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Recent Trips to Luke and Venezia

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Recent graduation activities has led my family and I to these two restaurants, so I wanted to post about them since I've been lurking around for a few weeks.
Venezia (on Carrollton) was pretty much what it always is: large portions, informal, and nice ambience. I got the braichelone (sp?) which was huge, but enjoyable nonetheless. I don't remember what everyone else got, other than my sister, who got the chicken Marsala, also of equally large proportions. I ate the leftovers of both the next day. Of course we also had the salad, which has always been spectacular. Again, nothing fancy or extraordinary, but quality and consistency in service and taste for a reasonable price.
Tonight we went to Luke. After searching through some posts on here, I was expecting the combination of good food/poor service, as that seemed to be a trend, even if some of the posts were rather old. I would give the service about a B. Our waiter was attentive and helpful for the most part. The main quirk was when the manager/host/whoever brought out our appetizers, his cell phone started ringing. My mom kind of kidded him about it, but he really didn't seem to care all that much and kind of blew us off, which was kind of rude. Never had that happen before, and if my 18 year old sister and my hapless 22 year old self can manage to silence ours before we walk into a place, I kind of expect him to remember too. That being said, I think all forgot about it within moments, I just wanted to point it out. *shrug* I digress.
For apps, I had the crayfish bisque and my sister got the gumbo. Bisque was rich and very flavorful, really highlighted the crayfish taste. Same goes for the gumbo (substitute crayfish for crab). Dad got fried oyster, bacon, avocado salad. He liked it, and I was impressed by the number of oysters they actually put on it, like 8-10. On a secondary note, both parents commented on the quality of their vodka tonics as being superb, for whatever that's worth. Onto the main course.
Dad got the crabmeat ravioli; sister got the mussels; mom got the shrimp and grits; sister's bf got the pied de cochon; and I got the choucroute maison aka pork medley. Overall I think everyone enjoyed their plates, and I give the waiter credit for directing me to the maison and not the sunday special, which was double the price, when I asked for his suggestion.
Mussels were good, but they came in this gigantic cast iron pot, which we had speculated on before as we were sitting next to the kitchen window. Nice presentation but it definitely affected the dish. All the broth was at the bottom, so the mussels on top didn't really grab any of that flavor, while the ones on the bottom were great. No biggie. Side note: Our seat next to the window led me to observe the cooks prepare at least 4 other mussel dishes while we were there, so that must be a popular one.
Mom liked her shrimp and grits. I tasted it and agreed. Nothing spectacular but it wasn't trying to be either.
Not sure what sister's bf thought of his, he's kind of a picky eater (doesn't eat seafood, I don't get it either, but they're youngins) but he ate it all anyways, so it must have been alright.
I thought mine was great, particularly the pork belly. The sausage was kind of bland, but they did a great job of just letting the pig be the pig, and I appreciated that. Although I didn't use a lot if it, it also came with this cherry mustard sauce which really went well with the rest of the dish. My only complaint is that I wish they had given me a sharper knife (read: something other than a butter knife) because it was kind of hard to cut up, but again, I am nitpicking in the interest of full disclosure.
Finished off with two desserts, a bread pudding and some profiteroles with banana filling and banana syrup/reduction sauce styled like a bananas foster. Both delicious. Waiter said the profiteroles and bananas was a new item; we told him to keep it on the menu.
In all an enjoyable experience at both restaurants. On another note, my mom works in One Shell Square right across the street from Luke, and she says the place is absolutely packed every day for lunch. Our reservations were for 6, and by the time we left, the place had filled up as well, so hopefully whatever issues they had with service before have been worked out. Hope y'all find this useful/informative, Geaux Hornets!

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  1. I love the mussels at Luke - they're served in a Staub mussel pot which is designed to separate the mussels from their cooking juices. There are rails on the bottom of the pot that facilitate tilting so you can savor the sauce with bread or dunk your mussels in. This way if you ever return, you can get the full experience.