I decided that my birthday gift to myself would be to spend the day in Venice with Bear, eat all of my favorite foods – starting with a delicious pastry – and try some new ones too. I mean, there’s nothing like easing the agony of aging with a Spritz and good food in Venice, right?! (Actually, I definitely don’t feel my as old as I thought I would at this age, so in a sense the older I get the younger I feel, if you know what I mean!)
I could barely contain my excitement and ordered a cornetto (croissant in Italian) and a cappuccino at the train station right when we arrived in Venice. I usually drink espresso…black. That’s right! No sugar (quite the contradiction because I have the ultimate sweet tooth!) As a college student abroad I learned to love the strong, bold bitter flavor. This cappuccino though was on another level. The frothy milk was just sweet enough to cut the bitterness of the espresso, the cornetto however, was dry and tasted burned.
Being my birthday, I decided I wasn’t going to eat anything that didn’t satisfy my tastebuds 110% so off in search of a new pastry we went. Not too far from the train station we discovered Pasticceria dal Mas. One look in the window and I knew we had to go in.
There were so many delicious pastries to choose from! I ended up getting a brioche al cioccolato, soft, tender layers of flaky pastry with melted chocolate inside. What I loved most about this pastry is that it was still warm, and it seemed to have the slightest hint of lemon flavor, which I love. I was finally satisfied, for breakfast at least!
Last time we were in Venice we brought our very own homemade tramezzini and had a picnic with the best waterfront view in a lesser crowded area. One of my very favorite memories. I love discovering a place through its cuisine, and last time we tried traditional zaeti cookies and fritto misto, some other traditional Ventian food.
This time, other than my pastry, we had no agenda but to spend the day wandering the city and sampling various cicchetti. The first time I heard about cicchetti, I thought, “We’re going to eat WHAT?!”
It sounds remarkably similar to Cecchetti, the style of ballet that I did while growing up. (Those Italian vowel sounds…someday I’ll be able to tell the difference between them!)
Cicchetti are traditional Venetian finger foods that are often eaten as snacks or aperitivo. There are many different different kinds of cicchetti that they are difficult to describe. To discover all of the various cicchetti, the best thing to do is visit Venice and try them yourself!
When an American wants to find a place to eat, usually we ask Google, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. But not Bear. While I had my phone out ready to search for our cicchetti, he insisted on choosing a bàcaro a sort of Venetian tavern, if you will.
We meandered through the narrow Venetian streets until we reached a dead end. There at the end of the street, was a man standing in front of a construction site, almost as if he were waiting for us. He resembled a viking more than the American stereotype of an olive-skinned dark-haired Italian: slightly stout in stature with shoulder-length red hair pulled back in a pony tail and an equally bright, red, bushy beard.
I’ll let Bear tell the next part because it was all in dialect.
“The guy was firstly pissed to see us, he was probably thinking ‘oh great! another couple of tourists lost!’. His face changed from pissed to amused the very moment I told him ‘No matter how many times you visit Venice, you always find yourself on a dead end’ in venitian dialect. I kindly explained him we were trying unpaved roads mostly to escape the tourist crowd AND to find some discreet but good bacaro. He offered us to give us directions for some old style bacari and then, as always, we started talking about everything else. Something I won’t bother you with..” – B
Even though cicchetti are more like snacks than a meal, it is entirely possible to stuff yourself silly. I actually felt more full than I usually did after a meal! We went to three different bacari and tried everything from balls of fried meat or tuna, slices of bread topped with meats and cheese, and the most traditional of all, sarde in saor and baccala mantecato. My favorite cicchetti of the day was the baccala mantecato, which is cod that is whipped until it is creamy. Bear’s favorite is sarde in saor, but the sardines were a little too fishy for me and the pickled onions a little too acidic.
Needless to say, I was a very happy birthday girl after our day in Venice!
Leave us a comment: Have you ever tried Venetian cicchetti? If so, what is your favorite? If not, what is your favorite finger food?