If you ask to young Italians which, according to them, is the most important meal of day, there is a high chance that their unanimous answer will be Aperitivo. Aperitivo is the moment where people -friends, colleagues, university mates- gather to spend some quality time together, eating and drinking. For its function, the time of aperitivo is usually at the end of the working day, as a way to relax from the tensions of the day or, during the weekends, a prelude to a fun night out.
However, there are some parts in Northern Italy where, as they would say, it’s always the time for aperitivo! The region of Veneto and in particular the city of Venice, with their vast choice of red and white wines, are considered the homeland of aperitivo: here, you can find people having aperitivo for lunch, for dinner and even for breakfast! In Venice, aperitivo is a proper ritual, and like all the rituals, it has its well-established rules. We will provide you with all the details for a traditional and unique Venetian aperitivo, which you can have in every Venetian bacaro, the small but picturesque bars of the city.
First of all, forget about chips, sandwiches and crackers. There are only two types of snacks allowed for the aperitivo in Venice: taglieri and cicchetti. Taglieri are wooden boards with a selection of cold cuts, among which you can find the typical Soppressa Veneta, paired with grissini or grilled polenta. Cicchetti instead are small slices of bread, served with different toppings: ham, bacon, onions and tuna, salmon, pesto and, last but not least, with baccalà mantecato, one of the typical Venetian dishes.
For what concerns drinks, the choice is much more varied. Depending on your taste, you may choose between red and white wine, Prosecco DOC and Spritz.
You may walk in any bacaro and ask for an ombra of red or white wine. Ombra is the word used in the Venetian dialect to call the medium-sized glasses in which wine is served: you can have an ombra of Amarone DOCG, Bardolino DOCG, Montello DOCG, and if you prefer white wines, an ombra of Soave Superiore DOCG or Lison DOCG. If you are feeling fancy instead, a glass of Prosecco DOC – such as Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG or Asolo DOCG– will keep you company while watching the amazing sunsets from the Zattere.
But now, let’s talk about the real star of the Venetian Aperitivo: Spritz. You should know that, for its popularity, Spritz is now basically considered one of the regional specialties, at the very same level of Tiramisu and Fegato alla Veneziana. Made all over the world with one third of tonic water, one third of Prosecco DOC and one third of Aperol -from which the drink takes its famous orange look-, Spritz in Venice is a different story. Walking around the tables or crossing the many bridges where people often stop by to have a chat and carry on with their aperitivo, you may notice that the majority of them has their glasses filled with a dark red drink. They are still drinking Spritz, but a different kind: the recipe is the same, but the redness is achieved by replacing Aperol with much bitter flavoured liquors, Campari or Select. The original Venetian Spritz is actually made with Select, but this variant is not very popular among tourists for its strong taste and its higher concentration of alcohol.
Thus, if you want to have a full, traditional Venetian aperitivo experience, order a cicchetto with baccalà mantecato, one with Soppressa Veneta and a Select Spritz, go sit along the Grand Canal, enjoy the stunning view and beware of the seagulls trying to steal your food!