Via Veneto - I love this place!
Husband and I had a lovely evening at Via Veneto (Main St, Santa Monica) last night. We arrived a few minutes late for our reservation and were warmly greeted with shouts of buonasera! I had requested a table either by the window or next to the wall and was told that a table next to the wall would be available shortly. There is no bar or waiting area and we were ushered to the rear. We were immediately offered glasses of prosecco. An apology for the wait? for the lack of space? We didn't care. It was a lovely gesture and delicious. We scanned the room. It is small, crowded and seemingly lit only by candles. Everyone looked lovely and happy. After 5 minutes our table was ready. With our menus came a small dish of delicious olives and soon the waiter to recite the 21 specials. Husband started with the grilled portabello mushroom, sliced and served over fried arugula with shaved parmesan. I had burrata surrounded by thin slices of proscuitto. The servings were generous. Halfway through we switched plates. I can't decide which was better; both were delicious. The mushroom and arugula were perfectly dressed. The creamy burrata paired beautifully with the salty proscuitto. Husband then had the spaghetti with bottarga, which that night was being served with razor clams. On my last visit it was served with scampi and I requested it that way. Again, the servings were generous and both were amazingly delicious. The pasta was perfectly al dente, and the clams and scampi were tender. His was lighter. Mine was spicier and in my opinion better, although he disagreed. We wiped our plates clean with the crusty bread and despite the insistence by the women at the next table that we order the panna cotta, we were too full for dessert or coffee. I don't know too much about wines, just that I love it and is necessary to round out any good meal. Nevertheless the wine list seemed interesting, although the wines by the bottle seemed expensive. I don't know whether this was due to the type of wine or a high markup. We opted for wine by the glass (a barbera, I think). Dinner with four glasses of wine was about $140 before tip. We tipped generously; the service was unhurried, friendly, helpful and efficient.
I went to Via Veneto yesterday, around 7 pm on a sunday night. Seating was easy, but the place did fill up by around 7:30.
Atmosphere: Very noisy. You can barely hear anything when the room is full, and i figure it is always full. The room is also quite dark. You can barely see what's on your plate. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I just like more light even for the romantic occasions.
Service: Not bad, but they did try hassle us into making our order all at once. We wanted to order the apetizers first and the entres later. Apparently that was a problem. Other than that they were patient and helpful.
Food: Disappointing. My friend had the Tuna tatar and soft shell crab pasta. I had the the veal ravioli soup and the veal steak with procini sauce. The food wasn't bad, but did not capture the imagination in any way. All 4 dishes were prepared with very simple and standard ingredients, nothing creative. My steak came with some baked potatoes and boiled spinach, topped with sliced procini mushrooms and a very simple cream sauce. The dish as a whole was pretty flavorless. I could taste what I was eating, but that's about it. I tried my friend's pasta, and it was even more bland. I at least had the porcini mushrooms :). I suppose if you just want something simple prepared with quality ingredients, it's fine, but I expect more from a restaurant with such a high food rating. I've had much better Italian for less.
Oh and yes - they do have a ridiculous number of specials. Although I think they are pretty much the same every day judging from other comments here.
The wine list was large and interesting but quite expensive, i'd say overpriced.
Glad you liked it, this is my favorite restaurant in LA, possibly in the world that I've been to so far.
It is pretty funny they have all those specials, and my waiter was so good at telling us about them from memory. We even asked questions about a couple of them and he had the answers. Everyone is so nice there.
If I were rich I would eat here almost every night!
re: tony michaels
I agree with Tony, How can a restaurant do justice to 21 specials on any given night?? Unless the specials don't change all that much and are really not specials...just menu items not printed on the menu. Glad you had a great time, but it seems like a high-wire act prone to a fall at any time!!