Of all the things that Restaurant Week has to offer, transportation to another country is not one of them. But by stepping into Little Venice, you’ll come as close to Italy as possible without leaving Broome County.
Located at 111 Chenango St., Little Venice is a family-owned Italian eatery that makes generic places like Olive Garden pale in comparison. The time-tested original family recipes have kept the restaurant thriving in the city of Binghamton for over 50 years.
The restaurant was founded in 1946 by Sam DePrato on the corner of Court and Cherry Streets. After the kitchen was the scene of a fire in 1960, they were forced to relocate to a temporary location on the corner of Jay and Court Streets, before settling in to 22 Chenango St. in 1961. Little Venice moved to its final and current location at 111 Chenango St. in 1969, after being bought out by First National Bank. While the restaurant has seen a change in location, it hasn’t moved away from its Binghamton home or its Italian roots.
DePrato moved from Italy to America when he was in his early 20s. Now, three generations later, the family has kept the same recipes and traditions that have kept customers coming back.
One of these recipes is a hallmark of the Little Venice experience: the signature sauce. Since the 1940s, the family has also shipped the sauce, expanding their business as well as their name.
A second signature item on the menu would be their “meat logs,” replacing the traditional Italian meatball. This old family tradition was started by the original cook, Aunt Carmella, who decided that a sausage shape allows the meat to cook more evenly.
If nothing else, the trip to Little Venice is worth it for the pasta alone. Each day the dough is made fresh, and it is not rolled out until you specifically order it. They use an old-style hand crank machine designed by the owner. “Homemade pasta” will have a whole new meaning after seeing what it’s like when it’s not from a Ronzoni box.
As far as Restaurant Week goes, all of these can be found on the special menu and then some. Whether it’s an appetizer of bruschetta or a main course of sirloin steak, the menu highlights the best that Little Venice has to offer at a fair price. Some things to look out for are the shrimp scampi, a delicious dish of shrimp served on a healthy portion of house-made linguini. A second special option is the rigatoni with vodka sauce, a Restaurant Week special only served this time of the year.
The dessert options include traditional items such as cannolis, gelato and a large selection of homemade desserts. Whether it’s cheesecake and berry sauce, tiramisu or lemon meringue, there is something for everyone.
Little Venice is a casual family restaurant, with a relaxed and inviting setting. The walls are entirely adorned in decorative paintings. Most of the works were bought by one of the original restaurant workers, Rocco Carulli. The number of artworks truly gives Little Venice reason to call itself “Binghamton’s original art gallery.”
For those looking to get away without actually getting away, Little Venice is the perfect local escape, and a highlight of this year’s Restaurant Week.