Bruce White: Ian McBride:

Bruce White (Slow Food Brisbane) starts the conversation about Venice…

(for full article, information on Bruce,  his travel posts and tours go to

I have always believed in eating and drinking the produce that is produced in the region, that is, Locavore.  Farmers markets are always the first thing on my list to visit when arriving in a new destination.  Both personally and professionally I am aligned with the ideals of Slow Food, a movement I am now actively involved in.

The Veneto is a huge area that stretches from Lake Garda in the west, Venice and the Adriatic Sea to the east and the ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the far north.  The Veneto Region of Italy is a fascinating section of the country to visit packed tight with wine country, gorgeous cities and hamlets, and some stunning natural scenery. The area is the perfect destination for wine lovers & Slow Food devotees.

So, let’s get exploring.  The Rialto Markets were calling and as it turned out they were just across the canal from our Palazzo accommodation.  Perfetto!  It’s worth a morning visit, to watch the chefs negotiating for the best of the seafood. The San Polo district is a maze of little lanes and dining options are numerous. The further you get away from the tourists, and the Rialto Bridge, the better the quality of the cuisine offered. Eat like a local, works every time for me especially relaxing with a glass of Prosecco and a cicchetto, the Venetian style tapas popular with the locals, delicious and very local.

Using our Osteria d’Italia we searched out slow food experiences.

Our first taste of Slow Food endorsed dining was at La Bitta, a small osteria that started out as a bacaro where you could stop for an ombra and a ciccheto, that is now making a name for itself among Venice’s restaurants. It’s a pleasant place, both in the bar area the dining room and in the outdoor courtyard garden. Seating is limited and booking essential. This was a special evening providing an insight into traditional Venetian style cuisine, prepared and presented with pride. Realistically priced for Venice, our group loved the evening.

Addres for Google maps:    Calle Lunga de San Barnaba, 2753/a, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy        Phone number for bookings         +39 041 523 0531

Front of house is the delightful Debora who presents the menu describing the dishes cooked by her husband Marcellino. The menu changes every day depending on the season and what is available in the nearby markets. The focus is mainly on meat and vegetables from the local area always of excellent quality. Dishes will include, Rabbit meat in “in saor”, tagliatelle with white meat ragout, potato dumplings with fresh ricotta and aromatic herbs. Other meat dishes include lamb chops sautéed with thyme, braised pork cheeks, veal liver in Venetion style, fillet of beef grilled with bacon.   Duck in peverada sauce, and chicken straccetti with finferli (Chanterelle)mushrooms. To close a selection of cheeses and delicious home-made puddings.

As for the wine line, trust Debora. The choice is from approximately 60 wineries from Veneto and surrounding regions. Some are available by the glass. The Veneto is jam packed with vineyards and is home to a multitude of appellations including: (DOCG) Bardolino Superiore, Recioto di Soave and Soave Superiore (both using the Garganega grape primarily), (DOC) Colli Euganei (making great Cabernet Franc and Merlot based wines), Bianco di Custoza (refreshing white wine made by the Riviera del Garda), Bardolino (made on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, mainly light reds and strong rosés made with the Valpolicella trio of grapes- Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, and also Negrara and Rossignola), Lugana (aromatic whites by such flagship cellars as Ca’ dei Frati, near the shores of Garda’s Sirmione), Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.

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Ian McBride ( writes about Venetian Cicheti e Ombre.  

Venice today is a wonderful open-air museum.  The Venetians who live in old Venice has fallen to 55,000 while there are up to 30 million tourists who visit la Serenissima each year. So, if you want to explore how Venetians lived traditionally you have to use a little imagination.  When Venice was one of the richest trading hubs of the Mediterranean the alleys were full of workers and merchants instead of tourists.  The bars and wine shops were set up to cater for workers who needed a quick break between jobs or Merchants who confirmed a deal over a glass of wine.

The wine shops were called Bacari after Baccus, the God of wine.  There were also ambulatory wine sellers who followed the shade of the campaniles and buildings and a wine in the shade took on the name of the shade – Ombra.  To attract customers, they also supplied small snacks able to be eaten with one hand as the other was needed for the wine.  In general, they were very simple, maybe half a boiled egg or a small piece of bread with some salami and cheese.  Because Venice is so closely tied to the sea there were also sardines and calamari and because they were lots of workers there were cheap cuts of offal.  In the rest of Italy these small snacks are called stuzzichini but in Venetian dialect they are called Cicheti (Cicchetti in Italian).

Today it is a much better business plan to cater to tourists than locals but a few Bacari still remain.  They are usually a little away from the main tourist crowds and after a morning of serious tourism it is refreshing to partake of an Ombra e Cicheto to get you ready for the next palace or church.  They are busy places with minimal seating but fast turnover.  However, if asked they will serve you wine in a plastic glass so you can go outside and sit on a step or beside a canal.  Many stay open into the evening and one way to have an early dinner is to do a sort of pub crawl (un Giro di Ombre sounds better) around a few having a glass of wine and a snack in each place.  Many hotels and bars also serve cicheti and they may be very sophisticated developments of the original idea with elegant ingredients far removed from the spleens and tendons of the past.  Venice is not a cheap place as everything must be brought in by boat.  Even the 18th century tourists on the Grand tour complained about the prices in Venice but it is a unique experience.

Half of the fun of travelling is finding little out of the way places for yourself so I am sure there are lots more than the ones I will mention.

The Cantina del Vino gia Schiavi at Fondamenta Nani, 992 is great because you can eat outside on the canal and a few metres back there is a place that repairs gondolas.

Osteria al Ponte just over the bridge from campo san Giovanni e Paolo.  It is so small people spill out and eat and drink on the bridge.

Near the Rialto markets are all’Arco and al Portego are in a lively area and are great for something early evening.

If you really need some time out from tourism walk along the Riva dei Schiavoni or take the vaporetto to Giardini and do the passegiata on via Garibaldi.  It is one of only two roads (Vie) in Venice and after a walk in the gardens try al Garanghelo which has a large selection of very traditional cicheti.