Found all over town, these traditional watering spots are convivial places for an ombra (glass of house wine) or a spritz, the local concoction of white wine and a generous dash of Campari or similar apéritif, embellished with a fat green olive and a slice of lemon.
Perfect accompaniments are the omnipresent bowls of chips or peanuts, but connoisseurs prefer cicchetti, flavorsome traditional bar snacks. Favorites include crostino di baccalà (creamed salt cod spread on crusty bread), folpetti (a saucerful of tender baby octopus) and sarde fritte (crispy fried sardines in light batter).
The Rialto market area boasts a great choice of atmospheric osterie including Cantina Do Mori, where the ceiling is hung with copper cooking pots. At Al Marca, customers clutching drinks and food spill out into the square mixing with shoppers laden with fresh fruit and vegetables.
A fine establishment on the opposite side of the Grand Canal in Cannaregio is low-ceilinged La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi, which does delicious things with anchovies and calamari. Frequented by the young crowd, bustling Osteria alla Botte located in the San Marco district has often been known to verge on the rowdy.
A place worth hunting out near the Accademia Gallery is friendly Al Bottegon, where old-fashioned pickles, mortadella sausage, and hard-boiled eggs on toothpicks are served along with wine. Bottles can be purchased from the ranks of impressive vintages lining this family-run bar.
Al Bottegon (Cantinone già Schiavi) Fondamenta Nani, Dorsoduro 992;
La Bottega ai Promessi Sposi Calle dell’Oca, Cannaregio 4367;
Cantina Do Mori Calle dei Do Mori, San Polo 429;
Al Marca Campo Bella Vienna, San Polo 213;
Osteria alla Botte Calle della Bissa, San Marco