Venetian cicchetti are small plates of food made up of local specialties served at traditional bars in and around Venice. These cicchetti bars, called bacari, are instantly recognizable by their tempting rows of bite-size crostini, sandwiches, various fried seafood and marinated vegetables on display in the window or across the bar. Learn some of the most popular Venetian cicchetti recipes – codfish on polenta and boiled egg with anchovies, and find out how to create an authentic cicchetti spread to share with your friends and family.
The word cicchetti comes from the Latin ciccus, meaning “small quantity” and over the years has come to represent a way of life for Venetians. Cicchetti, served at local bacari (small bars) are often eaten standing and (most probably) hovering over the bar on which they are displayed. To go to the bacari and meet with friends over a drink with some cicchetti in the early evening is actually a centuries-old ritual, dating back to the period when Venice was a maritime powerhouse. In the piazza of San Marco and the streets of Rialto, wine vendors sold glasses of wine along with small portions of food to the traders who passed by at all hours of the day. A trip to Venice for any gourmand would not be complete without a tour of the local bacari to taste their delicious offerings of cicchetti.
Here we have two of the most popular Venetian cicchetti dishes, baccalà mantecato, “creamed codfish on crunchy polenta,” and Venetian-style boiled eggs served with marinated anchovies.
Create your own complete Venetian cicchetti spread with a few additions of your choice such as meatballs, gratin of mussels, marinated olives, fried salt cod. Served with a refreshing Rossa Fizz or Pompelmo Splash mocktail, you will be transferred to the buzzy back street-bacari bars of Venice in an instant.
BACCALÀ MANTECATO: CREAMED COD ON POLENTA
1. Start by rehydrating the cod: soak the fish, immersed in cold water, for up to 48 hours in the fridge. Change the water twice daily.
2. Drain and remove the skin. Place in a large saucepan with enough cold water to fully cover the fish, along with 150 mL of milk, season with salt and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, skimming occasionally, until tender.
3. Drain the cod, remove the skin, bones and cut into small pieces.
4. Using a wooden spoon, or an immersion blender, break down the cod pieces. Gradually drizzle in the oil until the mixture looks creamy and light.
5. Season with salt and pepper, and serve on top of chunks of fried polenta.
MEZZO UOVO CON ACCIUGA: BOILED EGG WITH ANCHOVIES
1. Assemble your eggs by placing one rolled anchovy on the centre of the halved egg, followed by an olive. Secure with a toothpick.
Venetian cicchetti with its wide variety of flavours, ranging from fish to meat, fresh vegetables to fried meatballs, is a fun way to taste the delicacies of the local cuisine. In a busy tourist city like Venice, it may be worth your time looking for the hidden bacari bars where you can find delicious cicchetti and a smattering of locals. These bacari bars, unassuming by nature and full of old-school charm, will sure be a treat for your palate (and most likely your wallet)!