Heaven on Toast: Venice’s Cicchetti

ciccetti venice

You know how at every party there’s that one person who scarfs down whole platefuls of hors d’oeuvres while everyone else nibbles politely? A person who eats so much when they first arrive that they barely have any room left for dinner?

Well, when I go to parties, that scarfer, is me!

I can’t help it. Who wants to wait to eat when something so good is sitting right there on the table? I want to eat it all, and I want it now.

cicchetti display venice

That’s why cicchetti are one of the best things I’ve experienced here in Venice. Tiny tapas-like treats that they serve in wine bars (bacaro) at lunch and at happy hour. Cicchetti sit on platters, ready to go. You just walk up to the counter and point. No menu to review and no waiting. Plus, they’re small enough that grazers like me can try lots of different kinds at the same meal. They eliminate any chance of diners remorse—feeling like you didn’t order the right thing—because at €1 each you can always go back and order a couple more.

Most of the cicchetti Rona and I saw were bread based—like mini-finger sandwiches. Some of my favorite toppings were shrimp salad, baccala (salt cod pureed with olive oil and spices), pâté with lemon, and tuna topped with a wedge of hard-boiled egg.

A big happy surprise was the one where they served a wedge of sheep’s milk cheese topped with a fresh raspberry and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I’ve never thought of serving the fruit right on the cheese, but it really is a brilliant combination—creamy and tart all in a single mouthful.

I’m going to start making lots of cicchetti when I get home. I have a vision of very fast, easy dinners after work. Toppings like smoked trout with mustard, white beans with rosemary, and artichoke pureed with green olive which can be made quickly in the food processor.

I may even serve cicchetti to guests. A ham and pickle sandwich seems too pedestrian to serve to company. But a slice of fresh baguette covered with gently overlapping slicers of ham, topped with a mini-gherkin and dotted with tiny star of Dijon? Now you’re talking!

Links to some of the cicchetti toppings I plan to try:






  1. fabulous! ah Venice, it rained, flooded when I was wandering around with my romantic partner in my twenties, couldn’t have been more perfect….

    inspiring food focus, great ideas…

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