Prior to this year’s fall Restaurant Week, I had only walked past the Little Venice restaurant Downtown while going to the Greater Binghamton Transportation Center on Chenango Street. However, this Tuesday, as soon as I entered Little Venice, I was quick to realize that I had long overlooked the beautifully decorated and spacious local spot. The owner’s extensive art collection, a brick interior and some jazz music made for a classy, yet warm and welcoming setting.
During Restaurant Week, Little Venice offers lunch for $12 and dinner for $20. Guests can order one appetizer, one entree and one dessert from the featured Restaurant Week menu. As we sat down for dinner, my photographer and I were immediately impressed with the simple, yet thoughtful options on the menu. For appetizers, I ordered the breaded mozzarella cheese while my photographer, Miya, ordered the caprese salad. The breaded mozzarella cheese was essentially triangles of warm, gooey, delicious cheese in a crispy and crumbly breaded coating. The breaded mozzarella cheese came with the house’s locally famous marinara sauce. While the marinara sauce definitely added more flavor to the mozzarella, I personally preferred to eat them dry. They felt like an upscale and sophisticated take on guilt-free comfort food.
When the waitress arrived with my photographer’s caprese salad, we were both surprised. Expecting a classic salad with a leafy green base, we received four stacks of fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil layered on top of one another and drizzled in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Simple, yet delicious, Miya stated, “It’s fresh and summery.”
For our main courses, Miya got the chicken cutlet parmigiana with a side of pasta in marinara sauce while I got the ravioli. The pasta and ravioli are made in-house, and the freshness of the dough was clearly apparent in my meal. The ravioli and pasta were generally more firm and tougher than box pasta, making the dishes more filling and flavorful. The ricotta in the ravioli was light and fluffy, balancing out the sweet and tangy marinara sauce.
After trying her chicken cutlet parmigiana, Miya stated, “The breading is super soft, not crunchy. It’s really good. The sauce is slightly on the sweet side and the pasta is different — definitely fresh. It feels like real Italian.” Little Venice is locally known for its marinara sauce. According to the staff, when the restaurant first opened in 1946, customers would come to the back with pots to take home the leftover marinara sauce. While the meal was delicious, Miya and I both agreed that the pasta and ravioli dishes came with too much sauce, making it a little messy to eat.
Finally, by the time dessert came around, despite our brimming stomachs, we rallied for our picks. Miya ordered mint chocolate chip gelato while I had the house-made chocolate mousse. The desserts came out in aesthetically pleasing glass cylinders with miniature spoons. According to Miya, the gelato was creamy. “Most of the time I can’t tell the difference between ice cream and gelato, but this time it’s definitely richer than normal ice cream,” she said. Meanwhile, my chocolate mousse was incredibly light and fluffy, yet still rich. It made for the perfect ending to a satisfying meal.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the authentic selection and taste of Little Venice’s Restaurant Week menu. Little Venice provides a great option for downstate transplants seeking an Italian restaurant comparable to those in the New York City area. It’s also a great option for anyone craving authentic Italian food in a warm environment.