Sarde in saor: This is a classic Venetian cicchetti dish (pictured to the left), perhaps one of the most famous of all time. Fresh sardines are fried in oil and then marinated for 1-2 days in vinegar with onions, raisins, and a mixture of spices. The "in saor" preparation can also be done with shrimp or smelts, for a lighter taste or if fresh sardines are unavailable.
Crostini and brushetta: Crostini is popular all throughout Italy, including of course Venetian cicchetti bars. Toasted or grilled bread slices can be topped with anything: cheese and meat, marinated vegetables, cooked shrimp, or any combination thereof. They are perfect for cocktail parties as they are meant to be picked up and eaten with your hands, so no plates or silverware required.
Frittata: The frittata is an Italian-style omelette, made with eggs, cheese, and whatever other tidbits you'd like to add. It's typically slowly cooked on the stove and then finished under the broiler to give it a browned top. Often enjoyed chilled or room temperature, it's easy to make ahead of time for your party, then slice into thin slivers or small squares for nibbling. You can add potatoes, meat, vegetables, even cooked spaghetti to a frittata.
Tramezzino sandwich bites: Delicate "tea sandwiches" called tramezzino are popular all over Italy in bars for light bites during the day or late afternoon with a cocktail. They can be filled with anything: egg salad, tomatoes and mozzarella, parma ham, tuna salad...simplicity is the key! Cut into small bites they can be perfect for a cicchetti party spread.
Meatballs, vegetable and/or rice fritters: Meatballs are perfect for cicchetti as they are already "bite sized" and familiar to everyone already. You can make a classic variety using ground beef, pork or other red meat, or try offering "meatless" meatballs made from eggplant, zucchini, nuts or squash. Fried rice balls or aracini are also hugely popular in Italy and a great way to use up some leftover rice. Just serve your meatballs with some tomato sauce on the side for dipping, and they are sure to be a success.
Marinated grilled vegetable salad: This can be as simple or as fancy as you like. For instance, thin-shaved fennel bulbs, lightly dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper is a perfect choice. Otherwise, you can slice and grill a mixture of eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers and then marinate them overnight in olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs and a little garlic. A refreshing salad can be quite welcome on a spread heavier with meats, cheeses and fried tidbits.
Italian cured meats and cheeses: A simple but always welcome addition to any cicchetti spread would be an assortment of flavorful cheeses and cured meat products like salami and prosciutto. Most supermarkets carry a nice variety these days, although a specialty Italian market may offer specialties you won't normally see elsewhere. Serve them with a little mostarda or honey on the side for a real Italian taste.