If there’s one thing I know for certain about the sinking city of Venice, it is that it’s NOT cheap. Not only is Venice a huge tourist destination (70, 000 + visitors every day), but it’s also difficult for merchants to receive products. Think about the historical center – completely car-free, made up of over 160 islands, delivery only accessible by small boats or by hand. Hence, the outrageous prices on food and beverage. BUT eating out in Venice doesn’t have to be expensive, and here’s why.
If you know the tourist trap locations to avoid, then you can get access to great food for cheap. The tourist areas, namely Piazza San Marco, charges you upwards of 5 euros a head, just to sit down – then the sub-par food will cost you an additional 30 euros a plate, at least!
Take my advice. Do what the locals do. Eat your way through Venice, cicchetti (chi-khe-tee) style. What on earth are cicchetti, you ask? Think Venetian tapas. It’s a seldom known fact that the Venetians love their tapas, and for good reason! They’re inexpensive and delicious. And how fun is a cicchetti crawl anyway? REALLY fun. Grab a glass of local wine, point to the little snacks that you want (open-faced sandwiches, olives, pieces of cheese, meat, or fish, among many others), and enjoy! At 1-3 euros a pop, you can fill up on delicious Venetian tapas and have a much more authentic experience in the Floating City.
Here is a list of the Top 5 BEST Places for Cicchetti in Venice. Click the Restaurant name for Google Map direction:
- Paradiso Perduto: This place is by far my favorite place for cicchetti (and for food in general) in the city. It’s off the beaten path and you may likely be one of the only tourists in the place. The head chef, who I think might also be the owner, sports a welcoming smile and a Santa-like white beard. He’s there every time I visit, without fail – usually making pasta or chatting with the locals. There’s even live music here from time to time. I recommend going for the mixed platter for 2! It’ll run you 30 euros, but it is more than enough to fill up two people. Wash it down with an 11 euro liter of sparkling white wine.
2. Al Mariner: Located just two short blocks from Paradiso Perduto, this is a true locals-only place. In a city like Venice, everyone seems to speak English, but not here. Grab a spot outside near the canal and try their seafood plate of cicchetti. Not into seafood? That’s alright! Shimmy up to the bar where you can point to whatever little snacks look tempting to you. If you eat your snacks while standing up at the bar, then you’re pretty much a local.
3. Cantina do Spade: Located near Rialto Bridge, but just out of the direct sight of tourists, Cantina de Spade is famous for its inexpensive and painfully delicious seafood risotto. A small plate runs you 5 euros, while a large plate runs you 7-8 euros. They also have a large selection of cicchetti. Particularly delicious are the croquettes and the calamari. Remember, most of these restaurants are open from 12-3 and again from 7-late. This is true Italian fashion. Get here early, too, because it fills up fast!
4. Cantina do Mori: This place has become a bit more well-known since it was featured on one of Anthony Bourdain’s TV shows, and it’s a bit more expensive than the other 4 restaurants on this list. But, the ambiance in here is awesome. No BS. Jugs of wine. An always-angry gentleman behind the bar. A variety of tasty cicchetti, ready to be consumed. There’s no bathroom. It’s great. I recommend trying some of their local cheese, some octopus, and some of their open-faced sandwiches. Wash it down with a glass of soave.
5. Al Merca: Last but not least: Al Merca. I swear, this place is rarely open when I arrive. Maybe it’s just bad timing on my part? No matter, Al Merca is located directly adjacent to the famous Rialto Market. There is no seating, just a storefront and some high tables out front (if you’re lucky). Al Merca serves primarily little sandwiches that you can enjoy with a glass of with or an Aperol Spritz (check out my recipe for Aperol Spritz HERE). Located right on one of the largest canals in Venice, this is a great place to grab a couple of sandwiches (about 1.50 euros each) and a drink, people watch, and take in the views!
Well, there you have it! You now know that “cicchetti” is a thing. You know what they are. You know how to eat like a local in Venice. Last, but not least – you know how to fill up on tasty food in Venice without breaking the bank! Do you have any favorite places to find cheat eats in Venice? Please feel free to share!