Venice Ristorante and Wine Bar, located at 1700 Wynkoop Street, was recommended to me by a very good family friend that knows good food. She also recommended the Elway’s Downtown steak restaurant that I should have ventured off to the night before instead of that Fort restaurant experience but it was free so whatever.
I made a reservation for 7:15pm for two. Unfortunately, my coworker ditched me so I went by myself and arrived a little early. What I noticed right away is that they are located on a busy corner right across the street from union station. Great location to attract customers, but no parking. On the other side of the corner was Morton Steakhouse (personal favorite steakhouse ever) and both restaurants had signs for valet parking for $12. I didn’t see the valet people there, but I’m going to assume they have that all figured out. But be prepared to pay for parking or hunt for a scarce street space.
Once I entered the dimly lit Italian restaurant, I approached the hostess about my reservation and that I would be dining alone. She was very accommodating and offered me the option to sit where I wanted. In the process, some rude gentleman interrupted our exchange about the location of the restroom and demanded to be personally escorted. It was a bit strange and she apologized to assist this guy. Not sure what that was about.
Moving on, I took a seat at a table right behind the hostess table with a glowing brick in the wall. Decorations were very nice here. There was a mural on the back wall of what I will assume is Venice, Italy. Lots of wine bottles in shelves encased with glass to view them. And the music system was one of the best I’ve heard. Several times, I would hear an instrument or singer in a song and thought it was a live performance. The sound was just so pronounced. Great atmosphere!
My waiter arrived and I ordered my usual bottle of sparkling water ($6) and lime. What was odd was that they did not keep the bottle at the table. So they charged me for a full bottle but I have no way of knowing if I finished it or not. They had a regular paper menu for the food and an iPad that displayed the wine and possibly cocktail menu. I briefly looked on it and it had a lot of options to choose from.
The waiter seemed a bit preoccupied and short. Usually, they engage in conversation and try to assist with the menu. But when I shared that I would not be partaking in pasta and asked him what low carb options he suggested, he seemed like he didn’t want to help me. Several times after as I was reviewing the menu, he would come back and say: “Oh, you still need more time and wander off.” I ended up figuring out what I wanted on my own and he stated that they were both great selections but it was quite annoying.
A basket of bread was dropped off and a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I found the vinegar to be quite over powering but the olive oil and bread was delicious. I tried a small piece of the sliced bread and then saw rosemary in the small bread roll and got excited. It had salt on top and lots of rosemary. It was delicious! I unfortunately finished the whole roll. Not sure what happened there but it was gone. Highly recommend you try a bread with rosemary, you will not be disappointed. I almost wanted to ask for a small roll to take with me but I have weight goals.
For my appetizer, I ordered the Melanzane Parmigiana ($12) which in other words translates to eggplant Parmesan. The dish included eggplant layered with fresh mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, marinara sauce, and fresh basil. The plate arrived and had a portion big enough for an entree. The presentation was beautiful with the marinara sauce in the middle of the plate, with a few green circles on the edge of the plate. But my first bite was phenomenal! I got all the flavors of the dish in one bite. The cheese was so very authentic. So good and rich. I loved it. The tomato sauce wasn’t too salty or sweet. It was the perfect balance of spices. The green dots on the side in the plate were most likely basil butter with garlic. We are off to a great start!
For my entree, I ordered the Cioppino Toscano ($26) which translates to a seafood stew with lighter and slightly spicy tomato broth. This dish was not included on the regular menu online but they had a few specials on the last page of the paper menu. The stew included pan seared Atlantic salmon, Meagre sea bass, black mussels, clams, prawns, and calamari simmered in a fresh tomato-wine sauce, served with grilled ciabatta bread. I befriended the couple next to me when we discovered that we ordered the same meal. We both enjoyed the flavor of the broth. It was perfection with pieces of tomatoes. I mean, wow! The seafood was cooked to perfection. The salmon and sea bass were cooked so that they flaked into the stew and provided flavors all throughout the stew like a pulled chicken in soup. The prawns had the tail on but had quite a bite! The clams and mussels were also delicious. The calamari rings were great but the legs were not cooked hard enough for my taste. I need them to be fried so I can forget what I’m eating. But because it was probably cooked in the stew, it was chewy and very difficult to enjoy. I left mine behind however, the gentleman next to me loved them. So, I think that’s a matter of preference and not an actual complaint.
A big thing I did not like is that I felt rushed throughout my dining experience. The server bought out a bowl for my shells while I was still working on the eggplant. He said it was just to make sure it was there. But not even a full 5 minutes later, they were bringing me my entree. I ended up having them place the dish on the other side of the table until I was ready for my entree. I then had to pull the bowl toward me to eat my meal. So the presentation was tampered with a bit. This happened again from the host that prematurely wished me a good night while I waited on my dessert. Once I finished my meal, I was just sitting there with my empty plate and bowl of shells. My waiter was nowhere to be found and when he did appear, he walked full speed pasty my table to avoid interaction. It was strange. The host ended up clearing my plate and making sure I was satisfied.
Once the waiter returned, he provided for dessert menu. After my review, I decided on the pistachio and chocolate Gelato Misti ($6). I’m not a big sweets person and a lot of the toppings on the other desserts did not excite me so I stuck with what I know. I love chocolate. So I got what I like. I was just expecting two scopes of the gelato in a bowl maybe with whipped cream. I was not prepared for the beauty of the dish that arrive. The chocolate gelato was at the bottom of the bowl with the hazelnut on top. There was a huge chocolate-covered strawberry in the bowl and a fried pastry in the bowl similar to that of a cannoli. The taste of the gelato was wonderful! The pistachio had pieces of the nut in the gelato itself. The chocolate gelato was rich and sweet. It was definitely a treat. My only disappointment was that there were several ice pieces in the gelato. Similar to that of ice cream that has melted and been refrozen again. In the gelato-making process, this happens then there is too much air in the gelato and not enough fat. But the ice chips did not take away from the dish itself.
Overall, I really enjoyed my dining experience considering those minor nuisances. The restaurant was beautiful and the food was wonderful! If my travels ever take me back to Denver, I would definitely find my way back here. I hear that the other location in Greenwood Village is even nicer. The total of my meal was $54.00 and after a 20% tip totaled 64.00. The following is my Seven Mac Score for the restaurant:
Venice Ristorante and Wine Bar
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Please look out for my next post as I review another one of Baltimore’s Best! And remember: It’s a BIG world and we are going to eat our way through it!