On our second day in Venice, Peter and I learned the hard way where to drink and not to drink alcoholic beverages.
Where not to drink: Restaurants, when you don’t order food.
Where to drink: Cafes and bars.
It was a beautiful day, so Peter and I walked along the Grand Canal, looking for a place to sit down, drink a couple of glasses of wine, and soak up the sunshine.
We passed a restaurant and an overbearing server pressured us to sit at a table on their patio (this gesture reminded me of what occurs in Miami Beach). We sat down, ordered drinks, and looked at the menu. We didn’t fancy anything on the menu and decided that we would instead drink a couple of drinks and then head to a different venue or maybe get some wine on tap.
Our drinks arrived and then all hell broke loose.
Server: “Are you ready to order?”
Me: “I’m just going to enjoy my drink.”
Me: “I’m not going to eat.”
Peter: “We are just going to enjoy our drinks. No food.”
Server: “YOU ARE IN A RESTAURANT, MADAME!”
Yes. I am in a restaurant. You are correct. And thank you for informing everyone else in the restaurant that I am, in fact, in a restaurant.
I learned on this day that in Italian culture, it is frowned upon to sit in a restaurant and only consume beverages. I do not understand this concept. If half of the tables in the restaurant are empty, wouldn’t the staff want to fill them? Customers are customers, no? Money is money, no?
There have been few times in my life where I have been as embarrassed as I was at that very moment. I gulped my drink, hoping to get out of there as quickly as possible. After the “your euros are no good here” scene, we meandered around the city and basically wasted time until our Cicchetti and wine tour.
We met our guide, Cecelia, somewhere in the Cannaregio neighborhood of Venice and began our tour at one of the oldest wine bars in the city. Cecelia ordered wine and Cicchetti for our party of eight and then began to explain what Cicchetti is, tell us all about Venetian culture, and inform us to never pick-up or step on a newspaper as doing so will reveal a “doggie surprise.” For those of you who are wondering, Cicchetti is appetizers/finger food and is pronounced “chick-ket-tea.”
We visited five different wine bars and ate a variety of Cicchetti from fried cheese to some sort of disgusting fish paste spread on bread. The tour was excellent. Cecelia conducted all the ordering and navigating and since the tour was all-inclusive, we didn’t have to deal with paying after each bar.
We were sad to see the tour end about three hours later but not sad to never have to listen to the annoying American expat in our tour group ever again. On more than one occasion I debated asking Cecelia for a double serving of wine just so I could tolerate the American expat, who, by the way, has met Prince Charles and been within feet of The Queen. Right-o!
I am starting to wonder if all our travels and tours will include at least one annoying/overbearing American.
My favorite quote from our tour was: “What doesn’t kill you will only make you fat.” Cecelia said this when no one wanted to take the last Cicchetti on the plate. It made me laugh out loud.
After the tour, we walked around the city some more and found a shop with wine on tap! Finally!
I read online that Italians use wine on tap as their table wine. Wine on tap is incredibly cheap because there is no labeling or bottling cost to recoup by the winery.
I also read (and Cecelia confirmed) that it is perfectly acceptable to “recycle” plastic water bottles by filling them with wine on tap. It cost 1€ to fill a 500 ml / 16 oz ounce water bottle. Our dinner of wine on tap and a slice of pizza from Antico Forno was one of the best dinners we had in Venice.
Dinner concluded with some awesome gelato and then we retreated back to our hotel. We had an early morning and full-day cooking class on the island of Lido the following day. Being hungover and/or tired was not an option.