Enoteca San Marco
Venetian (last visit: May 2008).
This is the less formal of Mario Batali's restaurants located in The Venetian (the more formal is B&B Ristorante). Both lunch and dinner are served.
Full meals are available, but the emphasis is on antipasti: cured meats, bits of seafood, vegetables, cheeses, and more. Wine is featured, not only by the glass but by the quartino (just over 8 ounces). There are a number of desserts, with most involving gelato in one way or another.
Located in the Venetian's shopping arcade, in the Piazza San Marco section, Enoteca consists of a food bar and a number of small tables, all in the pseudo open air of the arcade. There may tables inside, but I never checked. Because of the arcade, there's a fair amount of background noise. It's usually not horribly loud - until performers in the plaza start belting out some old chestnut.
Service is casual and generally OK, but one time it was slow: slow to be greeted and offered a table (there was no hostess); slow to get a menu; slow to take my order; slow to get my bill.
OK, not exactly a meal. I stopped by just for its gelato, about which I had read good things. I chose three flavors:
Memory can be a tricky thing, but I can't recall ever having had better gelato. Better ice cream once or twice, but never better gelato.
- Salted caramel. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? Maybe so, but it was great - by far my favorite flavor. The salt crystals added both crunch and flavor. If you order this, don't let it sit around too long, as the salt will dissolve when the ice cream starts to melt. However, even when the salt has dissolved, it's still very, very good.
- Espresso. It wasn't too sweet, but the coffee flavor could have been a little stronger. Still, very good.
- Pistachio. Made with two kinds of pistachio nuts: American pistachios were used in the base, with Italian pistachios sprinkled on top. The gelato had a strong nut flavor, with just a hint of peanut butter (odd but good). The pistachios on top were especially good.
I selected four antipasti as my meal:
Accompanying all this were some bread sticks - good to eat while waiting for the food - and some crusty bread - just right with the antipasti.
- Finocchiona. Dried sausage flavored with fennel and black peppercorns. Served as very thin slices about one and one half inches in diameter. The flavor was strong if eaten on its own, but was very good when eaten with the vegetables I ordered.
- Prosciutto. Fatty dried pork leg. I enjoyed this a lot, especially since it wasn't nearly as salty as I feared it might be.
- Cauliflower Sicilian. Marinated cauliflower with black olives. Fairly bland, but a good foil to the cured meats.
- Roasted Eggplant and Peppers. Blackened and marinated. I like eggplant prepared this way. I love peppers prepared this way.
I even managed to find room for dessert: a Pick Me Up. It consisted of espresso gelato, mascarpone, chocolate sauce and crunchies.
The gelato was again excellent.
Another gelato-only stop. A major disappointment: salted caramel wasn't available. Cheesecake gelato had good texture, and the flavor was indeed reminiscent of cheesecake. However, it was a bit bland. Torrone wasn't as creamy as it could be, and also was bland. Neither flavor was bad, but they didn't live up to my expectations.
I liked my meal at Enoteca. I loved their gelato twice, but the last time wasn't as good. Still, I plan to give it another try.
My meal was $40, plus drinks, tax and tip. When I stopped just for dessert, gelato was $9, plus $9 for a glass of dessert wine.
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