On our first trip to Venice (way back in 2007) we were on a very tight budget. Not only that, but we were totally clueless about foodie tourism and were rubbish at researching! As a result, we ate at McDonald’s (the shame), self-catered by making seriously mediocre pasta and missed out on SO MUCH! If only we had discovered something like Eatwith to show us the way. Well, on our last visit we decided not to make the same mistakes and signed up for a fun food tour. Come with us and learn all about the art of Venetian bar snacks on our Eatwith Venice Food Tour review.
We were guests of Eatwith but all opinions are entirely our own
What is Eatwith?
Eatwith is a company that works with local hosts in cities around the globe to create foodie experiences highlighting their favourite food spots or cooking techniques. There are cooking lessons, walking tours and family meals. If you like food, and people, you will find something to suit your taste. For our trip to Venice, we had a look at the options and the Cicchetti Venice Food Tour jumped out at us. We love to explore somewhere new and what better way to do that than on foot and through your tummy! So Venice, round two…here we go!
What is Cicchetti and Where Can You Get It?
The Cicchetti Venice Food Tour celebrates Cicchetti, Venice’s version of tapas or bar snacks. Guests take a walk through Cannaregio, a district of Venice that hugs the Cannaregio canal and retains a local feel. They fuel along the way by popping into bacari (bars) along the way. Each of these bars offers cicchetti. These small bites are brilliant value (mostly below €4). They can all be eaten with the hands. Cicchetti makes a wonderful thing to munch on the way home from a long day at work, or to soak up a drink or three on a night out. Traditionally, these small snacks come in three main forms:
- Delicious things on a piece of bread
- Delicious things on a stick
- Delicious things in a ball
During our tour, we were determined to try each of these in multiple forms. Let’s see how we did…
All day, the rain poured down on Venice. Every tourist in the city had soggy shoes and a slightly scraped umbrella in hand. We were no exception and arrived at Basilica di San Giovanni e Paulo with every waterproof item we had packed at the ready.
There was one lone figure standing under his own brolly and we approached with the awkward hellos of a blind date. Turns out, we were the only people booked on the Cicchetti Venice Food Tour and so off we wandered with Giacomo. Giacomo is a student who lives on the mainland of Venice and he is the most lovely guy. Throughout the whole tour, we chatted easily and enjoyed finding out all about life in Venice.
Over the last fifteen years, the Aperol Spritz had taken the world by storm. As soon as the sun comes out, big balloon glasses of bright orange joy are clinked everywhere. The spritz was invented in Venice. Back in the 1800s, Veneto was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, bringing in soldiers and merchants from across the world. These visitors found Italian wine too bitter and strong so they added a little bubbly water (“Spritz” is a Germanic word after all). I guess that compared to a Reisling, you could say it was bitter?
Over time, the alcohol base changed into bitter liqueurs. Aperol made an appearance in the early 1900s and very quickly became the most popular spritz. In the 1950s, some clever clogs decided to replace some of the soda water with prosecco (made just up the road in Treviso) and the Aperol Spritz as we know it was born. We were given the option to try a Campari or Aperol Spritz but both opted for the Aperol (Campari is a little too grown-up for us). We were surprised to see them arrive with an olive garnish but that seems to be the way the Venetians do it!.
In our first spot, we also got to try our first bits of cicchetti. Choosing from this huge selection felt a little intimidating but thankfully, when there are two or more of you, you can choose different things and taste more!
To start with, we chose one of their salted cod spreads. Salted cod is really popular in Venice for the same reason Portugal is nuts for bacalao. (to learn more about bacalao in Lisbon, check out this blog post). Sailors brought slated cod back from colder waters and once soaked for a day or two, it is just beautifully seasoned fish, ready to be turned into a delicious dish or seven. We also had a piece of bread topped with speck, its beautiful ribbons of melting fat glistening. Finally, we had a squid ink ball with seafood inside and a polpette (Italian meatball) of spicy sausage and mascarpone. They were all very yummy but anything with squid ink will always have my vote!
At our next Bacari, we enjoyed a lovely glass of prosecco. Prosecco, as I have hinted at, is a local treat. The area just north of Venice is where they produce the bubbly brilliance that is prosecco. Its a DOC product so it can only be made in this region. Now, if you think Aperol Spritz came out of nowhere to become popular, a quick glance at the UK’s prosecco drinking habits will blow your mind. At some point in the mid-2010s, the prosecco explosion took place in the UK. These days, we are drinking 8.2 million litres of Prosecco a week! On average, you find a bottle popping once a week in almost a quarter of British households and that means we get through 131 million bottles annually. In fact, we account for 36% of prosecco sales across the globe. I think I am responsible for 1% of that, I love the sweet, light, fizzy fun of a prosecco!
Our prosecco was served in a flat bottom, thick tumbler style glass, not the champagne flute we are used to. These glasses are a godsend for a spiller like me! There is much less chance of knocking it over than a delicate flute.
For food, we opted for some more bread topped with yummy things. (We figured it would be a good idea to match the booze with carbs to soak them up) and a meatball. The cicchetti here was a little more intricate, with more toppings and presented in a more delicate way. The polpette was fine but nothing special. I particularly enjoyed the tomato, cheese and olive cicchetti and the gorgonzola with greens and almonds. They were both full of flavour and I wish we had purchased seconds! We had no idea that sweet gorgonzola existed and we were both instant converts.
Next, we got to try a small meal that I think must be the best hangover cure ever! I believe that is called Mozzarella in Carozza. That makes it sounds awfully fancy but at its heart, this dish is a fried toastie. This dish is created by taking two pieces of cheap white bread, whacking some mozzarella between them, battering the lot (they miss out on the battering stage in other areas of Italy) and frying it. Along with the mozzarella, it is usual to have either ham or anchovies. It is greasy and gorgeous.
Alongside this, we had a glass of white wine to cut through the oil. The grease, the intense salt hit from anchovy and the little bit of booze would make this ideal for the morning after the night before!
This restaurant had a buffet section stacked with hot and cold seafood and lots of deep-friend things in bread crumbs. We added on a skewer of meatball stuffed olives which were breadcrumbed and fried. Lordy, they were the perfect bar snack! Meaty and salty, I would have had another five drinks with them.
In the last bacari that included food, we had the choice of a few rolls and some more fried goodies. Incredibly, one of the rolls included black truffle. How is it possible to get anything with real truffle for €3!? We selected some cheese balls on a skewer and a couple of sardine fillets. They were both simple and well-cooked but the absolute star of the show was that roll with ham and truffle. It broke us and our conversation was rudely interrupted by our astonishment. It was so good that we HAD to have another. It was a travesty to share just the one!
By the end of the second roll, we were nicely full and ready for our last stop.
Digestif Dive Bar
In our final bar, we sat down to glass of amaro. This herbal digestif comes in many varieties and to be honest, I was very wary. I thought it was going to be nasty and reminiscent of Jaeger but it was smooth, not too strong and quite sweet. It slipped down rather well.
It was at this point that we found out that it was actually adorable Giacomo’s birthday and he had celebrated with a couple of greedy Brits. He produced some amazing biscuits from his bag and we all had a fabulous chat and nibbled on the sweet pistachio treats. We even sang him two terribly pitched lines of Happy Birthday before he insisted we stop. We are so thankful to him for giving up his birthday evening to hang out with us and show us the very best cicchetti Cannaregio has to offer!
Final Thoughts for this Eatwith Venice Food Tour Review
We have done a few food tours in our travels but this was our first that seemed so personal. We were able to pick the things we would like to try, really get to know our host and feel totally relaxed. I couldn’t recommend an Eatwith experience enough. The vibe was so different from larger tours we have done and it felt pretty special that the leader was taking us to his favourite spots and not just ones that were selected for him. Eatwith has foodie adventures all around the world and we cant wait to discover some more!