Last week, me and a friend dined at Venezia located in the Atlas Park Mall on Cooper Avenue and 80th Street in Glendale. We ate there because we were very hungry, Shiro of Japan was closed, and we had very bad experiences with the California Pizza Kitchen the week before.
We were told that it has just been open for a month, and replaced the former Havana Bistro space. The place was very small inside, and had a tiny kitchen that you can see on the way to the restrooms, but had a huge bar. We ate outside, and had to request an umbrella for the table due to the sun, and they happily obliged.
Since we were both eating light, my friend and I ordered specially-made salads with a lot of greens, and asked for roasted peppers, tomato, and cucumber. My friend also had fresh mozzarella on her salad, and ordered a side dish of the chicpea salad that was listed on the menu as accompanying an octopus dish (we don't care for octopus, so we asked for the chickpeas on the side, and after some negotiating, they also complied).
It took about 20 minutes for the salads to come out, and the greens were warm. The portion was meager, and the fresh mozzarella still had the residue from the package on the outside (it didn't taste like it came from Lioni's or any of the other big fresh mozzarella distributors in the region, but instead tasted like Belgioso, but that's neither here nor there).
I also ordered a side dish of steamed green beans, and those came about 20 minutes after the salad came, along with the chicpea salad. The chickpea salad had the ammonia-like flavor of bottled lemon juice, and we could easily tell they were Goya, since it doesn't seem as if they were chilled or rinsed, so they kept the metallic flavor of the can that lingers when you don't rionse canned vegetables or beans).
The bottle of olive oil they brought to the table was also very warm, as they kept it outdoors under the direct sun without an awning or umbrella over their outdoors service area, and we had to ask for a monkey dish of oil from the kitchen, one that wouldn't cause the problems of plastic/BPA left out in the hot sun.
The bread that they brought was absolutely terrible. It did not have the crust or crumb/consistency of any Italian bread you would ever find in this city. It was very light, almost underbaked, had a very weak crust, and the bread was too crumbly, and it had an unusual vein of oil down the middle of each slice that the lovely waiter couldn't explain. I think it might have been an Albanian bread, because I spoke to the owners and they were telling me about how they lived in an Italian DP camp after leaving Yugoslavia before emigrating to the US. Nice guys, though, and they had an adorable little dog that romped around the outdoor seating area. They were eating a plate of grilled lamb shoulder chops and some vegetables on the side, which looked delicious, but for the price ($32), they were not worth it. One could get even better lamb chops for much cheaper and for bigger portions at one of the many good Turkish places in the city.
Also, we requested roasted peppers and instead received pickled red pepper halves that tasted of white vinegar and sugar, much like the sort of pickled pepeprs you would buy from an Polish/Balkan/Eastern European market. In a restaurant named Venezia, one would expect regular roasted peppers, but sweet and sour pickled peppers? Yet again, the ownership may explain the choice of bread and peppers.
All in all, I cannot say we left satisfied, especially since they charged us $15 each for a meager salad that was mostly just greens and for a monkey dish of vegetables. Will we return? Probably not, unless they have a really good promotion of some sort, like a Groupon where you get $50 in food for $25 or something like that.
Shiro of Japan
80-40 Cooper Ave, Queens, NY 11385
California Pizza Kitchen
80-00 Cooper Ave, Queens, NY 11385
80-00 Cooper Ave, Queens, NY 11385