>> Sunday, August 14, 2011

Atlas Park Mall
80-60 Cooper Avenue
Glendale, NY 11385
(718) 326-1200

As I once up a time may have mentioned, Atlas Park needs customers. There needs to be some sort of a draw. In my line of thinking, such a draw could be its dining options. Venezia is the newest of these options and the latest restaurant to occupy the central green space by what used to be the fountain. The central area is both a blessing and a curse. First, the atmosphere of dining outside by the grass with the lights from the arches all around, is unmatched in the neighborhood. I love eating outside and the Forest Hills vicinity doesn't have nearly enough of it. But, come the rain and come winter, nobody wants to be outside, and the interior isn't too big.

Venezia is a quaint little Italian bistro serving up frills free comfort food. It's simple. It's cute. It won't win awards but it's far from bad... though they do have a penchant for excessively al-dente pastas (ie: undercooked), so if I were you, I'd suggest asking for them to boil those noodles a wee bit more. Service-wise, everyone was pleasant, but they're sloppy and tripping over each other. The left hand clearly doesn't know what the right hand is doing. At one point, Bro and I had three waiters ask to take our order.

I ate at Venezia twice recently. Once with Operagirl and once with Bro. Both times, we ordered the Fried Calamari. The first time, it was mediocre and doughy and salty. The second time it was impressive. The marinara sauce was very good and we asked for more of it. Operagirl ordered the Portobello Trifolato, a mushroom salad. She was impressed, especially since she only ordered it as a gag because "trifolato" doesn't mean anything in Italian.

For both of my meals, my entree was the Pappardelle Bolognese. What can I say? I like pappardelle. The meat sauce was perfectly fine, if not terribly inspiring, but, as I said, the pasta itself was undercooked. Five more minutes and it would have been al dente. Five less and it would have been in the box. And this was both times, so they need to update that recipe. Operagirl ordered the Penne Alla Vodka, which was more cooked, but they still should have let it sit in that water longer. She liked it, however. And despite a few hiccups, we left saying "actually, this place isn't bad!" When I went with Bro, he ordered the Chicken Francese, two chicken breasts in a sweet lemon pepper sauce with a side of sauteed vegetables and some potato. It's the kind of cafeteria-style Italian food that would make an Olive Garden line cook wince, but it was, I regret to admit, pretty tasty.

The food, by the way is super heavy and we never ordered desserts.

Operagirl and I split a pitcher of sangria and I recommend that you skip it. It was the weakest sangria I've ever had. Definitely not worth the $30-something it cost. The other cocktails that they serve are pretty good. Cutesy drinks, not the classic speakeasy types I typically get, but fun for when you're sitting outside at sunset.

Venezia, while not "expensive" isn't cheap. My meal with Operagirl (a pitcher of sangria, two appetizers, two entrees, tax and tip) cost over $100. My meal with Bro (a few drinks, a single appetizer, two entrees, tax and tip) cost $85.

So it's got a great atmosphere, not-too-bad grub, and it won't break the bank if you hold off on the booze. Is this enough to get people to go to Atlas Park? And can it inspire others to open up shop? Time will tell.


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