If I’m going to commit to driving about 40 miles round-trip for lunch or dinner at a restaurant, the restaurant has to be really good. Little Venice in Trumansburg is good, however the main attraction for me, is gone…at least temporarily. Before the pandemic hit, I used to visit friends in the area. We’d go to Little Venice for lunch, where we’d avail ourselves of the wonderful salad bar, which featured about four dozen items, including a hearty chili, a variety of sliced pizza, pasta, garlic knots, a homemade soup and an assortment of healthy salads, all for less than $9. T
he food is still good and there’s a fine selection of traditional Italian fare, all well-prepared and attractively presented. However, the buffet is no longer offered and diners must order à la carte from a routinely sanitized plastic menu.
At lunchtime, which starts at 11:00 a.m., the typical generic categories served in Italian restaurants are available. There’s a choice of a half-dozen flatbreads and the same amount of pizzas. I recently ordered the white garlic pizza and, frankly, was a bit disappointed. Although the crust was thin and crunchy, the topping was a disappointment. The lack of zest from the garlic which, instead of being finely diced, was finely minced and barely discernible.
You can also choose from among four burgers ($13.50 – $14.50) and four sandwiches ($10.90 – $11.90). The most popular burger is the Brunch Burger, which is topped with a melted slice of American cheese, a sunny-side-up egg, a strip of bacon and a patty of hash brown potato. If you’re not happy with Little Venice’s burgers you can “build your own” starting at $10.50 and add toppings at $1.50 each. And I’m sure you’ll be happy with your personal creation, as there are about 20 toppings including a variety of cheeses. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, you can select from a half-dozen basic salad offerings ($6).
Speaking of basic, at dinner, which starts around 4:00 p.m., you’ll be offered complete entrées that you’d expect to find in a quality Italian restaurant: homemade Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Fettuccini Alfredo, a homemade Rigatoni with Meat Sauce and a popular Fisherman’s Platter with breaded shrimp, scallops and haddock.
Little Venice has true items for vegetarians. One popular side dish, which really seems like a small entrée, is called the Chef’s Garden Sauté ($13.90). It starts with strands of zucchini wound out of a spiralizer that extended my full arm’s length without breaking when I lifted it off the plate, broccoli, artichokes, mushrooms and roasted red peppers in a lemon, garlic and extra virgin olive oil dressing. The veggies were cooked perfectly and the sauce, not too sweet, not too tart, complemented them just right. Other vegetarian entrées include a traditional Italian favorite, Eggplant Parmesan.
A word about beverages: This is obviously a management that thinks beer goes better with their cuisine. There are about two dozen beers on offer, six on tap, which are served in a frosted glass. The wine offering is quite limited. By the glass, you’ll have a choice of four whites and four reds.
The atmosphere is comfortable with a brick wall, pendant lighting, revolving overhead fans, and heavy wood tables and booths.
A brief note about the history: Little Venice was opened in a small space on Trumansburg’s Main Street in 1992, where Subway is now, only to burn to the ground Memorial Day weekend, 1998. A small restaurant, occupying the space where the bar is now, was reopened, a short time later, on Sept. 12. The adjacent area, which included an archway, was acquired in 2007, and the archway was knocked down and the area that is now the main dining area was exposed. The capacity of the dining areas, including the 14 chairs at tables adjacent to the bar, is about 250, so 50% capacity is about 125. Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo relaxed the rule for dining to 75% of capacity beginning March 19, management is awaiting more guidance before removing the “reserved” signs from every other table.
On the site of Little Venice, in 1964, Robert A. Moog developed the first modular synthesizer changing modern music forever. The citizens of Trumansburg had a sign erected on the street, directly in front of the entrance.