I went to Cafe Veneto last night for dinner with a friend (thanks to graydivers for the affirming rec). The restaurant is located on 3rd next to Locanda Venata in the Cedars-Sinai area.
Cafe Veneto specializes in Cicchetti ("Chick-ketti") dishes, which can be described as Italian-style tapas. A quick search through Google led me to some sites on Cicchetti dishes, which are popular in Venice where they are seafood-centric. It appeared that these Italian dishes have made their way into the NYC dining scene, but this was the first time I had heard of such a place in LA.
The menu aside from the Cicchetti dishes included an assortment of thin crust ("Italian" style) pizzas, with your list of usual suspects; blanca, caprese, neopolitan, etc. The menu also included a selection of "Mezzaluna" sandwiches which seemed similar to calzones.
My friend and I opted for the Cicchetti dishes, which are separated into three different categories; fish, meat, and vegetables. I noticed that there were some basic apps on the menu (ex. Tuna Tartar) and even some other European dishes (ex. Macaroni and Cheese -'French' Style with ham, Spanish tortillas). I noted some interesting dishes including a roasted lamb shank (how would they plate this in small portions?) and potato gnocchi, both of which I passed on however (this time around).
My friend and I ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir from a rather limited wine list, and opted for the fried calamari, tuna tartar, and flat-iron steak with shallots and fries. The standout was the calamari (surprisingly). Without the spicy tomato sauce accompanying it, the fried morsels were pretty darn good. Well seasoned and not a feeling of "over-friedness" if that makes any sense. The Tuna Tartar was satisfying, albeit a little on the salty side. The steak, which came out pre-cut was drenched in a reduction sauce (of which ingredients I could not determine), and tasted shallot-heavy. The steak itself was tender and moist for being cooked what looked to be medium well. The fries were disappointing however - I sat and yearned for frites to go along with the steak.
We ended with a hazelnut chocolate pizza, which could be described as a thin calzone oozing with nutella chocolate. It was rich (though not like a German Chocolate Cake rich, cheers to the Nutella), and I particulary enjoyed the thin crust which was topped with some powdered sugar. An overall good chocolate dessert, even for this normally 'non-chocolate' guy.
A good dinner conversation kept us there for a while, and we saw a good number of people come and go throughout the evening. The bar was busy with a birthday group, and they provided much of the noise that night. The floors are hardwood and I suspect that on a filled night, it would be pretty darn loud. The walls feature stacked bottles of the wines offered, and chalkboards listing the specials (though not in a "cheesy" Buca di Beppo kinda way). The restaurant itself is pretty dark, with minimal lighting provided by tabletop tea lights and dim ceiling lights. The service was attentive, with a few mistakes from the busboys/assistant waiters (all minor).
An overall pleasant dining experience, though I would have to credit that more to my friend and the company rather than the food. However, the food was decent, and the prices reasonable. With the bottle of wine, three dishes, dessert (for 2) and a cup of tea, the bill came to 76.00 before tip. The dishes range from 5-13 dollars a pop.
8636 W 3rd St
West Hollywood, CA 90048