Restaurants & Bars 3

Tre Venezia

lil mikey | Jul 22, 2002 07:14 PM

We read about it in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and here it was Friday night and we were looking for someplace new to try. Someplace nice, but different.

Reservations for 8:00? No, they couldn’t take us at 8:00, how about 8:15? Okay. We drove to Green Street in Pasadena, and saw the sign “Tre Venezia.”

We parked (not valet), and as we walked up, we were greeted by name by the hostess. We didn’t even have to say who we were, she was expecting us, and that made us feel good. She walked us in, and showed us to our seats. This is a small place, maybe 25 tables. The puzzling thing, though, was that not even half of them were filled. We didn’t understand the wait until 8:15. It seemed like this was a way to make the restaurant *seem* more exclusive. As it turned out, this was a precursor to the rest of the evening.

First off, the menu is very unusual. Not necessarily in a bad way, it’s just that the preparations and dishes are not what you’re used to seeing. The one thing that struck me was that there were elements of almost every dish that I liked, but just as these elements were in every dish, there seemed to be something in every dish that I didn’t really care for. And the mix of elements was definitely unusual.

So pulling a trick from the Chowhound reference guide, we grilled the waiter on everything that looked remotely good. Surprisingly, even though he went to great lengths to describe the positive aspects of each dish (he needed to describe them because the menu just sounded weird), the more he described, the more we crossed off the list. An example was a ravioli dish that had what sounded like a wonderful sauce, but the ravioli was filled with apples and walnuts. He described them as being sweet, but the sauce was not sweet, so it was really two different flavors. I just couldn’t envision those flavors going together….pass.

And so we finally settled on our order. My delightful companion ordered the scallops with a sweet red peppercorn sauce for her appetizer, and for her main course, spaghetti with crabmeat and tomato sauce. I ordered the venison with spiced pears for the appetizer, and the spinach spaetzel with ricotta and speck for the main course. I also ordered a glass of wine to be served with the main course.

As usual in restaurants trying to be chi chi, there was the whole issue of what kind of water we wanted. They didn’t make a big deal about it, but made it quite clear that we had to indicate if we wanted tap water. After some time, a young man brought out six thin slices of bread, and a small butter dish. We were hungry, so that was gone quickly.

After about 15 minutes, our appetizers arrived. The presentation of both dishes was very nice. The scallops seemed fresh, but the sauce just didn’t work. It was in fact a sweet sauce with peppercorns in it. The taste of the scallops alone would have been good, even the scallops with the sweet sauce probably wouldn’t have been that bad, but when you add the peppercorns, it just doesn’t work. The flavors don’t go together.

Similarly, the venison was very good by itself. It was cold, cooked rare and marinated in a nice flavor. The heavy clove smell and flavor of the pears, though, overpowered the flavor of the meat, and what could have been a nice light appetizer turned into an assault.

So we shared our food with each other, offering and re-offering to share more with each other, but since neither dish was really outstanding, the offers went unfilled. It took a while for the busboy to clear the plates.

The busboy took the plates, and brought out another six thin slices of bread. We also got some more water. The restaurant was still quite empty, but was slowly starting to fill up. We waited another 20 minutes or so, and the main courses arrived.

The spaghetti with fresh crabmeat looked a bit washed out due to the whiteness of the crab, but otherwise it looked okay. The spaetzel was fluorescent green, with very small slivers of cheese throughout. This was definitely a green dish. After a moment I realized there was no speck served with the dish. It took some time to get the waiter’s attention, and he went back in the kitchen to see about it. After about five minutes, he came back and said they were preparing it, and it would be right out. I wondered if they just forgot, or what the deal was. I then had to ask about my wine, and he said he would get that for me right away.

I didn’t want the food to get cold, so I began eating the spaetzel. Despite not seeming to have too much cheese (remember it was a fluorescent green), it was very cheesy tasting. The spaetzel itself was remarkably light. It didn’t have any flour or eggs, just spinach. The texture was very good. I too liked the cheesiness of it. My lovely date, however, found it too cheesy. After about ten minutes the speck came in a little bowl on the side. Speck is dried pork leg. It’s like little strips of very fine prosciutto. Kind of hard to describe. It served to take a bit of the edge of the cheese off. Overall the spaetzel was a pretty good dish.

The spaghetti, on the other hand, was not quite so pleasing. Generally, crab is not served hot with tomato sauce. Sure you can find it here and there, but in general, these two flavors are not mixed. And to further remove the flavor from the general palate, they added spaghetti. On their own, these three flavors are good. Mixed, however, they are not.

The analogy I make goes to breakfast. Eggs are good with smoked salmon. Eggs are good with Tabasco sauce. Smoked salmon is not good with Tabasco sauce.

And so I enjoyed my dinner, offering more to the lady, and her offering more of her spaghetti to me. Both offers were turned down, as we didn’t like the other person’s dish. Her added dilemma was that she didn’t much like her own main dish.

It took a long time to get the dishes cleared, then the waiter disappeared for a while longer, and then reappeared with a dessert menu. We decided no more adventures at this restaurant, so we continued waiting until the waiter returned, and requested the check.

All in all, dinner took about 100 minutes, and the bill before tip was about $94. My date left hungry, as the food was just a little off. For this price, we are definitely not going back. They tout themselves as preparing food as in Venice. We’ve been to Venice, Italy, and the food is way better, and far less expensive. Maybe they’re talking about Venice, California.

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