Step back in time.
The culture of wine appreciation plays such a part of Italy's northern region of Veneto that once in Venice, every osteria was particular to a specific type of wine. 200 years ago, if you felt like a glass of something special and imported, you'd take a wander through the calli to your local malvasia. Here, you'd find an selection of wines from the rest of Italy like the red from Puglia, main protagonist in our story. Your local magazen would sell lesser quality tipple while the furatole were reserved for the poor.
Legend goes that a gondolier stepped into a local malvasia and ordered a glass of good Pugliese. Very impressed by his first delicious sip, he declared, "Bon! Bon! Questo xe proprio un vin de bàcaro!” referring to the Venetian expression 'far bàcara' - to celebrate in the name of Bacco, God of Wine.
'Ah good!' he exclaimed in local dialect, 'This is truly a wine of celebration!'
In quirky Venetian style, the malvasie wines soon became known as 'vin de bàcaro' and the taverns hence named 'bàcari'.
A Venetian bàcaro is traditionally frequented by locals for n’ombra de vin at absolutely any time of the day. Whereas food in Italy tends to have more specified order, here a nice, bracing grappa with your morning coffee or a early-morning prosecchino to lift your spirits at the market are always wonderfully welcome.
When tumblers of wine were sold from a table on Piazza San Marco and moved according to where the Campanile Clock Tower shade fell, they became fondly known as 'ombre' - shadows.
For a truly Venetian experience, step into a bàcaro or osteria and ask for an ombra, you'll be given a tumbler of room-temperature local red (or white - bianco) for maybe 2 euros. There'll be a carafe on the counter, ready and waiting at 9am or at 9pm or anywhere in between.
Next time you're here, step back in time at one of Venice's bàcari for a snippet of easy-going, local tradition. The best time of day is 'Aperitivo Time', an hour or so before dinner, when the little places become alive with loud conversation spilled out onto the streets, easy to spot with their brick walls, marbled Venetian floors, bare wooden tables and a counter packed full of cichetti. Venice prides herself on lagoon seafood, found served up as small, enticing snacks to accompany an ombra. There are traditional types of cichetti we always expect to find like sardine in saor, baccalà mantecato and polpette di tonno, but with a love of good food and flavour, you'll find the bàcaro host loves to puts his twist on tradition and will proudly go through what's on offer. For a guide, have a read up here: What to Order in Venice.
Six Bàcari to try!
1. Alla Vedova
We were brought here by Andrea once to taste 'The Best Meatballs in Venice'.
Guess how much they cost?
Granted, this was 15-odd years ago but the tradition still exists to grab a glass of wine with a meatball and stand outside until things become a bit of a street party. I wonder how long that tradition has been around for...
Stay for dinner but do book a table with the trattoria as soon as you get there and make sure to try the Spaghetti alla Busara!
2. Osteria al Portego
It's only little but jam-packed with goodies! Choose a wine scribbled on the board - red or white, and feast your eyes on a spread of cichetti you could stay here all day eating but try to save space because you'll be tempted to stick around for dinner too. This place is tiny but well known for its huge portions of primi (pasta, risotto, gnocchi, pasticcio) to die for.
3. Do Mori
Allegedly the oldest bàcaro in Venice, Casanova was known to bring his first dates here (must be very special). Maybe it was the dazzling array of delicious tramezzini that worked the charm for every one of his 132 lovers.
Like stepping into a time capsule, it's definitely worth experiencing the romance yourself, Do Mori is 'una chicca' - an absolute gem! Prepare to be swooned.
4. Bacaro al Ravano
Calling itself a 'cicchetteria', you can imagine the selection here! A firm favourite on the Bacari of Venice Tour, if you'd love to sample all the classics (plus some more) this place becomes as busy as bàcari get.
The VisitVenezia website has lots of information about bàcari-hopping in the Sestieri Quarter which you can choose without or without a guide.
Sound like fun? Well, it depends what floats your gondola. For example, we love to pitch up and get lost, following only our noses or sounds of happy drinkers and diners for direction. Everywhere is signposted so you're lost but never really lost, plus, we love to discover a tiny, unexpected gem off the beaten track, of which Venice has many!
5. Bacaro de Bischeri
Whilst this little spot tucked under the porticoes near Rialto is often overseen and perhaps lacks the romance of other bàcari, stop here for some of the most delicious schiacciate around. Warm focaccia stuffed with fillings you'll find hard to choose from, it reminds me so much of i Fratellini in Florence. More proof that beautiful bread and beautiful sopressa makes a beautiful panino, wander the buzzing Rialto market or go find a sunny, canalside spot to enjoy your lunch.
6. Osteria Antico Dolo
The most charming of little places, don't be fooled by its rustic entrance, here, some of Venice's most refined of foods is served. You're welcome to an ombra and bruschettina at any time of the day but Venetians love to come here to dine, making this place more of an osteria, because the food is truly scrumptious and begs to be eaten seated at a table, yes, yes, with a table cloth...