It's Thursday evening and I'm taking a trip to Via Veneto in Santa Monica to explore the authentic tastes of Italy. I dream of Italian food regularly and a trip to Rome to indulge in the cuisine is on my forever growing bucket list.
Inspired by Eat Pray Love, I long for the Elizabeth Gilbert experience. That moment she admits to having a love affair with her pizza, that's how I feel about Italian food. Tonight I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience some the best Italian cuisine on the West Coast.
My good friend and fellow Liz Gilbert fan Diego accompanies me. We arrive to Via Veneto on Santa Monica's Main Street at 6pm and as soon as we walk through the door we forget about the outside world and imagine we're in Rome for the night. We receive a warm and welcoming "buonasera" from the staff and take our seats by the window. Eric, our waiter and experienced sommelier, greets us with a class of prosecco from the Veneto region of Italy.
We're presented with a selection of goat and sheep cheese blends, accompanied by grapes and olives which have been marinated in a lemon juice and candied orange peel. Freshly baked sourdough bread arrives with a side of the most delicious truffle honey oil I have ever tasted. Eric brings a bottle of 2008 Sanct Valentin Gewürztraminer wine from the Alto Adige province in Northern Italy. The wine, which gives off a perfumed scent and tastes slightly spiced and fruity, is the perfect pairing.
After studying the menu intensely, we decide on our main courses. Aged prosciutto and burrata jumps out at me and I decide to pair it with the lobster and quinoa salad. Diego is a vegetarian and opts for Via Veneto's Fettucine special, a homemade pasta dish cooked in a light cream sauce with a topping of shaved black truffle. Eric talks about his passion for the new menu and mentions he will be surprising us with a few of his favourite dishes.
He brings a selection of homemade ravioli, a dish Via Veneto are well known for. We dive into the three varieties, one filled with asparagus cooked in a white wine sauce, another with spinach and ricotta in a light tomato sauce and my favourite which is a sweet pumpkin, butter and sage stuffed ravioli.
Next up is a trio of dishes; the 24 month aged prosciutto accompanied by fresh burrata. When I slice open the burrata, a thickened cream flows out. The flavours and textures of the burrata pair perfectly with the prosciutto. I reach across and tuck into the Melanzane Alla Parmigiana, a sliced eggplant cooked in a light tomato sauce then coated with parmesan. Diego is in heaven as he indulges in his grilled portobello mushroom salad, a surprise dish from Eric. It takes some time for us to work our way through these dishes, each and every new bite is as sensational as the last.
Between courses, we take some time to admire the interior and atmosphere at Via Veneto. Owner Fabrizio Bianconi travelled to America from Rome and worked his way through the finest Italian restaurants in California. It was by chance that Fabrizio found a charming location in Santa Monica which today is the home of Via Veneto. His goal is to serve up the food he fell in love with as a young boy and to offer a menu that embodies the true flavours of Italy. Fans of Via Veneto include Charlize Theron, Victoria Beckham and Eva Longoria.
Eric arrives to the table with our final savory dish of the evening. Fettuccine in a light white wine sauce topped with shaved black truffle for Diego and a selection of seasoned meats for me. The homemade Italian sausage is irresistible and gone within minutes.
Both Diego and I start to drift off into a food coma but we keep it together for dessert, my favourite course of the evening. We receive a mouthwatering selection of desserts; two of which are traditional panna cotta dishes, one topped with nutella and the other with fresh berries. Other desserts include the homemade tiramisu, amaretto cream and a delicious stuffed chocolate tart which is Diego's favourite. Dessert is served with a fruity moscato dessert wine from the Tuscany region.
We leave Via Veneto on a high after enjoying one of the best Italian meals of our lives. Each dish at Via Veneto has been extremely well thought out, every ingredient is a conscious decision and everything has been carefully sourced from the best regions in Italy.
Via Veneto took us on a voyage to Italy and back in one night.
3009 Main Street