Are you wondering what Nellapanza is? I’ll tell you…it is a refreshing Italian salad consisting of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, black olives, basil, croutons, and red wine vinaigrette. I’m not sure if all Italian restaurants serve this special salad this beautifully, but I was very surprised when our server placed it in front of me. Let me back up a bit. I was tasked with choosing a restaurant for a small group of friends before we headed to a Social Media event in Venice. There are so many choices in Venice these days, especially on Rose Avenue. My idea was to choose a place where we could park once for both events. Those of you who know Venice, know that parking is a premium on those small streets. I decided on Hostaria del Piccolo. Years ago I dined at the Santa Monica location when they first opened, but wanted to give the Venice location a try. Plus my friend Nancy, when given a few options, enthusiastically voted for Italian.
The Happy Hour menu was inviting, but we wanted to get comfy at one of their big wooden tables in the main dining room to be able to hear each other talk, so we will save the Hostaria del Piccolo Happy Hour for another visit. We shared a few appetizers, starting with mushrooms atop grilled ricotta cheese, followed by potatoes and cheese over a round of fried polenta. Nancy and Susan ordered pasta and Maleya and I opted for salads. The one that jumped out at me was called Nellapanza. As our server walked towards our table with our plates, I thought perhaps he was bringing us a plate of fruit. When he placed it in front of me I realized it was my salad! It tasted just as pretty as it looked. So fresh and very Italian with the combination of ingredients as mentioned above. This dish gets credit for both its presentation and its flavor. In fact, Hostaria del Piccolo’s mantra is “eat less, taste more” which perfectly sums it up. In case you are wondering, Hostaria del Piccolo means Tavern of the Flute to the best of my translation abilities. I’m not exactly sure what that means for the restaurant-we didn’t see or hear any flutes-but I do know that Nellapanza salad is my best bite of the week!
By Trish Procetto