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  • Writer's picture5 Senses CulinaryTours

Winding my way on callettes!

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Venice is one of a kind in many ways. I can never turn down a reason to go. It is sexy during Carnival with all the costumes and masks, eerily foggy in winter and way too hot and touristy to go in summer. But that leaves 7 or 8 months to enjoy. I just came back from a November trip where I walked and walked discovering places I’ve missed in the past, I was going down so many calli (alley or path) to explore, finding so many corners I have missed over the years.

There is something else that is one of a kind and unique in Venice, the words to describe the streets (strada) and addresses, which almost always include the history of the place. Three of the most common names Calle (about 3000), Ponte (391 bridges), & Campo (16 fields; now no longer made of turf).

Indeed Venice is distinctive in finding a location, some you will need to know the Renaissance family names, for example Ca’ Pesaro or Ca’ Rezzonico. And many Calli refer to the workers or workshops, like Calle del Forno. Ovens are obviously here, but then again there are several “oven streets,” too, therefore you need to know districts. Then there are all the squares in front of the many churches, 170 at last count. And small squares, corte which had a well in the center used by families surrounding it.

There is another domain known only in Venice – that is Bacari! This alone is a reason to go to Venice. Ancient and rustic Venetian taverns, according to legend called the way of Bacchus, the God of Wine offering at the wind down of the day a small glass of wine and cicchetti, a small bit to accompany the ombre. Some claim the name is derived from “far bàcara” a dialect expression to celebrate, which could be very true. In any case, the bacari are to this day among the most popular places in hidden Venice, thanks to their genuine food offered, combined with local wines. I cannot write this without a glass of wine at my elbow. It truly makes me salivate. Spain may have its tapas and the Basques have pintxos, but Venice seems to have so much more. I always ‘celebrate’ with convivial pleasure at the end of the day by going for my barcari!

Because they are usually located in narrow callettes (little streets), often secluded but no less crowded! Normally there are few seats, in fact it is preferred to stay near the counter to converse with the host and to more easily order a second ‘ombra de vin’ (shadow of wine). In these places the counter is always full of colorful and tasty ‘cicchetti’ to point at, which literally make you mouth water! A plate of flavorful topped croutons, meatballs, skewers, small sandwiches -- each place has their variety and specialty items. Like roasted vegetables, creamed salted cod, sardines saor, small arancini, or a pile of prosciutto on a tiny ball of burrata.

I have my favorites, but there are ones that continually draw me back sometimes I ever forgo lunch or dinner after a barcari stroll. You have to know where to go – they have the feel of a welcoming home, a glass of good wine with several selections and an appetizing snack. It is mostly informal and familiar gathering local friends. One of my favorites has the husband and wife at the bar and the mother in the kitchen producing cicchetti on a series of grilled croutons, that is Cantina Vecia Carbonera located on Rio Tera.

I'll share a few tasty places, but google map probably won't help, you need to get off the beaten track and zigzag around.

Al Timon is on everyone's list a place found in the super venetian district of Cannaregio, located in the beautiful setting of the Fondamenta dei Ormesini, very close to the Jewish Ghetto. Its cicchetti are perhaps the most famous in the whole city.

Cantina Do Spade is located in a central area in San Polo district. A short walk from the Rialto Bridge but well hidden in a suggestive secondary calletta. It’s one of the most popular bacari of the city.

Cantine del Vino già Schiavi, a truly historic Venetian bacaro, affectionately called "il bottegon" by trusted customers, has been a meeting place for over a century.

Taverna al Remer is very popular with Venetians, located in San Polo district in the Campiello del Remer, perhaps one of the most hidden and evocative of the city because it overlooks the Grand Canal directly. It will offer you a classy and yet not expensive aperitivo with a priceless view.

La Vedova is located in the Cannaregio district along one of the most tourist streets of the city: Strada Nuova. But do not be fooled, it is well hidden in a secondary calle and it perfectly maintains its fully Venetian character.

And the newcomer Vino Vero, Fondamenta della Misericordia, opened in 2014 by 4 friends, including Matteo Bartoli, a wine producer in Tuscany. The products used in the kitchen comes with a focus of sustainability and gourmet so you will find unusual ingredients such as wild boar salami, goat robiola, dried tomatoes, honey or avocado. But best of all it sits on a canal where you can enjoy the sun and people watching.

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