Venice’s reputation as a tourist hotspot often overshadows the truly memorable gastronomic experiences there are to be had in the historic centre. The city’s bacari (“wine bars”) are amongst the most Venetian of traditions and are a trademark of its intricate and unique history. Serving a variety of cichetti (also called cicchetti), the Italian equivalent to tapas, and local wines by the ombra, which is a small glass in Venetian dialect, bacari are integral to the fabric of the city beyond its tourist-tailored culture.
Locals who work in the historic centre will drop in for cichetti and an aperitivo pre-dinner at the end of their working day, but these are also great spots for lunch on the go. They are favoured by students and young Venetians as social hubs once the sun has gone down.
The cichetti selections often range from crostini or open sandwiches and polpette (“meatballs”) to fresh seafood which is served fried, tartare or on squares of polenta. They will dispel the myth that everything in Venice is expensive as well, with many dishes and glasses of wine costing around 1 euro per serving.
If you are staying in one of our luxury villas near Venice or Verona, we have compiled a list of our favourite bacari in the city for authentic Venetian cuisine and a dining experience you won’t find anywhere else in the country.
Our favourite bacari in Venice
The bacaro that doubles as a Venetian steakhouse: Al Timon
On the Fondamenta dei Ormesini in the quieter district of Cannaregio, Al Timon is a lively and casual wine bar that is favoured by students and young Venetians.
In the warmer months they sit with an aperitivo on a wooden boat that doubles as a front terrace floating on the Ormesini Canal. Whilst Venice is known best for it’s seafood rich cuisine, meat dishes are the speciality here.
What to order
Try the crostini (“toasted bread”) topped with goat cheese and a berry compote or the crostini with manchego and blackberry, but be aware that their menu changes frequently.
For a more hearty meal pair an Amarone della Valpolicella with their signature Fiorentina steak served with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
The bacaro at the heart of Rialto: All’Arco
This is the perfect place to start if you are planning a giro di ombre (“round of small glasses”) which is the Venetian solution to a bar crawl, only far more delicious. Located near the Mercato di Rialto where the catch of the day can be found each morning, bacari like All’Arco are the place to go for the best fresh seafood.
Perhaps it is the proximity to the market that explains why the menu here doesn’t just change with the season, but changes by the day or even the hour, perhaps it is the owners passion for inventing new dishes and flavours.
What to order:
The menu at All’Arco is constantly revolving so it’s impossible to say what exactly you’ll try on the day you visit, but you are likely to find takes on traditional Venetian dishes here.
Sarde in Saor or fried sardines, which are served in a sweet vinegar and onion marinade are a classic from the region. You’ll also find inventive and tantalising dishes like crostini topped with Tracina (“Weever”) and truffle or tuna combined with pickle, peach, courgette and thyme.
The oldest bacaro in Venice: Cantina Do Mori
Founded in 1462, the interior of Cantina Do Mori exemplifies this historic tradition in Venice with dark wooden countertops, engraved copper pots hanging from the ceiling and just enough room to squeeze a handful of people along the bar.
Many of the traditional bacari in the city are so tiny there is no seating inside so people will line the canals or campi of a late afternoon or evening with their ombre of wine and Sea Bass carpaccio.
Cantina Do Mori sits opposite All’Arco and is just a short distance from the Campo San Giacomo di Rialto. The bacari in this area all contribute to the buzzing ambience you’ll find near the famous bridge. It is here that you will also find Al Mercà, another excellent bacaro, as well as the trendy Ancòra, a wine and oyster piano bar.
What to order:
The bacari around Rialto are the places to go for fresh seafood like grilled octopus, but Cantina Da Mori also serves excellent Fondi di Carciofi or artichoke hearts.
Try a Merlot produced in the neighbouring region of Friuli Venezia Giulia or a crisp Soave or Prosecco here; the wine list is extensive.
The bacaro overlooking the last shipyard in Venice: Al Squero
Al Squero is another traditional bacaro with dark wooden beams, barrel tables and a sweeping bar. It overlooks the last ‘squeri’ or shipyard in Venice and is a great location to sip an Aperol Spritz whilst looking out across the canal and gondole mid-construction.
What to order:
You’ll find classic Venetian dishes here like creamed salted cod served on polenta as well as a variety of meatballs, charcuterie platters and vegetarian alternatives like radish and walnut crostini.
The wines on offer come from small wineries in the regions of Friuli and Veneto. Try a glass of Cà Maiol, a white wine with notes of lime and apple from the shores of Lake Garda. They also serve a variety of beer and ale from breweries local to Friuli Venezia.
The bacaro with a contemporary twist: Basegò:
You will find Basegò in San Polo’s intimate Campo San Tomà, overlooking the grand baroque church and just a short walk from the Frari. It is a quieter spot less frequented by tourists and offers a more modern take on the traditional bacari of Venice. It has a bright and pristine interior with clean lines, lots of plants and the day’s selection of wines handwritten on a blackboard above the bar.
What to order:
You will find a playful and fresh combination of flavours at Basegò, whether you try the crostini with smoked salmon and strawberry or the gorgonzola with strawberries soaked in balsamic vinegar.
If you are visiting in the spring, try the creamed asparagus and cheese which pairs nicely with an elegant glass of Lugana dry white wine.
Cantine del Vino già Schiavi: The award-winning bacaro
In the arty district of Dorsoduro, this award-winning bacaro is known to the locals as Al Bottegòn. As rustic on the outside as it is inside, the interior is lined with shelves full of wines and spirits available to buy and taste.
From Umbria’s Montefalco Sagrantino and Tuscany’s Chianti Classico to Veneto’s Valpolicella Amarone, as well as an excellent Pinot Nero, Al Bottegòn offers a fine quality of red wines from across Italy you will want to try. There are no seats here so be prepared to stand outside along the canalside.
What to order:
The wine list changes by the day with up to 25 different bottles, mostly local to Veneto, served by the glass, but it is also a great spot to try some of the region's Grappa.
The chef and owner is constantly inventing new recipes so there are quite literally hundreds of cichetti for you to try here, from hazelnut mousse with paprika to classics like Carpaccio di Seppie in Nero (cuttlefish in squid ink).
Her signature dish is tuna tartare infused with caper and brandy, lightly dusted with unsweetened cocoa powder. It is a prize-winning combination of flavours that you will regret leaving Venice without tasting first.