This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Italy has always been one of my favorite travel destinations. It offers the trifecta of experiences, where history, wine and culinary adventures abound. The country also boasts a vast array of dining, from risotto and meats in the north to seafood and pizza in the south and pasta, wine and cheese in between.
So it was with excitement that, after lamenting the shuttering of Forage, I rejoiced at the coming of a northern Italian ristorante the likes of which Salt Lake had not experienced before. Not the dark woods of Il Sansovino, not the casual trattoria of Per Noi and not the opulence of Osteria instead the homey feel of an upscale residence in Veneto, Italy.
And that's just the environment owners Amy and Marco Stevanoni envisioned when they opened Veneto last summer to introduce Utahns to Marco's birthplace of Verona, Italy.
For many who visit the restaurant, you'll be greeted with open arms by Marco, who will personally walk you through the wine menu and visit your table regularly to check on your meal. But strangely, other diners will be completely ignored as we and approximately half the restaurant were during two meals there making us feel more like strangers in the house than valued guests.
Service from our waiters varied greatly as well, and given the limited number of tables in the restaurant, it was an odd experience to watch several parties receive exceptional service and attention to detail while we were left to fend for ourselves as our server admitted she "disappeared for a while." Yet another evening our waiter was a knowledgeable fellow who made dinner pleasant and well-paced.
One might surmise this is the result of the restaurant's no-tipping policy, which is also a long-standing tradition in Veneto's namesake region, where guests are instead charged a coperto, or a service charge of $3 per person that's explained at the beginning of the meal.
As servers aren't "earning" their tip throughout the meal, perhaps they are not inclined to care as much about their customers, but two vastly different service experiences lead me to no definitive conclusions. What can be deduced is that the prices of each dish on the menu seem to reflect an additional mark-up to pay for front-of-house services sans tip.
But what about the Venetian culinary tour the Stevanonis endeavor to take guests on? Veneto's menu is set up in the traditional Italian style including pasta and meat courses but ordering is à la carte except on Mondays.
On this day, Veneto offers the "Facciamo Noi Monday" deal, which features a chef's choice two-course dinner for $35 per person or four courses for $60. It's a great way to sample what Veneto has to offer at a fraction of the price.
Tuesday through Saturday, start with appetizers such as simple burrata cheese paired with Creminelli prosciutto ($19). Or try raw Piedmontese beef tartare ($20) with a touch of caper and whole-grain mustard on toasted bread. We would have liked a bit more salt to amplify the subtle flavors of the Italian cattle and egg yolk, but there was none on the table, and our server was nowhere to be found until after we'd finished the dish.
The pasta course is perhaps my favorite of the Italian dining experience. Fresh dough lends itself to both delicate and bold flavors such as those found in the Ravioli Caccio e Pere ($20) filled with tangy pecorino, creamy marscarpone and slightly sweet pears that didn't seem to suffer being served lukewarm from the kitchen.
Gargati with leeks, sausage and walnuts ($22) brought together good textures for a well-rounded dish, while the housemade bigoli ($22) had toothsome bite when combined with the duck ragu that made this a standout.
Reflecting some of the most creative elements of the moment, pay careful attention to the seasonal menu, which changes each month. Stellar selections from February included an artichoke, pancetta and ricotta crêpe ($15) appetizer; the veal scaloppine ($32) with porcini mushrooms; and the frittelle dessert with apples and raisins ($10) dusted with powdered sugar.
We also enjoyed a hearty winter staple, the selvaggina con polenta ($31), from the regular secondi menu featuring a savory wild game stew, rich with slowly simmered flavors, poured over polenta. Other main course selections included a 40-day dry-aged T-bone Piedmontese steak ($75 per pound, 2-pound minimum), beef filet ($39), a delicious red snapper with tangy black olive sauce ($33) and a veal entrée composed of liver and sweetbreads ($29).
For dessert, dolci options ranged from a texturally unappealing sugar and cinnamon-laced crema fritta ($9) to more successful affogato ($9) and semifreddo ($8).
Not surprisingly, all wines and beer at Veneto are from Italy, reflecting the Stevanonis' love and appreciation for Marco's Italian heritage. Guests are discouraged from bringing their own wines by the $35 corkage fee in favor of Veneto's pre-selected, and fairly expensive, choices. Wines by the glass yielded fewer options but overall better pairings, while a $58 bottle of Brandini Barbera included having to pour it for ourselves throughout the entire meal. When we expressed our disappointment with providing our own wine service, Marco asked if our wine would have tasted better if someone else had poured it. Although true in its most base sense, I would safely expect a bottle of $60 wine to include service beyond opening.
But this, like the bulk of my Veneto experiences, leads me to believe that Salt Lake's Veneto appeals to those who enjoy the distinctive brand of the Stevanonis' hospitality as much as the cuisine.
Heather L. King also writes for http://www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches
Veneto Ristorante Italiano
Food • HHH
Mood • HHhj
Service • HH
Noise • bb
Northern Italian fine dining featuring polentas, pastas, meats and more is offered in a homelike setting where owners Amy and Marco Stevanoni welcome you to their table.
Location • 370 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City; 801-359-0708
Online • venetoslc.com
Hours • Open Monday -Saturday 5:30 to 10 p.m., closed Sunday
Children's menu • No
Prices • $$-$$$$
Liquor • Yes
Corkage • $35
Reservations • Recommended
Takeout • No
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • All major