The Cicheti

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And here was me thinking that the Spanish had the monopoly on tapas. I should’ve known better. It’s certainly not restricted to Spain. For wasn’t Iron Chef peppered with references to how small dishes would go down just fine with a glass of beer? And doesn’t Italy do cicheti??

Well, perhaps it’s just Venice. Certainly, that’s where we saw most of it. Our favourite enoteca (wine bar) in Venice was Timon, hidden away from the tourist rat runs not far from our hotel in the Cannaregio region:

???????????????????????????????This gorgeously appointed canalside location was where many a glass was sunk, accompanied by everything from these gorgeous little bready mouthfuls at only 1 euro 50 each – the home made duck pate with orange was a definite favourite – to whole plates of mixed meats, preserves, pickles and cheeses:

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Timon even had a barge moored just outside, doubling as extra lounging space for the crowds of Venetians (for so it as, there were few tourists on the occasions we visited) to sprawl over, just as they did over the nearby bridge and canalside. No licensing restrictions apparently for them. There was even a band on that barge one evening;

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But I digress.

I just love the habit of being able to pick from a list – often a long list – of wines by the glass. Why would you drink a whole bottle when you can try lots of different flavours before falling over? At one place in Rome (Cul de Sac, just off Piazza Navona. If you’re ever there, go. Way cheaper than the cafes on the square, and the food was awesome. It’s worth the wait for a table) there was a menu running to a deal of pages just for wines by the glass. Their actual wine list was a seriously heavy tome in a large ring binder.

It’s not a winebar, but I just loved the trews on this chap, whose restaurant occupied one of the Puglian trulli:

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At Osteria Da Carla (mere steps from St Mark’s, but a world away in price and clientele), I even found a selection of cicheti with gluten free bases; a change from the more usual bread, there were thick slabs of savoury polenta cake, delicately flavoured according to what sat atop, some dyed black with squid ink.

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Despite the attractive list of the day’s wines by the glass, we plumped for beer and another local favourite, spritz.

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At Osteria alla Staffa there was an della staffa_37emphasis on seafood, though the other dishes we tried on our two visits there were also superb – particularly the rabbit ragu. As we’d noticed several times in Venice, venues take on more than one function, since while we tucked into our full and fine dinner, several locals popped in for a drink standing at the bar, accompanied by some of their very appealing looking cicheti, displayed by the door to attract punters:

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How they prepped such lovely seafood in such a small space is beyond me, but this chap looks contented:

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An unexpected find in Naples, Ristorante la stanza del gusto came over more like an enoteca, with it’s emphasis wines by the glass, regional beers, and on rare cheeses and salumi.

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The quirky interior appealed to us immediately:

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They even had their own cheese and meats cold store just behind the bar for easily reached perfection:

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We tore through the mixed salumi and cheese plate, which was considerably more sophisticated than my shoddy photo gives credit, and as del gusto filled to the gunnells with locals, sank the odd very fine glass of vino in a happy fuzz of comfort. And octupus.

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More spritz – a concoction of Aperol, white wine and soda – downed by him on our last night in Rome, IMG_5553

at yet another welcoming winebar; though this bunch refused to serve me until I pronounced my wine correctly, the bar staff peeing themselves laughing all the while. Bastards.

???????????????????????????????Actually, it was something of a compliment – we had tried hard to practice our Italian the month long; I like to think maybe we were close enough with our attempts to engage in a bit of lighthearted humour. In Italian, of course.

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