The best way to eat and drink in Venice, you ask? In our opinion, the most fun way is to be like the locals (and in-the-know tourists), and take part in the evening ritual: cicchetti (pronounced: cha-ket-ti)
So what's cicchetti?
Tiny nibbles of food that can be eaten while standing and balancing a glass of house wine, found at tiny bars called bàcari. Oh, and cicchetti are cheap -- usually 1-3 euros. They're great for a quick bite to hold you over until dinner, or you can order several to take the place of that overpriced risotto you were planning on eating. (Don't get us wrong...Venetian risotto is good, but do try the cicchetti if you can.)
What should you expect?
Don't go in expecting an amazing culinary experience. This is a cultural one. Our favorite bàcaro, Al Merca, is located in the corner of town square. The garage door opens around 6pm, just in time for hungry tourists, businessmen, and local teens to crowd the bar, order a glass of wine and a nibble, then scatter in the square to enjoy the bounties. Kids were running around, dogs were lounging, and as the night wore on, people got talkative. One night we got to chatting with some young locals who suggested a great area to check out late night. Another night we ran into tourists from DC. (Yes, we became regulars...) We had the best time taking it all in.
Where to go?
These little bars are tucked in little alleys around the city, so if you're looking for them, you'll likely find them. Our favorites are as follows:
Don't get us wrong, there is lots of good food in Italy, but given how expensive food can be in Venice after everything is shipped in on tiny boats, we found cicchetti an enjoyable way to have dinner! Saluti!