A taste of Italy…and Japan

Boston’s North End is known as the city’s Little Italy. More than 100 restaurants in the area offer hearty cuisines, mouth-watering pastries and rich espresso blends. A night out in the North End often leaves area college students with empty pockets, but filled stomachs.

The restaurant offers a friendly and casual atmosphere.

Piccola Venezia, located at 263 Hanover St., offers traditional Italian dishes in a casual atmosphere. With separate lunch, dinner and takeout menus offered each day of the week, diners can find a range of Italian cuisines. It offers every imaginable traditional Italian and seafood dish at an affordable price.

I visited Piccola Venezia for the first time on Saturday. My dad came to Boston to spend the day with me, so we decided to eat lunch in the North End. Piccola Venezia is just a block down the street from the intersection of Hanover and Cross streets. It took us less than five minutes to walk to the restaurant from the Haymarket MBTA station.

The traditional Italian dishes are both affordable and enjoyable.

The restaurant was casual but sophisticated. When we walked in, I noticed some diners sipping on glasses of red wine, while other customers sat contently with glasses of water. We arrived at the establishment just before 1:00 p.m., and were seated in a booth immediately. Before I had the chance to sit down, our waiter brought us hot, fresh Italian bread. Without hesitation, I poured oil onto a plate and sprinkled salt and hot pepper on top. Nothing makes me happier than dipping warm bread in oil. My dad ordered a Diet Coke and I ordered an unsweetened iced tea.

The lunch menu contained two pages of options – soups and salads, hot appetizers, side dishes, sandwiches and luncheon specialties. The back page of the menu contained coffee and dessert choices. Piccola Venezia offers every kind of Italian dish I could think of, including gnocchi, lobster ravioli, fettuccine alfredo, sausage cacciatore, veal Marsala and veal, chicken and eggplant “parmigiana.” Although it was a tough decision between the gnocchi and various kinds of parmigiana dishes, I can never refrain from ordering chicken parmigiana at an Italian restaurant. My dad ordered the veal parmigiana.

The waiter delivered our meals within 10 minutes from when we placed our orders. We were grateful because we were hungry, but other people might not enjoy the unusually fast service. Regardless, my dad and I enjoyed our meals. Both dishes contained hearty portions, but not so overwhelming that we couldn’t finish. The chicken parmigiana wasn’t the best meal I have ever had, but it fulfilled my Italian craving. I would have liked to taste more zesty flavors in the marinara sauce. The meal was more than I normally eat for lunch, but I also didn’t leave thinking I couldn’t eat for another 24 hours.

A hearty lunch portion of chicken parmigiana.

The one downfall to the service was the waiter not returning to our table after we tasted our meals. But neither of us had a problem with the food, so we were content.

The outcome.

After drinking a free refill of Diet Coke, my dad paid our bill – $24.50, plus a $5.00 tip. A two-person lunch in the North End for less than $30. Not bad! I hope to return with college friends because I trust the other dishes are as delicious as the chicken parmigiana.

In addition to eating at Piccolo Venezia this weekend, I tried sushi on Sunday at the Ebisuya Japanese Market, located at 65 Riverside Ave. in Medford, Mass. I posted updates to my Twitter account about the food at both Piccolo Venezia and Ebisuya. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my tweets about Piccola Venezia. But, how enthusiastic can a journalist be when describing traditional Italian food when she is limited to 140 characters per tweet?

A “sushi bar” occupies one side of the market. Needless to say, the menu offers various sushi and roll choices, including tuna, salmon, squid, octopus, eel, shrimp, avocado, cucumber and spicy tuna. I don’t crave sushi on a regular basis, but I don’t mind eating it once in awhile. The only downfall holding me back from completely enjoying the $2.00 tuna sushi was the strong stench of fish lingering in the air. I kind of wanted to gag.

After tweeting about my experiences at Piccola Venezia and Ebisuya, I realize Twitter is addicting. Since users are limited to only 140 characters per tweet, I am tempted to post several times about the same thought. More than once I received a text from Twitter saying I had gone over the maximum character use. It was frustrating at times because I had difficulty communicating my thoughts in such a limited platform. Since I am used to writing longer news stories, I thought the quality of my tweets wasn’t sufficient. Also, I obsessed with grammar and capitalization, which I’m not sure are necessary for tweets, especially if a reporter is in a breaking news setting.

On a positive note, my cell phone became my notepad. Whenever I had a thought, I simply typed it into my phone, texted it to Twitter and moved on to my next observation. Though my tweets weren’t from a breaking news event, I understand Twitter’s value to convey news as it is happening.

I accomplished tweeting from my “ancient” cell phone (an LG enV Touch), a task I thought would be impossible since I don’t own an iPhone or Droid. I was disappointed I couldn’t upload photographs or post links to Twitter, but I compensated by using my Nikon camera.

Last inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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