Hostaria del Piccolo may not be new to you, but it's new to me, and has a new location on Rose Avenue in Venice, which is gone from restaurant wasteland to 5 hot spots within just a few years.
Hostaria is loud, but with high energy. It feels like a clubby, casual restaurant, if there is such a category in Venice. The wall near the bar and the large communal table has multiple TV screens where there were videos playing while we were there, and then a Laker game. OK, but then our waitress came by and spoke to us with a thick Italian accent, as did every other wait staff member. Confusing.
It was Saturday night, and the eve of St. Patrick's Day, so I tried not to understand. We sat at the "counter," which is different than the bar, but the only thing left when I tried for a reservation that morning, though the communal table and heated patio were also options. The counter looks into the very open kitchen and pizza oven which certainly kept us entertained and warm.
CA menus crack me up. I remember when the only symbols on a menu were peppers to talk about how spicy something was, or when dining in an old school establishment, you might find a star next to the family favorite. Menus now have a litany of symbols and words announcing diets that weren't even part of our vocabulary 5 years ago. That said, I do like to know if something's hand made and I also like to know where the food is from, but I suppose I'm blessed with a better constitution than some.
So we had to start with a thumbs up starter of grilled octopus, which was just fantastic. We raved about it to the next Italian who walked past us and she told us the octopus is boiled for 3 hours before it hits the grill to make it fabulously tender, but it also had an amazing smoky taste that was perfect with the well grilled zucchini and other spring vegetables.
We stayed with the thumbs up menu items with the handmade veal stuffed ravioli in a light butter sage sauce. While the flavors were all there, I just wished they had cooked it a bit longer as the beyond al dente texture distracted from the overall taste.
There was no taste lacking on the sautéed swiss chard with smoky pancetta and raisins. Divine.
I'm not a tiramisu fan. I like my booze in a glass so I convinced my dining partner to share the not so Italian dessert of apple streudel, and she later thanked me immensely for the choice, as it was quite the sleeper hit. The apples were spiced, well cooked, and enveloped in a warm, soft, crust that could hold up spoonfuls of the crème anglaise.
The place may not be the spot for a romantic meal, but it is a good place for a group that wants to get rowdy and have a nice rustic Italian meal. Or choose to belly up to the bar to watch the magic come together.