Venice food crawl – the culture of cicchetti

A Cicchetti Tour of Venice

Emilia Delizia Venice food tour. Our company would be delighted to organise a Venice food tour for your group, family, friends or company incentive travel. Our culinary activities are great for those wanting to explore the best Italian food traditions.

Cichetti, Venice's version of tapas. Salt cod & arancini :) #italy

Cichetti, Venice’s version of tapas. Salt cod & arancini – Image source

Venice food tour highlights.

Imagine that you are exploring the sights of Venice, that magical place that has welcomed travellers and explorers since the Middle Ages. In this city without cars, you can walk for hours, enjoying both the well-known sights such as St. Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge and  the Piazza San Marco. Naturally, this is bound to leave you hungry and thirsty. What better way to combine exploration with refreshment than participating in the tradition known as the cicchetti crawl? Cicchetti are snacks, rather like Spanish tapas, served in wine bars and taverns. You can easily sample a world of traditional, delicious Venetian cuisine and atmospheric tavernas, for a modest expenditure, over the course of an afternoon or evening.

The delicious food of Venice.

Since Venice is a city dominated by the sea it is no surprise that its food culture is dominated by the sea also: by deliciously fresh and abundant seafood, including cuttlefish, octopus, cod, sardines and shrimp. Meats, both fresh and cured, are also widely used in Venetian dishes, as is pasta and risotto rice. Fresh local vegetables such as artichokes from Sant-Erasmo and, in the spring, white asparagus, when fried or grilled, also become delicious cicchetti.

A culinary tour of Venice’s cicchetti bars will reward you with a world of tastes. To begin your cicchetti adventure, look for places called bacari (wine bars) or osteria, both of which serve these traditional snack foods. Traditional cicchetti are simple: chunks of salami, pieces of cheese, fried olives and fried seafoods. Modern cicchetti include these dishes, but they also can be much more elaborate – dinners in miniature.

Cicchetti are accompanied by small glasses of wine (about the size of a double shot) known as ombra, or shade. These mini glasses of wine were long ago nicknamed ombra, after the wine sellers in the Piazza San Marco, who kept in the shade to keep the wine cool and fresh. Or perhaps you would like to drink an aperitivo – a pre-dinner drink designed to whet your appetite. In Venice, the traditional Spritz is often based on sparkling wine such as Prosecco (a dry white sparkling wine), mixed with sparkling water and flavored with bitters.These amari (bitters) include the ruby red bitters Campari or Select (made of herbs and fruits), bright orange Aperol (with bitter orange, gentian, rhubarb and cinchona), and Cynar (containing artichokes and several herbs). These aperitivo are fairly low in alcohol content, so are the perfect drink to choose while roaming between bacari.

Bacari and osterias in Venice.

Some of the best seafood-based cicchetti can be found in San Polo. Many osteria are near the Rialto Fish Market. At Cantina Mori (San Polo 429), which has been in business since the 15th century, you can try octopus and baccala’ (salt cod). Sarde in saor, or sardines fried in olive oil with onions, pine nuts and raisins, is found there also. Baccala’ is one of the most popular cicchetti; a creamy salt cod, it is served either on its own or on toast. At Pronto Pesce (319 San Polo), also near the Rialto Fish Market, you can savour swordfish croissant and scallops served in the shell – all served in a buffet style. If you prefer meat, try a hearty plate of polpette (meatballs), often served with an aioli sauce. Polpette, as well as prosciutto, pate and bread rounds topped with truffles, cheese and mushrooms await you at All’Arco (San Polo 436), near the Rialto Bridge.

Tidbits served on toast (crostini) or on squares of savory grilled polenta are also popular cicchetti. Try squid ink toast with or without curried shrimp at Osteria Bancogiro (Campo San Giacometto, San Polo). Risotto and pasta dishes are also delicious  – try the risotto Parmigiana or the ravioli at Osteria Vivaldi (calle della Maddonetta, San Polo). Tramezzini (little triangular sandwiches) may also accompany drinks in traditional bacari. Made from special, soft white bread, they are stuffed with a delectable variety of fillings including ham, olives, cheese or tuna.

Refreshed by cicchetti and an aperitivo or an ombra, you may now continue your explorations. This food tour is a delicious way to relax, recharge, and sample the best of Venice’s cuisine – and in doing so, getting to know Venice and her people, too.

Abruzzo food tours

Abruzzo food  and wine tours – Italy’s Secret Cornucopia

by Marcelo Pinto October 12th 2012

fish dining experience in abruzzo

Stretching from the steep, snow-capped peaks of the Appennines to the sandy Adriatic coast, Regione Abruzzo is one of Italy best-kept secrets. Indeed, until now, Abruzzo hardly featured on anyone’s Italian tourist agenda. But now, it’s become a hot-spot for travellers looking to go back in time and experience authentic, rural, medieval Italy, untouched by the excesses of modern development and tourism.

Abruzzo is an essential destination for lovers of food and wine. In fact, many renowned Italian chefs came to famous Abruzzese town of Villa Santa Maria to perfect their culinary crafts. Local food has harnessed the best of what the landscape has to offer, and it ranges from earthy, rustic mountain dishes to unique, fresh seafood cuisines.

But, undoubtedly the belle of the ball in Abruzzo is Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wine. It has achieved worldwide renown for being flavoursome, versatile and very affordable. It is one of the most ubiquitous wines of the region, and is grown in all four provinces of l’Aquila, Teramo, Pescara and Chieti. It stands as a testament to the innovations that are happening in regional viticulture, which constantly yield fresh and interesting results.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is easy-to-drink, and can be enjoyed at a young age. It is smooth, low in acidity, and displays a luxurious ruby-to-purple colouring. It has soft and slightly syrupy tannins, which contribute to an all-round flavour of biting cherry underscored by earthy dryness. It can be served with all kinds of tomato-based dishes, such as the notable Abruzzese pasta speciality, maccheroni alla chitarra with spicy tomato sauce.

Fontefico Vasto wine tours in Abruzzo

Abruzzo has held on to agricultural practices that originated in the Middle Ages. The rich, green pastures of the central highlands, in particular, have supported shepherding for centuries. This, in turn, has given rise to a culinary tradition rich in mutton and lamb dishes, the most famous of which is arrosticini.

Arrosticini are long skewers of rich mutton and exemplify the typically rustic country food of the mountainside. The meat, traditionally derived from castrated male sheep, is cut into small cubes and then pierced with a 25-30 cm long spit. Skewers are usually marinated in extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary, and then grilled until cooked.

The time-honoured method of grilling is conducted on an open- style barbecue, locally known as a rustillire or furnacella. The furnacella is designed to support rows upon rows of arrosticini, which can then be easily turned and grilled without falling into the fire. Locals use fattier mutton cuts, ensuring the meat stays juicy and full of flavour after cooking. These skewers are most delicious when eaten with the hands.

Things couldn’t be more different on the coast, where fishing dominates and is the livelihood of many local people. The coastlines of Chieti and Teramo, for instance, still practice some of the oldest fishing methods in the world. The trabocco is a significant example of this heritage.

A trabocco is an ancient Italian fishing apparatus that closely resembles a rickety pier and wooden shack. However, a closer inspection reveals an elaborate agglomeration of pulleys and levers that work together to capture large quantities of fish and shellfish. Long logs of weather-resistant Aleppo pine jut out of the shack at the end of the pier. These logs support large mesh nets that are lowered into the water to catch fish brought in by advantageous currents. Historians believe that this fishing system was first implemented by the Phoenicians.

Most trabocchi are often “pop up restaurants” that serve fresh catches of fish on a daily basis. The visitor can be sure of tasting only the best fish and calamari prepared in typical Abruzzo style. A typical dish is a brodetto, a delicious variation of French bouillabaisse. It is made of a rich rosa tomato broth, stewed with a variety of Adriatic seafoods, such as prawns, monkfish, rockfish and scallops.

Abruzzo is considered one of the wildest regions in Italy, with its vast natural spaces and expansive seascapes. This unique terrain has resulted in a distinctive food heritage that is steeped in centuries of tradition. Abruzzo provides visitors with the rare chance to experience a different side of Italy, and a way of life that has largely been forgotten.