Bacari are an essential part of the Venetians’ daily life. essential part of tourists’ bucket’s list. This is the statement. No travellers can go to Venice without carrying a Bacari experience in their bucket. This is another clear statement. We run food tours in Venice because we want you to avoid tourist traps and enjoy the city the way we locals do. This is not a statement, but an invitation! Keep reading and getting inspired.
Once upon a time in Venice
The first bacaro was opened in Venice by a man from the South of Italy, his name was Fabiano and he was from Trani in Puglia region. He did his military service in Venice and, as it happened to many people, he felt in love with the city and decided to settle there. It was the end of the 19th century, Venice had just joined the new born Kingdom of Italy after years of Austrian occupation. At that time Venetians bought wine from Dalmatia and Greece but duties for importing were very expensive. So, Fabiano thought about importing wine from his region in Southern Italy: the wine was good and the prices were very competitive. He found a place close to Rialto bridge where he could do retail and he started his business in 1869.
This is a Bacaro wine!
As you know, mass media did not exist at that time, so there was one way to boost your promotions: hire the criers! They criers were boys or poor men who, in exchange for some money, walked around Venice distributing leaflets that were free coupons for a glass of wine on the day of the grand opening. Fabiano’s place soon became very popular among Venetians wine lovers and also among thirsty gondoliers. One day, a gondolier was drinking Fabiano’s wine and he exclaimed “This is very good! This is a bàcaro wine!”. He personalized the Venetian expression “far bàcara” that means to party together with friends, raising some glasses and cheering the god of wine, Bacchus. Bacaro then became a common term in Venice to indicate a small place, often of dubious hygiene conditions, where you could drink good wine at convenient prices and taste some appetizers, the famous cicchetti! Bacari where very popular among middle-class, people that for reasons of time or money couldn’t afford a proper meal at a restaurant. The Bacaro was perfect for theirs needs: good prices, tasty food and a glass of wine to cheer them up.
How to spot a real local Bacaro
The original bacari survived just after the Second World War, today it’s very hard to fin an authentic Venetian bacaro. How can you spot a real bacaro? It will be a tiny place, usually there’s only space for a counter, some stools and a window where cicchetti are displayed. Inside the bacaro, furniture has a country design style, dark wood is the most common material. All day long, from dawn to sunset, you can see a group of elderly men outside the bacaro, they will be drinking their favorite wine (watered down, given the age) and discussing what’s new in the city, they are the press review of Venice! If you see them, you spotted a very good local bacaro! You can also ask Venetians for directions, in this case there will be different answers because they have different personal opinions about where to find the best cicchetti!
Watch the host!
Inside the bacaro, the main character will be the host, there are two kinds of hosts: the “grouchy” host will always look busy, even when all his clients are served. When you enter his place, it’s very hard to see him greeting you, he will look annoyed, but don’t be afraid of him. The grumpy mood is a distinctive feature of people who were born and raised in Venice, they have always worked hard and they have no time to waist in useless coaxing, they will keep working. Their experience allowed the real bacari to survive up to the present day. Another kind of host is the “kidder” one: always smiling and ready to tell jokes, he will make you feel welcomed and he will be more than happy to give you some precious advice about his city. The kidder host usually owns a modern bacaro, the furniture will be up-to-date, with a contemporary style; this is the kind of bacaro that young people and students love the most for the happy hour, however those two distinctions should not be taken literally! In short, if you find a small tiny place, with a well stocked window of cicchetti, some retirees who love wine or a group of college students with a glass of spritz …go for it, that’s a bacaro! And when you are inside, if you notice other Venetian symbols such as the flag with the lion, a pennant of the Reyer (Venetian basketball team) and some signs written in Venetian dialect, you found an excellent bacaro!
What to eat
Wander around Venice and then stop in a bacaro for a happy hour or a quick meal: you will find local and seasonal tastes such as polenta, cold cuts and different combinations of local ingredients served with wines from the Veneto region, among them we have the famous Prosecco. It take days and days to find the right places to go and the right food to pick. Let this to us! We will guide you around and allow you to maximize your stay in Venice. Book a foodie experience with us! Taste and sight will both be satisfied: a canal view, a hidden glimpse of Venice, a square where you can see everyday life…this will make your break a unique one!
There is no Venice without cicchetti. Find out more!
Written by Streaty Venice guide Alice.