Venice is a city that most experience on foot. Even those residents that have boats do an awful lot of walking and most of that on unforgiving flagstones, and bridges that rise and fall five feet in space of a few yards.
With all that walking, especially in the summer when temperatures regularly top 30 degrees celsius, it would seem a good idea to stop every now and again, pop into a shady bar, and have a drink and perhaps a restorative bite. Well, Venetians would agree and this is how cichéti a typically Venetian snack food came to be.
Venice is full of bacari or traditional wine bars that also serve cichéti. The word, often rendered into standard Italian as cicchetti, literally means a small bite, and refers to an appetizing array of small plates and light bites. For a longer explanation of cichéti and why, in Venice, a drink is known as an ombra see my article, on the subject for Great Italian Chefs.
There are many brilliant bacari all over the city. Some of the best-known and popular amongst locals, can be found on the Fondamenta de la Miscericordia in the Cannaregio district of the city.
One of my personal favourites is Paradiso Perduto which serves a fantastic range of fried cichéti as well as small plates of fish dishes including the stupendous sarde in saor.
Another kind of cichéti which you find all over consists of small pieces of bread with traditional, and not-so-traditional toppings. Indeed here is where chefs often show their ingenuity in coming up with cool combinations to keep the clients coming back.
From time to time, I’m going to be creating cichéti based on seasonal ingredients, inspired by those I eat in the city. Let’s start with simple but delicious one that would go down well at any dinner or cocktail party.
For the base of these cichéti, I used local mantovani rolls but a baguette would do as a replacement. Begin by cutting them into slices.
For this recipe, you also need an Italian blue cheese like gorgonzola. You can often find this mixed with mascarpone to make a richer, and spreadable version, sometimes known as torta di dolcelatte or by other names.
You will also need some honey and fig jam. You could substitute this with any kind of jelly that goes with cheese, such as quince or if you are feeling christmassy, cranberry.
Venetian cichéti topped with honey, fig jam, and walnuts.
Preparation time: 10 mins
- Cut the bread into small disks.
- Spread half of the disks with honey and the other half with fig jam.
- Place a teaspoon of cheese on top of each disk.
- Finish each disk with a walnut kernel and serve.