Venetian Cicchetti

The Art of Venetian Cicchetti: Recipes, Toppings & Wine Pairings

Imagine strolling through the charming alleys of Venice, the air abuzz with the joyous energy of Carnevale. Laughter and music spill out from vibrant bars, where locals and visitors alike nibble on small plates piled high with colorful bites, each bursting with unique flavors. You’re enjoying cicchetti, the Venetian answer to tapas, and experiencing the true spirit of this enchanting city.

An assortment of Venetian Cicchetti

My trip this month to Venice for Carnevale was a whirlwind of color, masks, and unforgettable culinary experiences. Among those, cicchetti quickly stole my heart. These small, savory snacks served at traditional “bàcari” (wine bars) became a delicious way to discover Venetian flavors between sightseeing and festivities.

A couple dressed in yellow costumes for Venice Carnivale 2024

Want to recreate the magic of Venetian cicchetti recipes at home? You’re in luck! Today, I’m sharing my experience, easy recipes, and topping ideas to help you master this delightful appetizer.

An assortment of Venetian Cicchetti

What are Venetian Cicchetti?

Cicchetti (pronounced “chee-KET-tee”) are more than just small bites. They embody the Venetian lifestyle of laid-back socializing and savoring life’s simple pleasures. These little plates offer endless combinations of seafood, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and more, served atop slices of bread or polenta. Think of them as a mix-and-match culinary adventure.

Why You’ll Love Venetian Cicchetti

  • Easy to Make: No complex recipes here! Most cicchetti require minimal prep and come together quickly, making them ideal for parties or a quick snack.
  • Endless Variety: With a world of topping and flavor combinations, you’ll never get bored. Let your creativity run wild!
  • Affordable: Venetian cicchetti are budget-friendly. You don’t need to break the bank for delicious food.
  • Perfect for Sharing: The small-plate format encourages sampling different flavors and socializing – the cornerstone of the cicchetti experience.
An assortment of Venetian Cicchetti

Base Recipes for Venetian Cicchetti

Let’s start with the foundations – the perfect base for your toppings. Here are two simple options:

  1. Crostini: Slice a crusty Italian baguette and toast the slices for a golden crunch. To finish, brush lightly with olive oil.
  2. Polenta: Prepare polenta according to package instructions. Next spread a thin layer on a baking tray. Cool and cut into squares or other fun shapes.
An assortment of Venetian Cicchetti

Now, the exciting part – the toppings! Here are some Venetian Cicchetti topping ideas to get you started:

  1. Baccalà Mantecato: Creamy whipped cod spread on toasted bread. (Ingredients: cod, olive oil, garlic, parsley, lemon juice)
  2. Crostini ai Funghi: Toasted bread topped with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, and herbs. (Ingredients: bread, mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, parsley, thyme)
  3. Beetroot & Burrata: Roasted beetroot slices topped with creamy burrata, a drizzle of balsamic reduction, and a sprinkle of walnuts.
  4. Smoked Salmon & Ricotta: Toasted bread spread with ricotta cheese, layered with smoked salmon slices, capers, and a squeeze of lemon.
  5. Fig & Gorgonzola: Thinly sliced figs paired with crumbled gorgonzola cheese, drizzled with honey, and finished with a touch of fresh thyme.
  6. Grilled Asparagus & Stracciatella: Toasted bread topped with grilled asparagus spears, dollops of stracciatella cheese (creamy Italian cheese with thin ribbons of mozzarella), and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
  1. Pesto & Grilled Chicken: Spread a layer of pesto on toasted bread, top with sliced grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and pine nuts.
  2. Spicy Chickpea & Roasted Pepper: Mash cooked chickpeas with olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes, spread on toasted bread, and top with roasted red pepper strips and a sprinkle of parsley.
  3. Whipped Feta & Caramelized Onions: Toast your bread, top with a generous spread of whipped feta cheese (blended with olive oil and herbs), caramelized onions, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
  4. Marinated Artichoke Hearts & Mozzarella: Toasted bread layered with marinated artichoke hearts, sliced fresh mozzarella, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Bruschetta with Whipped Goat Cheese & Truffle Oil: Toast your bread, spread with whipped goat cheese, top with fresh cherry tomatoes, a drizzle of truffle oil, and a sprinkle of black pepper.
  6. Roasted Eggplant & Balsamic Reduction: Roast eggplant slices, top toasted bread with the eggplant, dollop with ricotta cheese, and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Venetian Cicchetti: More Than Just Toast

Cicchetti extends far beyond just toasted creations. This Venetian culinary tradition encompasses a vast range of small bites including skewered meats and vegetables (spiedini), fried seafood or meatballs (polpette), marinated fish, and even small portions of cold salads like Seppie in Saor, offering endless possibilities to satisfy a wide range of tastes.

  1. Polpette: Bite-sized fried meatballs served with marinara sauce. (Ingredients: ground meat (beef, veal, pork), breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, marinara sauce)
  2. Seppie in Saor: Cuttlefish marinated in sweet and sour onions. (Ingredients: cuttlefish, onions, raisins, pine nuts, vinegar, white wine)
  3. Mozzarella in Carrozza: Deep-fried mozzarella cheese sandwich coated in breadcrumbs. (Ingredients: mozzarella cheese, bread, eggs, breadcrumbs, olive oil)
  4. Sarde in Saor: Marinated sardines with onions, raisins, and pine nuts, similar to Seppie in Saor. (Ingredients: sardines, onions, raisins, pine nuts, vinegar, white wine)
  5. Bigoli in Salsa: Thick spaghetti-like pasta tossed with a variety of sauces, like pesto or ragù. (Ingredients: bigoli pasta, pesto or ragù sauce)
  6. Fritto Misto: A selection of fried seafood and vegetables like calamari, shrimp, and zucchini. (Ingredients: assorted seafood, vegetables, flour, egg, breadcrumbs, olive oil)
  7. Spiedini: Skewers of grilled meat and vegetables like chicken, sausage, peppers, and onions. (Ingredients: assorted meats, vegetables, marinade)
  8. Fegato alla Veneziana: Venetian-style fried calf’s liver with onions and white wine. (Ingredients: calf’s liver, onions, white wine, olive oil, flour)
An assortment of Venetian Cicchetti

Wine Pairings for the Perfect Duo

The right wine pairing elevates your cicchetti experience. Here are a few tips:

  • Sparkling Bliss: Prosecco, the quintessential Venetian aperitif, is a perfect match for most cicchetti, its bubbles cutting through richness. Try it in an Aperol Spritz or Hugo Spritz.
  • White Wine Wonders: Pinot Grigio or Soave offer crisp acidity that complements seafood and vegetarian toppings. My favorite is Lugano, a dry white wine known for its bright minerality and refreshing citrus and floral notes.
  • Light and Fruity Reds: For heartier meat-based cicchetti, try a young Valpolicella for a touch of fruitiness.
A couple dressed in elaborate costumes for Venice Carnivale 2024

Tips & Tricks for DIY Venetian Cicchetti

  • Go Seasonal: Use the freshest ingredients for the best flavors. Visit farmers’ markets or ask your grocer for seasonal produce.
  • Batch Prep: Make components like polpette, roasted vegetables, or spreads ahead of time for quick assembly.
  • Don’t Overcrowd: Leave some space between toppings for a visually appealing presentation and easier eating.
  • Presentation Matters: Arrange your crostini or polenta on a rustic platter for a charming touch.
artichoke chichetti on toast

Get Creative!

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Venetian cicchetti are all about expressing your culinary flair. Explore different flavor combinations and discover what delights your palate.

Armed with these Venetian cicchetti secrets, it’s time to unleash your inner chef and recreate the magic. Share your creations, tag me on social media, and let’s spread the joy of cicchetti together!

Jason Hill with two characters at Venice Carnivale 2024

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An assortment of Venetian Cicchetti

Venetian Cicchetti (Baccalà Mantecato)

Recipe by Jason Hill –
Among the vibrant tapestry of Venetian Cicchetti, Baccalà Mantecato reigns supreme. This creamy, cod-based spread boasts a rich history and a simple recipe that belies its intense flavor. This creamy spread, often served on toasted bread or polenta, is a staple in Venetian cicchetterie (small bars serving cicchetti) and homes alike.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Soaking the Cod 1 day
Total Time 1 day 30 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Servings 1


  • 1 pound dried salted cod
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley optional
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Desalt the cod

  • Soak the cod in cold water for at least 24 hours, changing the water 2-3 times. Rinse well and pat dry.

Cook the cod

  • Place the cod in a pot covered with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the cod flakes easily with a fork. Drain and discard the water.
  • Using a fork or your fingers, remove any skin and bones from the cooked cod. Flake the cod into small pieces.


  • In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or food processor, combine the cod flakes, olive oil, garlic, and parsley (if using). Gradually add the olive oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


  • Spread the Baccalà Mantecato on toasted bread slices, crostini, or polenta. Alternatively, serve it as a dip with crackers or crudités.
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  • For a richer flavor, you can add a touch of grated Parmesan cheese to the final mixture.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Keyword appetizers, bruschetta, cod, sandwich
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AboutJason Hill

Hi, I’m Jason Hill, host of YouTube’s “Chef Tips” series. I graduated from culinary school in 1998, and gained my experience working the lines in Southern California. I launched my cooking videos in 2007. I love sharing quick and easy recipes that get people back in the kitchen.

5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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