FISH IN THE RESTAURANTS AND IN THE “BACARI”Students: Aahana Shukla, Elli-Noora Jalonen, Hongyang Zhang, Shanique Walker
“Originally very informal, casual places where to put together the consumption of wine and some very simple food. Mainly places for local people”.
Bacaro in the past – Casual place to enjoy wine and simple food
Bacari is a traditional small and stereotypically dark and crowded restaurant in Venice where local people came to spend time. Food was made of local ingredients and opening hours were fixed according to the working schedules of local fishermen and workers. Together with elderly, they accounted for a large share of customers who came to the restaurant to socialize, share thoughts, and play cards. Those activities were accompanied by locally produced wines and bite size foods called cicchetti.
Ingredients for cicchetti were local so that the owner was able to keep the prices low for common people who weren’t making tons of money. Eating bite size cicchetti was convenient as it was filling made of a lot of fish and for example polenta but cheaper than a whole meal.
Traditionally many places didn’t have kitchen facilities and in the words of Marco Bravetti “the owner was bringing stuff that he was cooking at home”. They used local, inexpensive ingredients and recipes were old and loved by Venetians.
Changing faces of bacari traditions
The dramatic decrease in population of traditional inhabitants in Venice due to mass tourism from the 1950s till present, has caused changes in the authentic Venetian traditions. Consequently, three phenomena are observed in terms of bacari traditions.
1) Some are disappearing – this is because their generation of clients and traditions are disappearing. “There are no cicchetti in Venice anymore! The last real bacaro closed in 1980”. A quote from a 73-year-old Venetian (Bauer, 2022).
2) Some traditional bacari are taking on a mixed approach where they add small innovations making traditional dishes current but at the same time remaining authentic.
3) While for the rest, they have reconverted themselves into more touristic and commercialized (modern) bars which are tailored to the needs of tourists.
Consequently, Bacaro 2.0 is defined as revamped versions of traditional bacari which are appealing and catering to the taste of the new generation of Venetians and tourists. “Bacari is now mainly used as a cliché of the traditional meaning and is now a gastronomical term for a commercial use for tourist” – Marco Bravetti from TOCIA.
“They are now slices of bread with something on top of it.” – Marco Bravetti from TOCIA. Cicchetti are now accompanied by first course dishes such as spaghetti and can now be made from cold cuts such as salami. Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicholus) and sardines (Sardina pilchardus); which represent the fish traditionally used to make cicchetti have been replaced by canned/frozen fish by-products (E.g., baccalà mantecato) and even by non-traditional ingredients (E.g. commercially made sardine sour cream).
Number of Bacari over the decades
The number of bacari has not changed by much over the years. We also see where history could be replaying itself because in 1347, the governor of Serennisima ordered that most of the bacari turned into school because it was believed that they were harbouring too many travellers to the area and as such lowering the quality of life in the town. Nowadays, harbouring too many tourists is viewed by many Venetians as detrimental to Venice and its traditions. Nevertheless, “going to cicchettone” which means eating a snack and bacaro tour (going from bacaro to bacaro enjoying wines and snacks) are two legacies bacari 2.0 has already added to the modern Venetian culinary culture.
Modern bacaro: an international brand
Bacaro is now a brand used by restaurants to sell the Venetian traditions outside of Italy (Cayman Islands, Sydney among other countries). “The meaning of this is to empower the potential of the commercial use of this tradition because the audience got much wider and different.” – Marco Bravetti from TOCIA. While the menu in these restaurants reflect some of the traditional Venetian cuisine, the environment is much unlike that of traditional bacari. Instead, it is more elegant, sophisticated and offers non-traditional entertainment.
For bacari and cicchetti tradition, one immediate measure that could be taken to prevent their total disappearance in the future and to capitalize on their traditional values is to promote and market Venetian heritage and traditions to tourists. Encouraging tourists to be more interested in Venetian history than to come to Venice to take selfies.
Venezia Autentica | Discover and Support the Authentic Venice, 2022. <https://veneziaautentica.com/impact-tourism-venice> (Accessed: November 6, 2022).
Bauer, C. (2022) The delicious snack you can only find in Venice, CNN. Cable News Network. <https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/venice-cicchetti-bars/index.html (Accessed: November 6, 2022)>.