It’s not that they have the very best cichetti. Or even the most extraordinary selection of wines. But they do have a one-of-a-kind atmosphere that dates back centuries, which is kind of what you want. It is supposed to be the oldest osteria in Venice (and does look like it). The wooden counter top is worn with age, and copper water pots hang from the ceiling. In other words: it oozes atmosphere.
If you’ve never done the cichetti thing, don’t worry, it’s easy. Head to the counter and choose from an array of small bites laid out on platters. If you are thinking tapas, you are right. But tapas that speak Venetian in a big way. Lard covered crostini, stewed octopus, bacala mantecato and polenta and my favorite: pickled onions speared with salty anchovies.
If you’ve never done it before, the way it works is that you choose your glass of wine, then point to whatever appeals. The prices vary from goodie to goodie, and are stuck onto little signs with toothpicks. You can certainly manage enough to make a meal, but better yet, restrain yourself so that you can head down the street – to All’Arco, Do Spade, Bancogiro and Merca – to complete your giro.
Sestiere San Polo 429
Open 8:30am to 8pm. But they start packing up early, so if you want to go in the evening best to arrive by 7.
Like everything in Venice, this place is hard to find. It’s tucked into an alley way that runs between Ruga Vecchia San Giovanni and Calle Arco. Your best bet is to head south from the Rialto Market and ask someone. Or have your hotel mark it for you on your map.