Try as you might, and Las Vegas has with the Venetian Hotel, the charm and spirit of Venice can’t be duplicated. Its canals, bridges, men in striped shirts paddling spend-happy tourists around — these things can be exported, but not without losing some (all?) of their relevance. But what of its food?
Granted, Venice isn’t exactly known as one of Italy’s food capitals, not when it’s competing with the likes of Naples, Bologna and Parma. Actually, never mind capitals, Venice isn’t known for its food at all. A local once strongly advised me to take whatever measures needed to avoid a meal in the city. But then she showed me a bacaro, the one exception to her rule.
A bacaro is a small Venetian bar, with few tables and stools, intended for only a brief nourishing stop. They serve house wine by the glass and chicchetti to eat, snacks made with local vegetables, meat and fish — often a dollop of something on a piece of bread. Think calamari, polpette (meatballs) and bruschetta.
If Italians must eat in Venice, they’ll enjoy a giro di ombre, or bacaro crawl, hopping from bar to bar, often paying only 1 or 2 euro each (really) per glass of vino and chiccetti. It is a cheap meal on the go, and when I indulged in it not long ago, it was divine.
Popular Prosecco producer Bottega has recently started to export the bacaro experience through its Prosecco Bar. Already operating on the Cinderella cruise ship in Scandinavia and the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi, it plans for greater expansion, spreading the bacaro message wherever people are thirsty and peckish.
Though it’s decidedly more glam than the average Venetian snack bar, particularly with its rows of Bottega Gold bottles, it abides by the same principles: an informal snack or three shared with others over communal tables.
Showing off its specialties, the Bottega Prosecco bar offers drinks and snacks four ways: Prosecco and finger foods (bruschetta, bread sticks with ham); pinot grigio with appetizers (smoked salmon plate, Italian Caesar salad); chianti and a main course (pasta salad, carpaccio and cheese plate); and moscato with dessert (lemon cake, tiramisu). The dishes mentioned here are just a sliver of what’s on offer; Bottega’s menu is plentiful and designed to show off the best of Italian cuisine.
Will Bottega’s bar catch on outside of Europe and the Middle East? One can hope: The experience is both a glamorous twist on fast food and a refined bar experience — a way to have a drink and eat good food without the obligations that come with sitting down at a restaurant.
Of course the only problem is that once you’ve had your fill at Bottega’s bacaro and are ready to move on to the next, that next one is in Venice.