Any restaurant that can survive more than ten years in Los Angeles’ rapidly changing foodie landscape has to be doing something right. Now in its 16th year, Via Veneto on Santa Monica’s Main Street proves why it’s been successful, by satisfying happy diners night after night with great Italian food. You know it’s a popular place when the valet guy asks “do you have a reservation?” when pulling up on a busy Friday night. Not being funny, he knows if you don’t have one, you’ll be back for your car in a minute or two as this place is booked months in advance.
The restaurant is a tall, long, narrow space, in a building that may well date back to the early days of Santa Monica. There’s an additional seating area upstairs. Service is personal and direct, from real Italian waiters. It’s what you find in great restaurants in Italy. Trust their guidance, they know the menu and the food.
Our meal started off with carpaccio, made with prime beef and since it was the season, black truffles. A layer of parmigiano cheese was sprinkled on top of the truffle slices. This was joined by a ravioli tasting plate with lobster, asparagus and pumpkin. The lobster ravioli was meaty and delicious, while the asparagus had much creamier sauce, accompanied by pieces of asparagus. The pumpkin made for a sweet finish.
Next up were the mains, I went with the risotto zafferano and salsiccia, which means saffron and sausage. The dish is made from Acquerello rice, considered the best in the world. The rice is produced in Piedmont, Italy and is aged after harvesting, offering a truly unique flavor. The rice is only produced in limited quantities and is a favorite of chefs around the world. The risotto was flavored with saffron and included large pieces of housemade Iberico pork sausage. The other main was the Bolognese pasta, with housemade fettuccine and a prime beef meat red sauce.
The overall menu features a nice range of antipasti, two soups and two risotti (my sausage and a seafood and Calabrese chili option). There are a full range of pasta dishes and many fish and meat options as well. It’s a well rounded selection that keeps the regulars happy and also satisfies newcomers.
Wine for the evening, as recommended by our waiter, was a strong red straight from the Piedmontese hills of Italy. The Maraia Barbera del Monferrato from Marchesi di Barolo is made from Barbera grapes and was a great match for the carpaccio, sausage in the risotto and the Bolognese sauce.
Dessert came in three parts, all quite delicious. The first was a custard with berry sauce, light and sweet, topped with whipped cream and a blackberry. Next came a chocolate tart, also topped with whipped cream and a blackberry. The last dessert was a tiramisu, with a coffee flavor, also joined by some whipped cream and berries.
The meal at Via Veneto was an authentic, upscale Italian experience, just as one would find at one of Rome’s best restaurants. Just like at those great restaurants in Rome, reservations at Via Veneto can be hard to secure and the experience is not cheap, but the food makes it all worth it.
Follow luxury travel writer Freddy Sherman on Twitter – @luxuryfred