A Guide to Venice in 10 Spritzes
One bitter January morning over our morning cappuccino Noah and I joked that we were going to attempt to have 10 spritzes in one day. Venice has a similar elastic and disorienting sense of time and place as another beloved place of mine. Like a late morning Sazerac at the Carousel Bar in New Orleans, in Venice it is perfectly acceptable to have a shot of grappa with your morning coffee or a 10:00 am prosecco with a gaggle of gondoliers. We didn’t hit our goal that trip but we sure had fun trying.
One other thing about Venice is you walk. A lot. More than think you will even if you regularly hit your 10,000 steps a day. To help you plan your stops every few thousand steps or so I created this guide to some of my favorite places to have a spritz in Venice at just about any time of day.
Most bacaro, the traditional bars that serve wine, spritz, and cichetti, (plates of small snacks) are standing room only. My picks all have a place to sit down.
Not sure exactly what a spritz is? The history is fuzzy but the cocktail's origins are Austro-Hungarian dating back from when the Empire invaded and occupied the Veneto region. A spritz is a low alcohol mix of bitter liquor, prosecco, and sparkling water. The Venetians sometimes leave out the splash of sparkling water or swap out the prosecco for white wine.
You have four main choices the bitter liquor part; Select, Campari, Cynar, and Aperol.
I have only seen Select in Venice so that is often the one I ask for. It has an intense red color and is similar to Campari. Cynar is made with artichokes and has a less vibrant color and a bitter, earthy bite. Aperol is the sweetest and most well known. I am not a fan of this very photogenic choice. I agree with my pal Hank that it tastes a little like the fluoride rinse at the dentist.
1. Er Refolo
Here is a piece of information for you to read and remember if you are planning a visit to this year's Biennale. On a summer afternoon when the sun is blazing there is no shady side of the street on the wide via Garibaldi. There are a cluster of umbrellas and a few high stools to sit at Er Refolo. If you need a snack, the selection of tiny sandwiches here is excellent.
While most cichetti places specialize in seafood choices Naranzaria is the carnivores choice. The cured meat here is outstanding. Salty, savory and sliced super-thin and on top of good chunks bread (not always easy to find in Venice.)
3. Caffé Rosso
Campo Santa Margherita is one of the largest in Venice ringed with cafes and students from the nearby university. The inside the Caffe Rosso is a mid-century time capsule with a few tables to sit. There are tables outside if you want to watch the entertaining scene that grows livelier and busier as the days wears on.
4. Campo Santa Maria Formosa
We call this place the crooked house. You can find it on the Fondamenta dei Preti near the Ponte del Mondo Novo at the edge of Campo Santa Maria Formosa. On a winter afternoon, there is usually a sunny spot to sit.
I can not find the real name anywhere online but I promise to investigate during my trip next week. The name is Zanzibar but we still call it the crooked house.
One time we spent an entire week on the Giudecca, the island directly across from the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and Piazza San Marco. Some days we never even crossed the canal to go to Venice. We did stop at this neighborhood bar every day for a spritz though.
6. Campo dei Mori
In the summer there a wooden kiosk and a few tables underneath red plastic grass umbrellas set next to the canal in this quiet campo in Cannaregio. Yes, Venice is crazy crowded except for a few blissful weeks in January, but in mid-July we rarely saw anyone else here.
There is always a warm place to sit at Acuigheta which is not far from Piazza San Marco. In warmer weather, there are outside tables in the Campo SS. Filippo e Giacomo. I crave their small anchovy topped pizzas even when I am in Rome. They also have a nice cichetti selection. I usually get some sarde e saor and an anchovy topped hard-boiled egg.
8. El Sbarfalo
If my Venetian pal Monica is not showing me somewhere new in town I ask her to meet us at El Sbarfalo. She always takes charge and plates of baccala prepared in three different ways, (mantecato, conso and in umido) and lagoon caught shrimp appear at our table. They have a second location in Cannaregio.
9. Amo ( T Fondaco dei Tedeschi)
Set in the center of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a former post office turned department store the cafe here is run by the Alajmo brothers of Grand Caffe Quadri fame. I love the Alajmo spritz made with Barbaresco chinato and Fever-Tree tonic water that is served in a hand blown Murano glass. The single triangle of a lobster sandwich is an excellent and well-priced snack.
10. Caffè Florian