The best bacari bars in Venice Cantina do Spade

The best bacari bars in Venice

Don't spoil your visit by eating in over-priced tourist traps – follow the locals' lead and graze on sample size snacks in Venice's back-street bacaro

Like most Italian food traditions, Venice's early evening ritual was inspired by the needs and wants of local peasants and labourers. Similar in principle to the Milanese aperitivo culture, Bacari, which loosely means to eat, drink and be merry, was designed to revive and refresh workers on their way home. These little bars opened in the 1700s, serving glasses of wine and small snacks of local meats and fish. Today these bars still exist and locals still drop in to socialise before heading home. Here's out pick of the best of the best of the small wonders of Venice.  

Osteria Bancogiro

photo-103791707Osteria Bancogiro

Housed inside a merchant's bank dating back to the 1600s, this osteria's very location is steeped in Venice's haunting history, with the city’s first Mediaeval church, San Giacometto, located nearby. What better place to savour the time-honoured tradition of 'cichetti e ombrete'? Here, dinner begins at 7pm, so get there in good time if you want to indulge in happy hour aperitifs. After that, Bancogiro's wonderful menu of primi, secondi and fantastic desserts are persuasive reasons for you to stick around. www.osteriabancogiro.it

Al Mercà

al mercC3A0Al Merca

Al Mercà's winning combination of drinks and tasty bites will change your mind about typical hole-in-the-wall venues. This bacaro, one of the smallest in town, is also one of the most popular, and no wonder. Its wide variety of cichetti – from simple panini, generous slices of cured meats, to lagoon seafood appetizers that fill you up the right way – is the reason why locals and visitors love to come here time and time again.

Cantina do Spade

cantina-do-spade-20110309-183451Cantina do Spade

En route to the Rialto market? Wait, there is an obligatory stop that you have to make. If you haven't heard of Cantina do Spade, it's time that you get to know (and savour) its hearty cichetti. Meatballs in tomato sauce, fried calamari and zucchini blossoms go wonderfully with your drink. And if you are aiming for a truly Venetian experience, then having an Aperol Spritz is the way to go. cantinadospade.com

L'Arco

lacroL'Arco

What can you put on wonderful slices of bread? Perhaps the question is what can't you put on it! L'Arco's cichetti are as imaginative and delicious as they get: sardines and onion, anchovies with gorgonzola, melt-in-your-mouth cold cuts and pickles, salted baccalà spread...all effortlessly complemented with a glass of wine. Like so many bacaros in Venice, this one is hidden down an alley, just across the Rialto bridge.

Related: Beyond the Biennale: Venice’s best bars and restaurants

1 Osteria Bancogiro
2 Al Merca
3 Cantina Do Spade
4 All'Arco