New Times

What makes Veneto Trattoria special? As you might expect, the food is terrific. But this place is more than food, it’s the total restaurant package. It’s hard to imagine eating here and not having a wonderful time.

Veneto Trattoria’s menu offers dishes you can find anyplace there’s red-checked oilcloth, Chianti in wicker baskets and canned accordion music: veal scaloppine; grilled sea bass; spaghetti with seafood; chicken in a red wine sauce. But the chef’s heart is clearly in the regional Venetian specialties, which

are starred on the menu. You won’t find dishes like these elsewhere, and they’re what make this place stand out from the Italian-restaurant crowd.

Baccala mantecato is the first piece of evidence. It’s dried, salt-cured cod, marinated in milk and puréed into a mousse, served over wedges of polenta and teamed with greens and red onion. There’s nothing timid about this mix of flavors. Calamari is also first-rate, floating in a spoon-lickin’ tomato


…The main dishes sparkle. Risotto with pumpkin and wild mushrooms packs a powerful punch, especially once your server grates Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over it. Roasted duck breast is especially ravishing, the meat fanned across the plate and spruced up with bits of duck liver and smoked pork,

creating a harmony of rich, salty, smoky flavors. Excellent mashed potatoes and properly cooked mixed veggies — not so al dente that you need a pick ax to cut them — furnish good support.

…The kitchen is just as skilled with dessert as it is with everything else. Just thinking about the semifreddo makes me want to go back for more. It’s semifrozen meringue studded with dried fruit and pine nuts, drizzled with chocolate sauce and surrounded by a puddle of raspberry coulis. Yum. The

marzipan apple tart, gilded with vanilla ice cream and apricot sauce, is also a winner. The chocolate hazelnut cake, a somewhat more pedestrian effort, suffers in comparison.

Let’s hope success doesn’t tempt the proprietors to change the restaurant’s formula. Please: Keep prices sane; don’t throw white linen on the tables; don’t try to please everybody by adding wood-fired pizza or veal Parmesan to the menu; don’t move to larger quarters; and don’t lose the neighborhood feel. Right now, Veneto Trattoria is the kind of Italian restaurant we didn’t know the Valley was missing, until it showed us what we were missing. It looks poised for a long, prosperous run.