Friday, December 23, 2011

Venezia: Italian Cuisine on St. Armands Circle

Venezia is a charming family-run Italian bistro located on St. Armands Circle, just a short walk from the crystal-blue waters of Lido Beach and the bustling centre of Sarasota. Although it opened in 2009, Venezia's history goes back further than that. Since 1966, Rafael Miccio’s family has owned a successful Italian restaurant, also called Venezia in Mar del Plata, Argentina, a resort-style town on the beach very similar to the Sarasota area. So it's no wonder the family fell in the love with this part of Florida and decided to call it home. Today, Miccio’s father and uncle continue to operate the restaurant in Argentina, while Miccio carries on the family tradition on St Armand's Circle with much of the staff being family members and many of the recipes coming straight from the kitchen of Miccio's Nonna.

Venezia on St. Armands Circle - the menu

Although Nonna isn't still in the kitchen, Venezia takes the time to make their own fresh mozzarella, homemade tomato sauce, fresh pasta and pizza dough each and every day. With some gentle persuasion from our good-natured server Angel, we decided to start the evening with a glass or two of Sant'Elena Pinot Grigio, a lovely white wine with a curious pink hue. We followed with a plate of outrageously delicious Stuffed Mushrooms made with sautéed spinach, toasted Parmigiano breadcrumbs and homemade Mozzarella cheese, nestled in a rich and fragrant garlic-infused mushroom cream sauce and garnished with chopped parsley and a mound of diced tomatoes. We also enjoyed their Calamari Fritti which held hidden treasures of sweet flash-fried zucchini fritti. The Calamari were very good, but the Stuffed Mushrooms were outstanding. They could have been a meal in themselves.

Calamari Fritti topped with fresh arugula and tomato concasée

Known for their Napoletana-style thin crust pizzas and excellent home made pastas, we decided on sampling a little bit of both, starting with a tasty Mushroom Linguine topped with a generous serving of crimini mushrooms sautéed in garlic and olive oil, and topped with Parmigiano cheese and chopped parsley. As good as it was, it could have been great with a little less olive oil and more of a mixed selection of wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster and chanterelle — but then it wouldn't have been just $12.95! 

Mushroom Linguine

The pizzas are always a popular choice at Venezia, with over 15 selections to choose from, they're cooked at a high heat in the gas-fired pizza oven and brought to the table perched on top of enormous empty plum tomato cans, for easy access to the hot and delicious slices. We tried two of their pizzas: A classic original — The Margherita, and the less classic — Hawaiian. One was large enough for two people to share, two was a bit daunting, however our server Angel cheerfully boxed up the leftovers and left it knowingly on our table — I think he'd seen it happen before.

The pizza station is always a blur as pizzas come in and out of the oven at lightning speed

Venezia's Hawaiian Pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pineapple and ham

Margherita Pizza with homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil

A great place for a glass of wine and a homemade pizza - eat in or take out!

Angel, redefining 'service with a smile'

Venezia is a lively and friendly restaurant to enjoy a cold glass of wine, a homemade pizza or bowl of pasta while shopping on 'The Circle' without breaking the bank. The family of servers are charming and attentive — and with a little prompting — absolutely incorrigible!


373 Saint Armands Circle
Sarasota, Florida