Campo Santi Apostoli (which Campo was oddly enough was the START of our last Venetian food tour).
Dan went pistachio and I went stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate flakes). I cannot recall what other flavors we ordered, but the gelato was delightful, even on a cold Venice evening.
After our gelato, we walked back through Cannareggio, a less touristy neighborhood on the opposite side of the Grand Canal from where we stayed. While a bit quiet, it was a nice walk and Christmas lights were already out!
In sum, the tour was good and a nice introduction to the Venetian Cicchetti scene. That being said, we thought the food to not be the tastiest, the tour to be a bit short on drinks, and the food not enough for a full dinner. Our other tour probably ruined us because it was just that good, but unfortunately its no longer operating.
STEAL OUR TOUR
Savor Italy Tours: Off The Beaten Path in Venice: This is the food tour that we did. The cost was 79 euro per person and included everything mentioned in this post.
Panificio Mauro el Forner de Canton: Sestiere San Polo, 603, Rialto – Venezia. Usually open 7:30 – 19:30 (closed earlier on our visit, possibly due to Covid?).
Cantina do Mori: Calle Do Mori, 429, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy. Open 8:00 – 19:30. Closed Sunday.
Salumeria – Roby & Giusy: San Polo 1597, Venezia VE, Italy.
Cantina do Spade: San Polo, 859, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy. Open 10 – 15:00, 18:00 – 22:00. Reservations highly recommended. If you don’t have one, go early and be prepared to wait. We practically got kicked out for the next table and we were there with our tour guide!
Osteria Bancogiro Venezia: Campo San Giacometto, Ponte di Rialto, 122, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy. Open 9 – Midnight. Closed Monday. Reservations recommended.
Al Mercà: Campo Bella Vienna, 213, 30125 Venezia VE, Italy (2 minutes from Rialto Bridge). Closed Sunday. Open other days 10 – 14:30, 18:00 – 21:00, slightly later on weekends.
Gelato di Natura: Cannaregio, 4454, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy. Open 10 – 12 daily. There are a few locations in Venice.
ON A BUDGET
On a budget? No problem; Cicchetti is one of the most inexpensive experiences in Venice. The Cicchetti scene is easy enough to figure out without a tour, especially if you are only one or two people. Cicchetti are generally a euro or two per snack and drinks are often priced accordingly. Bring cash if you are planning to hop around.