One of the greatest things about walking around in Venice is the abundance of bars and cafes that offer cichetti, little dishes or two-bite sized morsels to go along with a drink. While more and more bars offering good wine by the glass and cichetti are opening all over the city, I have my old standbys. And since I usually end up staying in the Cannaregio area, here are some of the bars I visit on a regular basis. With the exception of Dal Riccio Peoco which has not been open as long as the others here, I have been visiting all of these places for many years.
You can start close to Campo San Marcuola and work your way towards Campo SS Giovanni & Paolo, or vice versa. Let’s start in Campo San Marcuola, shall we?
I usually stay just around the corner from Campo San Marcuola, so Vecia Carbonera (Rio Terra della Maddalena 2329) is a bar I visit quite often as it is very close to my apartment. Located on the very busy thoroughfare between the train station and the Rialto bridge, the back room of this bar is an oasis of calm. There is no table service – order your glass of wine and a few crostini (small slices of bread with assorted toppings) and then take it to the back room with you. They have long wooden tables, a couple of them right next to a picturesque little canal. This is a great place for a group of friends, but it is also a great place the loner can bring their journal or book. I also like to stop in for a little snack on my way to the Conad supermarket down the street.
A bit farther down the main drag, in the little Campo San Felice off the Strada Nova, is the more famous La Cantina (Campo San Felice 3689.) You won’t get your standard cichetti here – what you will get are fresh oysters, and incredible plates of cheese and cured meats. La Cantina is not especially inexpensive – in fact, it can be pricey – but I am addicted to chef Francesco’s beautiful and tasty platters of meat and/or fish. In late June, I had a craving for a big salad and cold roast beef. The best place to get it? Definitely La Cantina. I’ve spent the rest of the summer thinking of that plate of food. This is also the place to splurge on wines of the bubbly variety, and if you are a craft beer drinker you must try co-founder Andrea Zanatta’s Morgana beer.
Continue down the Strada Nova, make a left at Campo SS Apostoli and another left on Calle dell’Oca, and you’ll soon arrive at Ai Promessi Sposi (Calle dell’Oca 4367). When I lived in Venice back in 2001, this bar had a plethora of cichetti on view under a glass counter and very inexpensive wine, making it a standard stop on many local’s evening pub crawl. I used to go all the time, but the food was not going to win any awards – I went because I could eat heartily for practically nothing. Then a few years ago, some young folks took over, and brought the level and quality of both the food and the wine up to a very high level. You can still order cichetti at the bar – they have wonderful plates of vegetables and tasty meatballs – but it would be well worth your time to have a full meal there. I try to go on every visit to Venice. They have a very creative menu but also offer some Venetian standards, so on one visit I can order raw tuna with wasabi as my starter then follow that with fegato all Veneziana (liver, Venetian style) done to perfection. It is so good!
Back in the Campo SS Apostoli, you will find Dal Riccio Peoco (Campo SS Apostoli 4462) on the other side of the church. This bar hasn’t been around as long as the others here, but has become a staple in my wanderings around town. I usually order a Spritz or Prosecco and grab one of the limited seats outside to sip my drink and check out the vibrant life in the campo. This place is funky, and is very popular with the local youth – it has a sort of punk rock, anarchist vibe which I really love. Classic rock is the soundtrack, and the cichetti are varied and inexpensive. They have a very cool staff T-Shirt which is available for purchase.
Now its time to head over to the Salizada San Canciano a street lined with so many little bars, you might not have to leave the street, ever. My favorite is the teensy Un Mondo di Vino (Salizada San Canciano 5984.) Long before most other bars in Venice were offering many different wines by the glass, Un Mondo di Vino was doing it. The staff are super friendly and welcoming to locals and travelers alike. There are so many varieties of cichetti available under the counter at the bar, you could make a full meal of them (and many people do.) If the inside is too crowded, you can take your beverage onto the narrow street, where the people watching is sublime. But inside, you’ll meet people from all over the world while tasting wines from all over Italy.
A list of my favorite places in Cannaregio could never be complete without Osteria da Alberto (Calle Giacinto Gallina 5401.) I have been eating here for over sixteen years, and what I love about it is that it is consistent. The same chef is still manning the kitchen and the same two guys run the front of the house that ran it in 2001. This is the place to come when you want true Venetian food, served in a true Venetian environment. You can order a plate of seafood or vegetable cichetti at the tiny bar, or you can go into the dining room for a full meal, which I highly recommend. I also recommend that you order one of the daily specials posted in the window (or recited by your server) rather than something off the menu. Not that what’s in the menu is not good, but that what’s on special is great. If I want risotto with seafood, grilled fish or a really tasty steak, I know I can get it at Osteria da Alberto along with a ciao and a smile from these guys who I have kind of grown up with.
Just down the street is another little bar taken to a new level, quality wise, by new management. Years ago, the bar where da Tellero (Calle Larga Giacinto Gallina 6378) is now, was where the locals (and myself) would stop in for a 50-cent glass of wine and a couple of little panini. Lunch for a buck. Now, there are a lot more options for cichetti as well as different sized boards of cheese and cured meat, and a varied menu of wine by the glass. If it gets too crowded inside, you can take your drink out to the calle with the imposing façade of the church of SS Giovanni & Paolo looming over you. Another great thing about da Tellero is that they are open straight through the afternoon, so at 4pm you have a better option than one of the overpriced cafes in Campo SS Giovanni & Paolo. This is a good place for vegetarians – they have a lot of traditional Venetian cichetti like polpette, made with zucchini or eggplant instead of meat.
I could go on and on with so many other great wine bars and osterie in Cannaregio (not to mention the rest of Venice!) But for now, I’ll leave you with this – maybe next year, I can add another blog post about eating and drinking in beautiful Venice. We visit many of these places on GrapeHops A Taste of Venice tour.
Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.
Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.
When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.