Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s restaurants are some of my favourite in London. They have brought a little bit of Venice to Soho with Polpo, their bacaro on Beak Street serving Venetian inspired food and the Campari bar offering an authentic bacaro experience. So, when I found out I was off to Venice there was only one person I would be getting restaurant recommendations from, cue @polposoho.
Eating in Venice is all about the ‘giro di ombre’ (bacaro crawl), snacking on cicheti over a few glasses of Aperol spritz at one of the many bacari in the city. The concept is simple. Walk in, order some of the snack sized bites and perch at the bar with an Aperol spritz, whilst mingling amongst the locals.
All’ Arco (Calle Arco, San Polo 436)
Our first stop was close to the famous Rialto bridge. All’Arco houses a bar covered with cicheti on show. Maestro Francesco and his son Matteo are in charge. Everything is somehow effortlessly cooked and presented from the cramped quarters behind the counter. We started by ordering some artichoke hearts and crostini with mushroom and truffle. I ended up trying to order a French school qualification instead of baccala mantecato (salt cod), a Venetian speciality. Roast beef sandwiches with mustard on white bread are so moorish and great to mop up the glasses of Aperol spritz that easily slide down. If you ask nicely, Matteo will make special cicheti to order. This is the coolest little place.
Do Mori (Calle dei Do Mori, San Polo 429)
Opposite All’ Arco is Do Mori. Similar in size to All’ Arco but the decor is more historic with copper pots hanging from the ceiling. A bigger selection of cicheti is on offer here. Grilled eggplant slices with chilli and chunks of pecorino went down a treat followed by a half boiled egg with cured anchovy fillets. Our final cicheti here were plump polpetto. Do Mori is slightly more touristy than All’ Arco and not as friendly but still worth the visit.
Ostaria dai Zemei (Sestiere San Polo 1045)
This is the smallest bacaro we visited on our crawl. A tiny counter dominates the cramped premises with a gargantuan display of crostini, the only cicheti on offer. Parma ham and pecorino, dolcelatte with walnut and anchovy with radicchio were just some of the crostini available. Seating is available outside as there is barely room for more than three people inside.
Ca’ D’oro (Calle del Pistor)
A short walk from the other bacari is Rialto market. From here you can get a 50 centime gondola ride across the Grande Canal to the other side to the next bacaro, Ca’ D’Oro. We opted to take a seat at one of the large brown prep school style tables. We ordered two kinds of meatballs. First up were the ones you and I would expect, the sort that come in a tomato sauce. The other type was a deepfried meatball. They look like an arancini but are actually like a scotch egg but without the egg.
A mixed seafood plate was as fresh as could be with some fresh anchovy, polpetto and the infamous Venetian baccala mantecato. The dish of the day for me though was the warm octopus and potato salad. Definitely a last supper dish for me.
The ‘giro di ombre’ is the perfect way to spend a couple of hours venturing around the alleyways in Venice eating some of the best food you will find in this floating city. I just find it a shame this concept of eating and drinking isn’t embraced more by the average Londoner.
The cicheti in all the bacari is priced from 1 Euro a piece. Average spend is around 10 Euro per person including a couple of glasses of Aperol Spritz or Prosecco.
Photographs taken by @MademoiselleKL