Homemade pasta and a flair for the less-familiar cuisine of Coastal Northern Italy are the hallmarks of this unassuming and friendly Trattoria located on a quiet, tree-lined street near Old Town Pasadena. Diners are treated to delicacies such as fresh fish, venison medallions, stewed tripe, and whipped salted cod as well as more traditional fare of assorted fresh pastas. The small restaurant (17 tables in all) has a comforting feel, with cozy banquettes, sound-absorbing carpeted floors, white walls, and white linens. With ample space between the tables, it doesn't feel cramped. Servers are knowledgeable and friendly.Read More ...
Trattoria Tre Venezie is a small restaurant specializing in the less-familiar northern Italian cuisine from the coastal area surrounding Venice, Italy. The restaurant, tucked away near the end of Green Street in Pasadena, where over-grown ficus trees shade the sidewalks and street, offers a cozy atmosphere seemingly far-removed from the boisterous Old-Town Pasadena strip just a few blocks away.
When you find the entrance to the restaurant—located at the side of the building just past the few outside tables—you’ll feel as if you have walked into someone’s living room. The restaurant is divided visually into two rooms by a bar and hostess stand. The smaller front room, holding about five tables, has a large picture window with a view of the afore-mentioned street. The main dining room—with about twelve tables—has a small wall of banquettes with patterned upholstery in muted colors, bookshelves filled with books, and what appear to be family photos. The art that hangs on the white walls is unobtrusive and the decor melts into the subconscious of the evening. This is a restaurant that wants the food to be center stage. The carpeted floor helps keep the noise level down so one can enjoy conversation as well as dinner.
Chef Gianfranco Minuz and his wife are a hands-on team and prepare most of the dishes themselves, including fresh pasta and gnocchi daily. The menu, written in Italian with English subtitles, is an education in itself. There are substantial explanations about the food and its origins and customs surrounding its traditions.
We were seated promptly. The tables had crisp, real linen tablecloths that were clean and luxurious. Our server was friendly and his Italian-accented English was very good. He knew the menu thoroughly and in my moment of indecision about the wine selection he helpfully offered a taste of one of the wines, "to be sure." There were many good wines from which to choose including many by the glass, half carafe, full carafe, or bottle. In addition, the menu noted how many glasses of wine are in each offering. We opted for the half carafe (3 glasses) to split. Our waiter deftly poured our wine for us table-side, a nice touch. The bread, arriving promptly after our drink order was taken, was accompanied by creamy butter that was the perfect spreading temperature.
There were six appetizer selections on the menu, including green salads, vegetable salads, and whipped salted cod served with grilled polenta. We asked to split the Insalata di Mele e Sedano: mizuna greens, finely diced apple, and celery sprinkled with lemon juice, tossed with house-made Pestolato (blue) cheese and drizzled with "biodynamic extra-virgin olive oil." Our waiter apologetically explained that there was a three dollar charge for any split plate, even for a salad when guests were ordering individual entrees. So he suggested he bring two extra plates and we split it ourselves, which we did. The salad was a little difficult to eat since mizuna is a thin, very leafy green that is hard to fork, but it had a clean taste of lemon, tart apples, and rich bleu cheese. The olive oil imparted little flavor but added some richness.
As is tradition in Italy, dinner at Trattoria Tre Venezie is offered in several courses. After the appetizer, or Antipasti, a first, or Primi Piatti, course of pasta is served. Tre Venizie has seven first-course options which are, with a nod to American eating preferences, also available as an entree for a few dollars more. There are the familiar Italian dishes such as risotto, pappardelle, tortellini, and spaghetti, but with a twist: many are prepared with unusual grains and uniquely paired with vegetables and liqueurs, which set the menu apart. Think organic kamut flour with braised lentils, savoy cabbage, and Speck IGP; or pappardelle made with farro flour, served with braised rabbit and french tarragon.
The second course, or Secondi Piatti, offered six selections, including boiled meat selections of pork sausage, veal cheek, and Angus beef; Pork chop with gorgonzola-pear sauce; and Venison with red wine reduction sauce. Ultimately we opted for the Halibut with white wine, celery, and butter sauce. Our other selection was from the first course menu: the entrée-size portion of the "first course" ravioli.
The pasta arrived, eight beige ravioli in all, artfully arranged in two rows on an oblong, white platter. They were dressed with a light drizzle of olive oil and some Parmesan cheese. The pasta was as promised, cooked to al dente with a bite only freshly made pasta can deliver. The filling was a rich, rustic blend of squash, spinach, and cheese. The halibut was about six ounces of succulent, moist fish atop a delicate buttery sauce that let the fresh ocean taste of the mild halibut come through. It was served a la carte with nothing but the fish and sauce, which was enough, owing to the richness of the fish.
We chose our dessert from the six selections. A menu of cream puffs, Italian meringue, custard ice cream, and an obligatory chocolate offering each promised something out-of-the-ordinary. Cream puffs with Marsala wine-cream filling; Italian meringue with citrus, raisins, and pine nuts; and chocolate with chestnuts are a few of the creative combinations Chef Minuz offers. The most intriguing option was Presnitz: the house-specialty dessert made from a ground fruit and nut mixture rolled into a thin, oblong shape similar to but more compact than strudel. The Presnitz was encased in a thin shell of crisp dough. Served in three meatloaf-style slices, the not-too-sweet dessert was presented with a shot glass of grappa—to pour over the cake. We tried it sans-grappa first. The taste was of a moist fruit mixture studded with small pieces of walnuts and pecans. It had a clean finish of tart orange zest flavor. The consistency was dense and rich. We tried it with the grappa, although felt this overwhelmed all the other flavors except the orange.
The portions for all the courses were a bit on the small side, which is fine for light eaters, but might not be if you have a big appetite. Dinner for two with wine, gratuity and valet parking was $157.00.
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