We had been wanting to visit Venezia for quite a long time. We had noticed the restaurant many times while driving on University Ave., and it looked distinctive and fun enough to merit a try. Then an acquaintance told me that the food was great, so we put it on our list of places to visit.
We finally went there for dinner on a Saturday night in October 1999. We had made reservations for 8 PM a day in advance, although at the last minute we changed them from 2 to 3 people. We were pretty much on time, and had no problem finding street parking just outside the restaurant, but still had to wait about 5 minutes for a table. Fortunately, there is a small waiting area in the bar area, with seats, that makes the wait comfortable enough.
The restaurant is very nice. The walls imitate the facades of Italian stores and flats, giving you the impression that you are eating at a plaza in an Italian village. There is even a clothesline with real clothing hanging above you. It may seem a little bit cheesy, but I found it very nice and very fun.
The service was also very good. Our waitress was helpful and attentive - and ever smiling -, the food was brought promptly and the water frequently refilled. The only problem we had was that one of the forks brought to the table wasn't clean, and it took us a couple of minutes to get the attention of the waitress and have it replaced.
The food was also very good. We can't say the same thing about the bread, however. It wasn't very tasty and it was a little tough, and couldn't be helped very much by the plain olive oil at the table (no butter was available). We have had similar experiences with bad bread in Italy, so maybe this is an attempt to be authentic - but we would have enjoyed the restaurant much, much more if they served focaccia (as they do in Giovanni's).
The salad, with hand-ripped lettuce, was pretty tasty. Mike, never a big salad fan, actually finished all of his. The soup that night was lentils in an orange broth. The orange taste was very subtle but the soup was rather satisfying. For dinner, I had the cannelloni, Mike had the fetuccini quatro fromagio and our friend had another pasta dish which I didn't taste, but she liked very much. The cannelloni was delicious - I especially liked the very hearty sauce that came with it. The fetuccini was also very good, the sauce was rather thick and creamy and very nice. The entrees were on the skimpy side (especially for the price, most fell in the mid-teens), but they left room for desert. In all, we were rather pleased.
For dessert I tried the espresso cheesecake. It was good, though a little too strong and I got bored with it after a while. Mike had an almond caramel tart which he liked very much, and our friend had a very disappointing tiramisu (made with sponge cake rather than with lady fingers). The desserts were all about $6-$7, and we would probably skip them if we went back.
We had a rather pleasant dining experience, though not an extraordinary one - and we may go back.
1799 University Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94703