Friday, July 07, 2006

Old Venice

RJA took his crew to Old Venice, a restaurant that was suggested to me by a coworker who read an article that said it was "family friendly." Warren and I actually tried to eat there, but once we peered in the window and saw the extreme fanciness, we put the monkeys back in their carseats and drove away as fast as we could. I was glad to see that RJA also hesitated when he saw the interior, but as you will see, he is braver than me. (Probably because his kids are a lot better behaved than the monkeys.)

I'd also like to add that RJA's sister (a.k.a. Moxie Dynamite") is on my Roller Derby team and missed their regularly scheduled family dinner at home due to a meeting I scheduled. It was a win-win situation for me since I got to hang with RJA's cool sister and get a restaurant review!

Without further ado, here it is:

Old Venice
368 Perkins Ext.

Every Thursday night, for many years now, has been dinner night with my sister and her husband. We all look forward to it, especially The Quartet, but sometimes they cancel on us, as they did tonight. I suggested we go out somewhere and Kristy offered up Dino’s Southwestern Grill, where we’ve been eating for about 15 years. The kids love Dino’s and were very excited, none more than JP, who doesn’t even really like food. After 15 years of eating at the same place you’d think we’d remember that they close the week of July 4th for vacation, EVERY year. We drove by, saw the closed sign, and just kept on going. We had talked about going to Davis-Kidd Booksellers after dinner, so I suggested Old Venice, which is across the street. This was all very last minute for the kids, but the promise of pizza soothed their apprehension and we drove way out to East Memphis.

Imagine the horror on my face when we walked into this place we’d never been before only to see white tablecloths. The pre-teen girls working as hostesses had the same look of horror on their faces as if to say, “Why have you brought these four little people into our restaurant to eat off of our pristine, white tablecloths?” On the way to our table I scanned the room for any sign of casualness, relieved finally to see people in T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops and even baseball caps. Apparently this place was more casual than was first threatened. We were seated in a far back corner at a round table that wouldn’t fit in our kitchen even if we took the leaf out, assuming there was a leaf under the pristine, white tablecloth. With the kids sitting across the table, we had to shout to be heard, which we would have done anyway just out of habit. Several things happened all at once after being seated: First, we noticed how very cold it was in the restaurant. That is, the kids noticed, and let us know many times just how cold it was. C and JP sat in their seats with their bare legs pulled up into their T-shirts. S just sat there saying, “It’s cold. It’s cold. It’s cold.” Kristy suggested asking to be moved to a table on the patio – the intimate, quiet patio – but I really don’t like moving once seated. I don’t want other diners thinking we’re the pain-in-the-ass table, no matter how true it may be. After S’s medley of It’s colds, she started in with “What can I eat? What can I eat? What can I eat?” while Kristy and I tackled the extensive menu to find just what we could all eat. The other thing that happened just after being seated was I noticed a table across the room with kids as well, and then one of these kids fell out of his chair and the chair fell over, and I was happy to see it. I don’t want to see any child hurt, and he didn’t seem to be, but I wanted to shout, “My kid didn’t fall out of a chair! My kids are all still in their seats! It wasn’t mine!”

I ordered the Shrimp Pesto Calzone, Kristy had the personal Mona Lisa Pizza, JP and C had a cheese pizza and S had chicken fingers and fries. While we waited on the food to arrive the kids discovered crayons and commenced drawing on the pristine, white tablecloth that, thankfully, was covered with a giant sheet of butcher paper. C drew a particularly gory picture of one dinosaur eating the head off another, which put us in the mood for marinara. Then the food came. I thought the calzone was just okay, Kristy was unimpressed with her pizza, C and JP eat pizza six nights a week anyway, and S never had any intention of eating her dinner. As the food was placed on the table S announced she had to pee and, once she and Kristy left the table, GK woke up in her nightly foul mood. The kids finished their food in record time and implored us to leave. S decided that, instead of waiting for us to finish at the table, it would be better for her to wait three feet away, where she stood, waiting. JP, wielding silverware like a samurai, stood up on his chair until he was reminded that we were not at a playground. C hacked at his pizza with a spatula like Norman Bates. Then we left, and as I’ve written this I wished I’d taken notes, because it is that much of an unmemorable restaurant.

Eating at Old Venice was completely unplanned and, while I don’t mind being spontaneous in the least, I wasn’t prepared to spend as much as we ended up spending. And while I was in the mood for Dino’s spaghetti and ravioli, I was not in the mood for a calzone. Another unexpected event was when the woman who had been sitting at the table next to us went to leave but stopped first to tell us that our children were adorable and that she and her party had enjoyed watching them because they were so good. I had noticed her husband when we’d first been seated and how he kept stealing glances at the kids. I, paranoid, took it to mean he disapproved of us interrupting his white tablecloth, East Memphis dinner, and I was ready to put my fork in his eyeball if he kept staring at us. I guess I was wrong. Who knew?

Old Venice on Urbanspoon


Stephanie said...

If a white tablecloth is covered with butcher paper and a tub of crayons comes standard, it's not a fancy place! (Come to think of it, East Memphis restaurants often come with crayons.)

Anyway, we've taken our monkey there a couple of times, but apparently pepperoni pizza just isn't the same if it wasn't originally frozen in a box in our freezer. However, I am obsessed with their pesto pizza, so we still get pizzas to go sometimes. Unfortunatly the last time we did this, instead of charging the $2.98 tip we left, they charged us $298. An honest mistake, and they fixed it, but it would be fair to say we're not rushing back.

Anonymous said...

That place confuses me so much. You can't hang Murano glass light fixtures 18" above the table and cover every surface with white linen and then throw out the butcher paper and crayons and call yourself "family-friendly."

We went once. Eh.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, my pizza had spinach on it, but it was not the kind of spinach you want on pizza. It was like a side of spinach at The Cupboard, know what I mean? Once I scraped some of it off, the pizza wasn't terrible, but not impressive either. The menu was a little overwhelming, and the cajun stuff thrown in confused me. I'm kind of a purist when it comes to Italian food. Why would a place called Old Venice have a bunch of quasi-cajun stuff? Weird.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, I LOVE Old Venice! It's probably because I'm not that hip to authentic italian food. The Zorba the Greek pasta and the rajun cajun pizza are really, really good.

The servers have been a bit frosty when I've eaten there, though.

Anonymous said...

I know this will upset those who really love authentic italian, but the four cheese pizza is addictive at Old Venice. One of the cheeses is cream cheese and it is a bit like a drug.

Those eating at Old Venice should not be confused with the white tablecloths and fancy light fixtures. I went to Ole Miss where I believe Old Venice started.. and the menu was created to serve drunken college students! Its decent food that is made even better by a few drinks!

Cynthia said...

We LOVE Old Venice. My family including my 2 year old son has been going there for years. Okay he has been going there for 2 years but you get my point. We love the salads, te pizza the pasta and most importantly my son loves their chicken tenders. We have found their servers to be very kind to my son. They use to have a toy box behind the hostess stand. It is a great upper end family resturant. Please try Old Venice I believe you will enjoy it.

caliCORKication said...

I went to Old Venice with a friend last night. It was my first time and his fifth or so. We waited 30 minutes to get a table. Because the cold kept in the waiting parties, it was a very crowded atmosphere from the door to the bar. So I assumed it had to be good.

We ordered the Trio appetizer of mozzarella sticks, crawfish roll, and dynamite shrimp. All were very tasty while not quite Italian. I ordered the Veal Piccata with the side dish of steamed asparagus. The veal dish was excellent and authentic. The asparagus was 5 crisp and fresh tasting, yet not fresh looking, long spears and they tasted great as well.

My friend ordered Chicken Parmesan and said it was really good but he really liked the slice of veal I gave him. Server was great and I would go back again.

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