1799 University Ave
Berkeley, CA 94703
Tel: (510) 849-4681
Fax: (510) 849-3104
Preface: I have delayed this review for weeks, so the details are a bit fuzzy.
Yet another hectic Wednesday – filled with chem lab and physics discussion, both of which are the bane of my existence. And unfortunately it lasted until 7pm, which really killed any anticipation or expectation of a good evening. But thank God, it turned out so well. It was someoneiknow’s 25th bday, and we had agreed to another night, completely cut off from everyone – no phone calls, no text messages, minimal human contact – just us. And so the evening started with dinner at Cafe Venezia – a famous Berkeley restaurant – and I fell in love the second I walked in the door!
Decor is a big factor for me, and Cafe Venezia is not lacking in Italian charm – the frescos covering the wall depict an outdoor Italian plaza, complete with real water fountain and clothes drying on laundry lines strung about the restaurant, creating a casual and laid back atmosphere. There was a distinctive familial aura surrounding the whole restaurant, as customers randomly stood up and shouted out toasts and sang “Happy Birthday’s.” And fortunate for someoneiknow, I spared him that embarrassment and continued on with our quiet evening together.
In terms of food, this place is hands-down renowned for its homey Italian dishes at even homier prices. The menu changes fairly often to reflect the best flavors of the season and to ensure that only the freshest ingredients are used. It also shows a care for food integrity, which is rare in today’s mass market of chain American restaurants. Not being too hungry, I ordered the Insalta Cesare con Pollo (Chicken Caesar Salad) and a day’s soup, some sort of hot tomato based goodness. He ordered a pasta dish, perhaps Linguine con Gamberoni , with large shrimp in a buttery tomato sauce, if I remember correctly. Believe it or not, I am personally not a big fan of pasta. The sauce is usually too rich and I get bored (blame Pasta Pomodoro) with the repetitive flavors. But this dish was surprisingly light with its fresh pasta tossed (not drowned) in a tomato-prawn sautee. Topped with a little Parmesan and black pepper. All in all, Venezia did not disappoint. We did not have a chance to try dessert as I had already bought a green Princess Panda Cake from Market Hall to celebrate, but I think it is safe to assume that the desserts would be equally (if not more so) enjoyable. Venezia filled our tummies well into the night, and helped me brave the cold at the Marina, where we finished our evening star-gazing and duck-watching. And as the Italians say, Ciao Bella and until next time.