Anyone tried La Viena lately? - Calgary
One of those restaurants I keep driving by on Kensington and saying "I should try that place one day." (Of course, that goes for the other three dozen places on my list of places to try...)
Well, I get the chance this weekend with some friends.
Any words of advice or recommendations?
Can't really recommend anything but we did eat there a few months ago. It's one of those old school Italian places with a huge menu and apparently really loyal customers. It wasn't outstanding but a decent meal. I'll be interested to hear about your experience because I suspect there may be some items that stand out more than others.
Well, my wife and I tried La Viena on the weekend with 3 other friends. It was a cold Friday evening, but it was toasty and hopping inside.
Overall, we had a decent experience. As has been already said, its a massive menu, and hard to pick out something from all that choice.
I noticed a couple of things with our meals. Pasta dishes made with a cream or tomato sauce were very good. Any dishes made with a lighter wine sauce were merely OK.
The linguine von gole I had was made with a lemon wine sauce, with artichokes and pineapples. A little bit of Asian influence there (since the chef is Asian). But it was way too tangy for my taste.
Conversely, my wife had the canneloni, which was excellent.
I had ordered an appetizer of seafood in a creamy brie sauce, which was also very good. We had another appetizer served in a wine sauce (which for the life of me I can't remember what it was), but it was pretty average.
Taking a poll of my other three friends, seems like they all had pastas with a cream sauce of some nature, which they enjoyed.
So, there's my informal poll - creamy/tomato sauce=good, wine sauce=mediocre.
Also on the plus side, service was very good, considering there was a party of 21 women there.
And there are a ton of regulars there - the serving staff definitely knew quite a few of the patrons.
Definitely a step up from Fiore's or Chianti's, and definitely feels homier and not quite as chaotic as those places.
When I used to live in W. Hillhurst and Hillhurst we tried the place 3 times (roughly 5 years ago) and never been back since... 3 strikes you're out. I order the "specials" 2 times: received a bland flavourless sauce on the pasta the first time with over cooked veal (sent it back); 2nd visit the special came with gnocci that was not cooked or was 3 or 4 days old before cooking (sent it back); 3rd visit tried something less special and went with a sausage pasta with tomato based sauce and was completely unimpressed (although didn't send it back).
That was enough for me even though, at that time, we lived only a few short blocks from the place and would have really appreciated a local joint.
I avoid the place like plague now and if I want an inexpensive but properly cooked and extremely well sauced pasta (ie: pasta ala crema or a fruti di mare) I go to Niko's bistro on Kensington Rd and 12th street NW.
Went there a few years ago, brought some people and was hyping it as this hidden jewel or so I had heard. It was unremarkable, don't remember anything other than I'm not going back. Maybe if I lived next door and didn;t feel like cooking something, but you can really tell the owner is the old chef of chianti. 8 different pastas and 3 different sauces lets you have a massive menu with all the possible combinations.
My wife and I decided to give La Viena a try on the recommendation of a coworker.
My first impression of the place is that the decor is a bit bizarre. There are faux vines covering the exposed ventilation ducts and walls painted with sponge texture in pink. Incredibly, they have painted a blown up, ten year old, newspaper restaurant review on the wall. I didn't mind the kitsch as much as I did the stained carpets.
To start my wife ordered the pomodoro salad. The house dressing was tasty, but rather than buffalo mozzarella there were thin strips of block mozzarella cheese as a garnish. I expect better ingredients at a full service restaurant. She followed with the Fusilli Dijon. This dish was well prepared and plentiful.
I ordered the Gamberetti E Salsiccia. The sausage and shrimp part was excellent. The dish is served with linguine in clam sauce. Disappointingly, both the sausage/shrimp portion and the linguine in clam sauce portion were served on the same plate. In the cook's defense, the sauces didn't run together too much, but I would've preferred them served separately.
We finished the meal with a chocolate mousse which was home made and topped with real whipped cream. Looking back, this was the best thing we ordered.
I'd like to mention the wine list. The selection is limited to a few low cost Italian favourites which is fine, but he pricing is well out of order. For example, the house red is a Sawmill Creek. This is the kind of wine that is purchased by the jug in the liquor store, not to mention that it's not Italian. La Viena charges $28.50 a litre. Secondly, they have a Ruffino Orvieto in the white wine selection. This is a good table wine. I like this wine. However, it will be a cold day in hell before I give you 41 dollars for it. I don't mind paying a premium for wine. The standard should be roughly 2 or 3 times the store rate. Four times the standard bottle cost is a barrier to sales. All standard wines are priced at the same rate. I really think this establishment is shooting itself in the foot by not offering a wider selection of pricing and quality. I didn't see a single bottle of wine ordered during our visit - a first for me in an Italian restaurant. I can honestly say that this is the first time in my life I haven't order a bottle of wine while out for an Italian meal.
In fairness, I should note that the service was attentive and friendly and that the place was full.
While the food was passable and the service efficient, I would not go back nor would I recommend La Viena to anyone. As a matter of fact, I'll be asking the coworker who sent us there if he has something against me.
4 out of 10.