Monday, January 9, 2012

Piccola Venezia

I warned you 2012 was going to kick off with a slew of North End restaurant posts! I'm finally getting all caught up over here. Thanks for all the great comments and feedback. Sounds like a lot of you are itching to pay a visit to the neighborhood. (Be sure and let me know when you do!)

I have walked by this home style Italian restaurant located at 263 Hanover on a regular basis for the past four years. A few weeks ago, the time finally came to check out Piccola Venezia. On a Thursday night we entered into a large-by-North End-standards dining room which was nearly empty. Considering the waitstaff's laid back and seemingly unenthusiastic approach, this scene did not seem out of the ordinary. No one greeted us when we entered. After standing around for an awkward amount of time, we played the "should we stay or should we go" game; when finally the chef way back in the kitchen made eye contact and beckoned us to sit anywhere we like. I have no problem with seat yourself establishments, but it is something I never want to assume. The atmosphere takes you back in time, within a rustic kitchen meets Nona's attic inspired space we felt comfortable. The vintage looking paper place-mats in faded red and white only enhanced the old fashioned vibe. Shortly after choosing our table, a member of the front of the house appeared to greet us with menus. With kitschy Christmas decor in place (the meal occurred back in December) and large kitchen utensils hanging among antique framed photographs set to a weathered exposed brick backdrop, we settled in with a standard bread basket and a round of Peroni($6) on draft.
The food came out in a timely manner, beginning with a surprisingly wonderful bowl of Mussels Marinara ($11.95). I say surprisingly because after the initial realization that only two other tables were in the restaurant and we didn't feel entirely welcome there to begin with, we were a bit skeptical of what to expect from the kitchen. The red sauce was incredibly flavorful with chunky tomatoes, thick slices of onion and a generous dusting of fresh green herbs. It did the steamed mussels proud. Further enhancing the appetizer were four slices of just crispy enough and perfectly buttery toast. On a low note, my Spaghetti Carbonara ($16.95) came swimming in a cream sauce and was rather bland. What should typically be a classic egg and Parmesan cheese sauce was disappointingly and abundantly creamy, not to mention super thick and somewhat cloying. I
t weighed me down and it weighed the spaghetti down, too. I did enjoyed the thick cubes of pancetta, they were tender and added a welcome saltiness.
Some fresh cracked black pepper might have helped its cause. (Their salt and pepper shakers looked like they hadn't been changed since 1992.) Unfortunately, this was not a dish I could truly get excited about. This was further evidenced by the fact that I never felt compelled to eat the leftovers I took home. If you're looking for a good carbonara in the neighborhood, I'm partial to the ones at Artu and Ristorante Daimiano. However, if you're looking for a good Tiramisu ($7.95), look no further. Homemade with espresso soaked ladyfingers, pillowy brandy infused mascarpone cheese, and cocoa, this large portion looked like way to much to take on, but ended up being the perfect amount. The tiramisu itself was supremely light and fluffy; this was exactly they type of dessert I needed after a heavy entree. Traditional, comforting and not too sweet, with a whimsical presentation, what's not to love?
A frothy cup of Cappuccino ($4) completed the meal. With an abundance of restaurants to choose from in the North End, establishments definitely have the power to sway me even after one visit.
Piccola Venezia doesn't happen to make the cut of my personal favorites; all things considered. Taking into account the varied level of affection for the dishes I sampled, it was still a good meal at a very reasonable price point that left me satisfied but not necessarily eager to return.
Piccola Venezia on Urbanspoon

17 comments:

Elizabeth said...

From your pics I kinda like kitschy old-fashioned decor, but the there's no redeeming poor food. That tiramisu is massive, I haven't had it in forever.

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

Bummer about the carbonara. Bring on more North End restaurant reviews! :-)

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Too bad the carbonara wasn't good but at least you got to try yet another North End restaurant! Awesome pics!

Jennifurla said...

I love a pasta covered in too much sauce, but not if it doesn't have flavor! No need packing the lbs on for flavorless stuff.

Megan said...

That carbonara looks terrible -- like they added cream, a traditional carbonara no-no. Sorry it was disappointing. Tiramisu looks tasty.

Lin @ BeantownEats said...

I love a good tiramisu! Too bad the pasta was disappointing (as well as the salt and pepper shakers, I would never notice that yet I think you make a great point about them!).

Hogger and Co. said...

Well said, and I'm not a fan of a restaurant that doesn't greet you at the door. Especially if it's got customers, and you're sort of standing there.

Meesh said...

good to know. there are so many restaurants in the North End that it's nice to know which ones don't measure up!

Tracey said...

great, honest review. What a shame abou the cabonara. I also agree, I am not a fan of waiting at the door with noone acknowledging you.

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

Well, at least the tiramisu was a success! Thanks for not sugar coating your experience - with so many amazing N.End eateries, it's always good to know which was are just so-so.

Ameena said...

I never really enjoy white sauces...too buttery and thick I guess. I also don't enjoy eating at restaurants that don't have any patrons! It's always kind of nerve-wracking.

Sorry this wasn't a hit...maybe they restaurant will read this and give you a dinner on the house?

Meghan said...

I went here once for drinks and was given a glass of flat Prosecco. I never went back for dinner!

Shannon said...

hmm, went to antico forno the other night and were underwhelmed. some hits, some misses... so i guess i'll need to keep going back to try more!

LINDA said...

Cute and yummy!

xoxo

Linda from www.moonon.com

kfenton917 said...

Looks like Piccola Venezia won't make the top 10. I wonder if by this time next year you will have it all the restaurants in the North End?

Simply Life said...

I haven't had good tiramisu in a while- now you have me craving it!

eatliveblog.com said...

I am so sad because this is one of my very favorite North End restaurants! Usually there is a sarcastic, but playful, older woman at the hostess stand who greets you and takes care of you. Man, with so many places in the North End, I know you won't be back since the experience wasn't great. That is why it is SO important for restaurants to always be on their game!