The One Dish to Eat in Venice 

Conde Nast Traveler

photograph by Alamy/Henk Meijer Close

photograph by Alamy/Henk Meijer

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photograph by Alamy/Henk Meijer

You can't leave Venice without eating…
Sardèle in saòr. A small dish of fried sardines marinated in white onions, vinegar, raisins, and pine nuts, sardèle in saòr is type of cicheti (“ki-ke-tee”), the city’s take on a pre-dinner light bite accompanied by a glass of wine or a spritzer cocktail. Head to one of the many bacari (small bars) along Venice’s canals and mix with locals for this early evening tradition.

How to eat it: At most bacari you’ll be able to choose from a number of cicheti. The bartender will give you a small plate, which alongside the sardèle in saòr may includebaccalà mantecato (dried salted cod slowly cooked in milk and served on a piece of toasted bread or a wedge of polenta) or polpette (small, fried meatballs). In some of the smaller bacari, most people will stand at the bar as they tuck into their cicheti, but there are almost always at least a couple of small tables for those who prefer to eat sitting.

How to order: If your Italian is up to scratch or you’re feeling brave, try asking directly: “Uno di questi e un bicchiere di prosecco/vino bianco” (“one of these, please, and a glass of prosecco/white wine”). You can point, especially if there is a wide selection and you’re not sure exactly what’s what.

Cicheti and white wine. Photograph by Context Travel Close

Cicheti and white wine. Photograph by Context Travel

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Cicheti and white wine. Photograph by Context Travel

Do you tip? You pay for what you eat, after eating. If you stumble upon one of the bacari during aperitivo time (pre-dinner drinks around 7-8pm), ordering a drink might also entitle you to pick freely from a finger food buffet. (The drink is usually more expensive than usual, between € 8 and €10.) Tips are not mandatory but appreciated if the service or food—or both—are exceptional.

Local tip: Cicheti are available from lunch onwards, but the best time to go is pre-dinner (aperitivo time). Watch out for the extra charge when sitting at a table, rather than being served over the bar counter. Children are welcome: You can have your aperitivo with kids around; Italians do. Children can have their own drink (a fruit juice, or water mixed with syrup such as mint or barley orzata).

Etiquette tip: Do: Eat cicheti as they are served (no additional dressings or sauces of sorts). Don’t: Order a cappuccino with your cicheti; they should be eaten with wine, cocktails, or a beer, although non-alcoholic options are also fine.

More travel etiquette:

Emily Knight is a manager with Context Travel Walking Tours, a company chosen as one of Condé Nast Traveler's top travel specialists.

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