Like many people, I tend to frequent the same dining establishments over and over again, even though I am an adventurous eater. There’s something about walking into a place where everyone knows my name and I can run into dozens of people I know on any given night. Most of my usual haunts are located downtown. Recently, a friend encouraged me to branch out and try something new to me, The Venice. When I moved to Fort Wayne over 14 years ago, I worked west of town on Route 30 and drove past The Venice on Goshen Road twice a day, every day, for years, but I never stopped in. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when a group of friends and I decided to give it a try, and we were pleasantly surprised.
The building is unassuming and a bit run down on the outside. The inside follows suit. The décor hasn’t been updated in decades, but that adds to the charm. It features murals of Venice, Italy by local artist Jim McBride. The wooden paneling, red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and fake greenery remind me of the little pizzeria in my hometown. My hometown is small (less than 3,000 people), and the pizzeria was its only restaurant when I was growing up. After every high school football and basketball game the entire town would descend upon that place to celebrate a win or commiserate a loss. The Venice has that same feel: a place for families to gather to enjoy each other’s company and some good food.
The Venice has been around since 1948. The current owners, Pat and Judy Finley, have owned it since 1981, and they want visitors to know that it is nothing like a franchise experience. They are still using the original authentic Italian recipes, along with a few new ones, and everyone is welcome, including kids. On the evening we visited they had musical entertainment, and many people got up from their tables to dance. That’s my kind of place.
Here are a few of my favorites from the menu.
Antipasto Tray ($12.95) – Includes capicola, ham, genoa salami, spicy Italian cottage cheese, fresh vegetables and dip, olives, pickled vegetables, Italian cheeses, green onions, and pepperoncini. We ordered this to share at our table of four, and it was the perfect size for our group and a nice start to our dinner, giving us a small taste of each item on the plate. I especially like the cottage cheese, which was seasoned with Italian seasonings and had a bit of a kick.
Lasagna ($10.95) – Available three ways: with your choice of mozzarella or ricotta cheese; choice of meatballs, sausage or mushrooms; or with sausage and mushrooms. The portion size is huge, much more than the average person could consume in one sitting. Two of my friends ordered it and let me have a taste. The sauce is a little sweet, but not too sweet, and seasoned well. The cheeses are rich and savory, lending the perfect texture to the dish, as well.
Italian Fiesta Platter ($16.95) – A sampling of Italian entrees: mostaccioli, ravioli, veal Parmesan and a meatball. This dish is also huge; we had leftovers for days. Every item was prepared well, but the meatball was my favorite. About the size of a baseball, it was seasoned well and the texture was spot on.
Chicken Parmigiana ($14.95) – Breaded chicken baked with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. I sound like a broken record, but this dish is huge. The large chicken breast is lightly breaded and served with a heaping mound of mostaccioli noodles. It could use a bit more sauce, but the breading on the chicken was delicious. I’ve had Chicken Parmigiana at other establishments that are coated in a heavy and greasy breading and end up being really dry. This breading was like a cornmeal breading that you’d expect on a good piece of catfish. It was a nice complement to the juicy meat.
Famous Jo Jo ($6.95) – A sandwich featuring sausage, mozzarella, sweet peppers and special red sauce. This is a menu favorite, and our waitress raved about it. She was right. Like all other menu items, this is a heaping portion, and while it is a sandwich, it is impossible to pick up and eat, so get out your fork and knife. This sandwich alone is worth the visit. I will definitely be back for more.
The Venice offers carryout nightly. Weekly specials include: Thursday pizza night – 3 topping, 14 inch pizza for $11; Wednesday bucket of beers for $10; and Monday through Friday a lunch special that includes six sandwiches for $6 each.by Amber Foster
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Josh Johnson — Comedy at Calhoun Street Soups, Salads & Spirits, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., $10, (260) 456-7005
Vince Gill — Country at Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., $39.50-$79.50, 424-5665
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Community Orchestra — Mussorsky's Pictures at an Exhibition at Auer Performance Hall, Rhinehart Music Center, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
Open Mic Night — Variety at Checkerz Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 489-0286
Scratch N Sniff 2.0 w/1/4 Kit Kurt — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8 p.m., no cover, 432-8966
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Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Three Rivers Karaoke w/Rob — at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
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41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
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