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FOOD & DRINK

The Best Cicchetti Bars in Melbourne

Pull up a seat at the bar and relax with a spritz in one hand an Italian snack in the other.
By Marnie Vinall
September 12, 2018
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The Best Cicchetti Bars in Melbourne

Pull up a seat at the bar and relax with a spritz in one hand an Italian snack in the other.
By Marnie Vinall
September 12, 2018
  shares

THE BEST CICCHETTI BARS IN MELBOURNE

Pull up a seat at the bar and relax with a spritz in one hand an Italian snack in the other.

The essence of Venice has made its way to Melbourne in the form of delicious small snacks at bars and restaurants across the city. These bite-sized delicacies are known as cicchetti (chi-ket-tee, FYI), a popular dish found in the Italian canal city. The idea is you fill your tummy up throughout an evening of sipping good wine by steadily indulging in many, many of these bar snacks — which, most of the time, only cost a a couple of dollars each. 

So where exactly can you eat like a Venetian in Melbourne, you ask? Glad you asked. From cuttlefish arancini to pork and veal meatballs and crostini topped with all the good stuff, we've rounded up the best places for you to eat one cicchetto or many cicchetti. You can either spend your evening at any of these bars and restaurants, or bar hop them and nibble your way across the city. You can say grazie to us later.

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    Lygon Street is home to much of Melbourne’s best pizza and pasta, but you’ll find the best Venetian-style fare at Heartattack and Vine. Although the woody establishment is open from breakfast, the real fun starts as the sun sets and the drinks and cicchetti start piling up on the bar’s counter. The small dishes frequently rotate, as they are dependent on seasonal produce, and hit your table (or spot on the bar), for just $4 a pop. It gives an authentic (very Melbourne) nod to the neighbourhood bars of Italy and is the perfect place for a few snacks before or after seeing a move at Nova across the road. 

    Image: Josie Withers.

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    Ombra Salumi

    For an authentic Venetian time in the CBD, head to Ombra Salumi Bar and get ready to have your tastebuds’ socks knocked off. This bar is all about the preservation of food, lifestyle and culture. If you like to dabble in produce that’s been dried, smoked, salted, fermented, pickled or candied, then you’re going to love what this place has on offer.

    We’re talking duck liver parfait, cuttlefish and ink arancini, and fried quail, just to name a few. The portions are a little bit bigger here and can be shared — they range from $5–18 each. 

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    Bar Carlo

    Bar Carlo’s cicchetti is all about the topped breads. The dimly-lit bar tucked away in Meyers Place serves up mini pieces of crostini topped with prosciutto, mushrooms, and tomato and mozzarella.

    Behind the bar you’ll see the walls are lined with bottles upon bottles of Leone, an aperitif of North Italy rarely found outside of it. This exclusive aperitif is similar to Aperol and Campari — and, likewise, you can have it in a spritz or with a splash of tonic or soda water as a mixer. Whichever way you choose, this drink is perfect accompany to the cicchetti or the panini, croissants and bomboloni also on offer.

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    Joanie's Baretto

    Head north from the city towards Thornbury and, burrowed along High Street, you’ll find Joanie’s Baretto, an Italian wine bar and restaurant. Start with an Aperol or Campari spritz and then dive right into the Italian-style snacks.

    On the first Sunday of each month, the bar does aperitivo afternoon where, for $20, you’ll get a drink and a selection of cicchetti. Grab a seat at the bar, a table under the softly-lit yellow lights or in the spacious back courtyard. This place delivers on its food and drink and is all about having a good time in a relaxed atmosphere. Perfect for weekend drinks.

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    Hospitality veterans Greg Feck, Kim Coronica and David Wickwar took their love affair with Venice, combined their talents, and brought a slice of Venice to Hawthorn.

    Here, the cicchetti is perfect for sharing — and with that excuse, you can order a whole heap for the table. We’re talking the likes of fried seafood, tinned sardines and cheese toasties (all are priced around $10–20). And while you’re eating your heart out, enjoy a traditional Venetian cocktail in stunning crystal cut glassware or a glass of one of the 60 international and local wines.

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    Merchant, located inside The Rialto along Collins Street, is the work of chef Guy Grossi. Drawing from his Venetian heritage on his mother’s side, Grossi and his team serve up cicchetti alongside extraordinary drops of wine.

    While refined, the bar is still informal, and guests are welcome to take a seat at the bar or grab a table and engross themselves in the lively atmosphere.  The informal sophisticated feel is the perfect place to unwind over some snacks — the current offering includes SA octopus with potato and artichoke, beef cheek croquettes and mozzarella with peas ($6–28). Merchant is perfect for after-work drinks, group hangs or Friday night dates.

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Top image: Heartattack and Vine, shot by Brook James.

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