From the moment my dining partner, Caspar, and I were presented with a basket of warm and fluffy bread without asking for it before our courses began, I knew we were in for a special treat at Little Venice. This Downtown Binghamton staple needs little introduction. A decades-long cornerstone of the Southern Tier, Little Venice has served generations of Binghamton with its fresh Italian dinners. Earlier this week, it was my turn to sample their best offerings and see the legend for myself.

The meal began with the antipasti course. I went with the hand-breaded calamari for my first course, and upon the first bite, I was surprised with just how clean it was. Light and flaky while leaving no grease on the pallet, the crunch from the breading accented the chewiness of the calamari to create a nice texture. When dipped into the provided house sauce, the sweetness helped bring out the more meaty qualities of the squid.

Meanwhile, for his opening dish, Caspar selected the Venice Salad, a traditional garden salad offering. He commented on how fresh and crisp the vegetables within the salad were as he cleaned his plate, while ascribing to the dish an “almost vinegary” flavor arising from the mixture of blue cheese and Italian dressing. The addition of peppers to the salad also added a nice spicy kick, as he mentioned.

Next came time for the main course. My photographer went for the chicken parmigiana, and after a little bit of pleading, I was able to take a bite of this tender, well-breaded and well-seasoned dish. Yet again, the sauce enhanced the flavors of the protein with its sweetness while the cheesy topping darkened the sauce’s effects to elevate the flavor profile. The chicken was matched nicely with a perfectly cooked spaghetti side dish that brought the whole meal together.

After I sampled Caspar’s meal, I turned my fork to my entree, the rigatoni with house-made vodka sauce. Now, the Southern Tier is certainly no stranger to a good vodka sauce so expectations were a little high going into this dish, but I was certainly not disappointed. What sets Little Venice’s offering apart is certainly just how cheesy it is. Every bite gave me a strong taste of the liberal usage of ricotta in the body of the sauce, and as a big ricotta enjoyer, I was very pleased. Meanwhile, the pasta itself yet again paired perfectly with the sauce, cooked al dente just like how it should be.

The night came to an end with the desert. Caspar made the house-made lemon tart his final course. He made note of the strong presence of lemon within the custard matched with a dense, buttery crust that mellowed out the sweetness. He then highlighted how taking a full bite with the whipped cream topping brought it all together. The hint of added vanilla being the master stroke atop a delicious dessert.

I managed to find just enough stomach space in me to have the cannoli, and I was simply blown away. It was the textbook definition of a perfect cannoli, with its crispy outer shell and it’s terrific, sweet custard. As a whole, biting into it truly made me think I was not merely in Little Venice, but Venice itself.

If you haven’t been to Little Venice during your time in Binghamton, then now is the perfect opportunity to do so. You certainly won’t regret it.