Food is one of the best vehicles to instantly transport somewhere else. When I want to reminisce about my trip to Japan, I have a bowl of ramen. When I want to mentally escape to Spain, I have Catalonian tapas. Even though I’ve never been to Korea, every bite of Korean barbecue helps me imagine what visiting Seoul must feel like.
This is exactly the focus of Veneto in Salt Lake City. Owners Marco and Amy Stevanoni want to take you back to Italy — specifically the Veneto region — while dining at their restaurant. Everything from the food to the wine to the service is meant to mimic the Veneto region as closely as possible.
But what if you haven’t been to Verona or Venice? That’s ok… just don’t expect your comments on the food to be taken with more than a grain of salt. And speaking of salt, you might want to bring some with you — you’ll need it.
Veneto in Salt Lake City
Veneto opened in the summer of 2016, reclaiming the former Forage space in the 9th and 9th neighborhood, maintaining the minimalist decor and cozy feeling of being a guest in someone’s home. And that’s exactly the vibe Veneto wants to invoke, complete without tipping. That’s right, Veneto is a no tipping restaurant (instead, they add $3/person to the check for service).
The menu changes seasonally, with a staple of dishes on a year-round menu and a special Monday menu where the chef picks your courses for you (2 courses for $35 or 4 for $60). The regular menu follows the familiar Italian format of Antipasti, Primi and Secondi.
Antipasti :: Appetizers
My friend and I started with Tartar di Carne Piemontese ($20), which got us reminiscing on the tartare we shared in Paris, one of the best meals of my life. Veneto’s tartare uses Piedmontese beef, salt, one caper, and a hint of whole grain mustard. The idea is to let the flavor of the beef stand out, but it could have used more salt. Unfortunately our server was nowhere around to request it.
The Burrata e Prosciutto Crudo ($19, pictured at top) was much better. Served with Creminelli prosciutto, it paired perfectly with the burrata and toasted bread. This, I would eat again.
Primi :: First Course
We decided to order two Primi courses to share instead of Secondi, even though the Tagliata di Manzo (sliced beef with radicchio and parmesan, $39) and the osso bucco sounded delicious. We picked the Ravioli Caccio e Pere ($20), ravioli filled with pecorino, mascarpone, and pears. It was barely lukewarm, the cheese almost coagulated. The flavors had potential if it wasn’t almost cold. Again, our server was missing in action (and had yet to refill our wine glasses even once).
The Gargati con Porri Pasta di Salame e Noci ($22), pasta with leeks, sausage, and walnuts, was not much better. The pasta was stiff and the sausage failed to pack the punch I’d hoped; together it was so dry that we wondered if asking for olive oil to put on it would help.
Dolci :: Dessert
We hoped dessert could redeem our hopes for Veneto but, sadly, they stayed par for the course. The Crema Fritta ($9) was described as “fried pastry cream” on the menu but tasted more like a regurgitated churro (sorry). Thankfully, the Chocolate Salame ($10) wasn’t terrible. It looked like its namesake, with similar texture to salame but with the obvious taste of chocolate.
Interaction with the Chef/Owner and a note about my food writing:
After our meal, I filled out a comment card noting the above grievances. The owner responded asking if I’d ever been to Verona, Italy. His reasoning was I couldn’t possibly have the context to judge the food if I’d never been there. Even if I had, I’d still judge cold ravioli. He also asked if the wine would have tasted better if the server poured it instead of me. (Wow!)
I want restaurants to be good, especially in Salt Lake City. I’m proud of the SLC food scene and want to see it get even better. I write about my dining experiences to share where to have a great meal or, rarely, to warn others if it isn’t. So I comment about an unpleasant experience with the intention of helping a restaurant, not insulting them. I want restaurants to succeed and try to be positive when I write about them. But, unfortunately, my dinner at Veneto was one of the worst meals I’ve had in recent memory.
Go to Veneto for :: an overpriced Italian dinner with inattentive service. Notes :: Reservations are available by email or phone only. There is no tipping at Veneto. Do not bring your own wine! The corkage fee is $35, so you’re better off buying one of the $50+ bottles available there.