New Times

Three things you would’t expect to find in the Valley of the Sun: 1) state legislators at a Mensa meeting; 2) a bobsled run on Squaw Peak; 3) an unpretentious neighborhood Italian place with great food and reasonable prices in Scottsdale.

So much for expectations. Veneto Trattoria proves that you can go to an Italian restaurant in this tony part of the Valley without talking out a second mortgage and greeting people you barely know with air-kisses on the check.

Casual and bustling, this place specializes in Venetian fare, and the Venetian fare is special for two reasons. First, cost. Entrees hover around $15, and several are less. Share an appetizer and dessert and two people will get out for under $50, including tax and tip. Second, quality. This kitchen delivers some of the tastiest and most interesting northern Italian dishes around.

Check out a starter like baccala mantecato, salt-cured cod marinated in milk and pureed into a mousse. Move onto entrees like pumpkin and wild-mushroom risotto; fegato alla Veneziana, thin-sliced liver done up with olive oil; duck breast spruced up with foie gras; and luganega, garlicky pork sausages paired with grilled polenta and braised cabbage.

Veneto Trattoria is the kind of restaurant we didn’t know we were missing until it showed us what we were missing. Mr. Rogers was right – it is a wonderful day in the neighborhood.