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Trattoria Tre Venezie review w/ photos

Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...

Trattoria Tre Venezie

I suppose it's partly my fault for over anticipating my long-awaited maiden voyage to the much lauded over Tre Venezie. Shoot- just as recently as last week, a very well respected LA food journo touted the tiny Pasadena trattoria as one of Los Angeles' finest Italian eateries. Accolades of that sort are nothing new to Tre Venezie, and I've read on numerous sites and heard from many people that THIS was THE place to get some of the finest Italian cooking this side of, well, Italy.

Another mistake on my part may have been that I saved a trip to Tre Venezie for a special occasion- a birthday dinner for me, my sister (we're twins) and my mom, whose birthday is Valentine's Day. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign that poor J got sick the day before and had to bow out of the celebration. He insisted that we still make a go at it, so my family and I kept our 6:30 reservations last Saturday night and eagerly walked into savor what we expected to be one of the most memorable Italian meals we'd have this year.

We walked on and I immediately noticed that the sweet, attentive hostess was the same woman who so attentively waits on us when we dine at Bistro K. That was certainly a good sign! We were seated at our lovely table in the very cozy space and started going over the menu. We were already aware that Tre Venezie specializes in the cooking of the Northeastern regions of Italy so we weren't going in expecting lasagna. We ordered a bottle of wine and decided to share three appetizers to start- the grilled Santa Barbara spot prawns (a special), the polenta cakes topped with baccalao (salt cod) and a carrot and orange salad.

Upon further review of the menu. my mom decided on another special as her main course- an orange ravioli filled with sea bass topped with a nettle sauce. My father and sister both wanted the papperdelle made with farro grains topped with braised rabbit. Although that sounded like something that I'd LOVE, I didn't want to get the same thing and opted for a wheat pasta served with braised onions and anchovies. After all, I love onions more than anything and I've always been a huge fan of the little fishies. We noshed on our cardamom-laced bread and waited on the appetizers.

The carrot salad turned out to be a nice mix of crunchy, shredded carrots and orange wedges tossed in a light white dressing. Although it was certainly refreshing in it's simplicity, it wasn't otherworldly. The baccalao on top of the polenta was way too pulverized for my tasted.....I usually like a bit of the texture of the actual cod to be present. The biggest disappointment, however, were the prawns- not in the flavor- if anything, it was one of the better things we ate that night. It would have been nice to get more than an eight of an ounce per person. Sure, it was our choice to share the appetizer but for $18, I was amazed that anyone would have the gall to serve up two prawns that were nowhere near jumbo. That's $9 a prawn, my friends. And it wasn't dressed with anything but a tiny side salad of shredded vegetables.

The papperdelle with braised rabbit ended up being the only real winner of our meal. The sheets of pasta were paper thin but cooked perfectly al dente and the rabbit was tender and flavorful- albeit chopped into very small cubes that made your teeth ache to bite into something more substantial. My mom's ravioli suffered from the same problem as the baccalao- the sea bass filling was pureed into such a smooth paste that it could have been made from any seafood and wouldn't have made a difference. My anchovy/onion pasta was so salty and fishy that it was inedible- when I mentioned to the waiter that I assumed the dish would be made with fresh anchovies, he said that it was...even though the entire dish tasted exactly like jarred or canned anchovies. I wondered why on earth anyone, if they really did have access to fresh anchovies, would take the fresh fishies and make them into a paste anyway...? I think readers of Tuna Toast know of my well-documented love of salt, but this pasta was so ridiculously fishy and salty that I actually sent it back.

We had some wine left after finishing our meal, so my father asked for the cheese plate.

By the time it arrived at our table some 20 minutes later, the wine was gone and we were left to stare at a small plate holding four, thin slices of cheese and a slab of fig compote. Each slice of cheese must have been less that 1/4 of an ounce- and one of the cheese was....smoked. Now, I don't have anything personally against smoked cheese but to serve one on a cheese plate is ridiculous and it completely clashed with the sweet fig compote. None of the other cheese could muster much flavor either, and at $16, we all agreed that the whole thing was a joke.

As you can see, my experience at Tre Venezie was not in line with the endless raves that I've read elsewhere. I suppose I should give it another go, but at those prices, it's difficult to give them another chance. I think readers of this blog know that I have no problem spending money on a good meal- in fact, we probably spend TOO much money on food so money isn't the main issue. It's forking over a kidney for food that is truly mediocre. I'm sure I'll get a lot of detractors here.....and I will admit that maybe I misordered. I'd love to hear feedback from people who truly love this restaurant since I'm blown away by how much I didn't like it. Normally I'd understand why someone may not like a place that was over hyped (like a Koi or Cut or other high profile restaurant). However, Tre Venezie is a neighborhood place that is as far from a flashy, celebrity-hangout as any restaurant could ever be and any hype surrounding the place has been created by the quality of the food. So enlighten me, dear reader(s). Please tell me what I am missing.

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  1. Fellow chowhounder Clare K had a similar experience as you, unfortunately. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/370065

    I've never really understood the love affair some people have had with Tre Venezie. I always found it grossly overpriced.

    If in the area and in the mood for Italian, head over to Briganti. Better food, cheaper prices. Sort of like tastes great AND less filling ... www.brigantirestaurant.com

    1. Ipsedixit - Tokyoastrogirl is my twin sister :) We were both there that same night...

      Clare K.

      1. Your picture of the $16 plate of tasteless cheese is horrifying and hilarious.

        I have to admit that I don't understand what restauranteurs are thinking. If I had a customer that was systematically photographing every dish, the last thing I would do was serve them a plate like that.

        1. what a disappointment.
          to be fair, whenever tre venezie comes up here, there is always a huge clash of opinions. I've described my experiences there some years ago as very disappointing. not a fan, although i'd like to be as i've enjoyed some great meals in the veneto, in trieste, and even in friuli.

          1. I think part of your disappointment may have stemmed from the fact that you had such high expectations and maybe weren't adequately prepared for the "sticker shock" aspect. I've enjoyed my meals at Tre Venezie, but have always thought it expensive for what it is. I also would never put it on par with the places I consider to have the best Italian food in LA (Angelini Osteria, Valentino, etc.). I think it's sort of got a unique niche, in that it focuses on Northern Italian food, and there is definitely a place for that. However, when a place gets written up as being among the best Italian places in town, it better be ready to live up to that standard or suffer more disappointed patrons like you and your sister.

            1. I sadly had a similar feeling when I went there for my birthday this fall -- I was really expecting a great meal, had known the prices were high for what it is, but still felt disappointed. I had the butternut squash risotto and a salad with apples and celery, and was not overwhelmed. Also, there was a canned taste to something we had that night -- may have been the risotto, I can't remember -- but I do recall thinking there's no excuse for a restaurant charging those kinds of prices to be serving something that tastes like the inside of a can. To be fair, my boyfriend did like his meal better, and the restaurant was busy, so other people must feel it's worth the price ...

              1. Weird, I don't recall the prices being so high as everyone is remarking. People seem to be going to very pricey restaurants left and right on this board, so this seems all the more strange. When I don't get good food for the money, then the prices do seem high. However, that was not my experience at Trattoria Tre Venezie. Everything I had there was very good, and the pasta was some of the freshest and best I've had.

                1. My wife and I have dinner at Tre Venezie four times a year (near every Solstice and Equinox) and, over the last five years of going, have really had only one "off" meal here that I can remember (even then it was more the pacing of the service staff than the food). We love the place and know it's expensive so expect a large bill. Respectfully, some points in your review don't seem to add up. For example, one has to wonder how four people can sample an appetizer and not get more than a mouthful each. I'd say your expectations may have been out of step somewhere. It certainly is a niche restaurant.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chefsson

                    We ordered a few appetizers to share, so we expected only a couple of bites each. What we got was barely one bite...everything was ridiculously tiny. We've eaten at plenty of high end restaurants that serve small portions, and we still considered the apps at Tre Venezie too small, and, frankly, not good. There was nothing good about our meal except the parpadelle, and that was just OK, not great. Maybe it was an off night, but at those prices, we don't really feel like giving it another go when there are plenty of great, inexpensive but still wonderful Italain restaurants in the area.

                  2. i've got to say that i'm in the no crowd on this restaurant. i've travelled a bit in friuli, "outer venezia" and venice itself and this is the kind of food you'd be served at a good tourist hotel. and i do think the price/quality is out of whack--it's decent conservative food for which you pay really good restaurant prices. it's pretty charming, so i suppose if i lived in pasadena, i might make it a splurge-y kind of place. but otherwise, i don't think it's worth a trip.

                    1. a good person to shed some light on the why TV is sometimes good but is consistently not good is Leo at BULGARINI. he used to manage the restaurant and act as the wine steward. IMHO, it's possible the chef is brilliant, but is handcuffed by the owners. an occasionally brilliant meal is not enough to keep me going back. i'll make the drive to ANGELINI or IL GRANO.

                      1. You must be taking big bites to have only one bite each of the apps. The food is not tiny. Plus I thought the dessert was pretty huge. The pasta so fresh, and everything beautifully presented. On top of the great food, wines, and conversation drinks, the service was absolutely impeccable, and the setting intimate, great for conversation with a good friend, and romance too, and far from the madding crowd in old town even though it's in the middle of it.
                        If this restaurant were on the westside, would you feel differently.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: slacker

                          ouch, slacker. we usually really enjoy your posts, but this is not characteristic for you. hope everything is okay. we think both you and Clare K are right on. what's most interesting is the disparity of experience at TV. we don't think it's the diners. we think it's the restaurant as we've had similar experiences to the both of you.

                          1. re: revets2

                            Thanks. nothing wrong, but for some reason this restaurant hits a twang in me.

                        2. I find it funny that you, who did not eat with us that night, can tell me what I ate and how big it was. It was tiny. The appetizers, not anything else. The two shrimp were about one bite each, period. It cost $18. That's a fact. The baccalao was enough for one bite per person, no joke. That's fine if you like Tre Venezie, but we didn't. And we disagree that it's great food - it's not, and the service was so-so, and the whole experience was entirely disappointing. I'm glad you've had better experiences there, but that was not the case for us. And, FYI: I live on the east side, and have never bought into the whole east side vs. west side mentality, as clearly you have.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Clare K

                            I was there! Don't you remember?
                            As you know, JK. I don't want to get mired in this anymore. But do feel a need to defend TTV, as I think it has some of the best food in the area and wish it to stay.

                            1. re: Clare K

                              The cheese plate looks pathetic. For what it's worth, I ate there in August and wasn't impressed.