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Old Venice Restaurant: Don’t knock gnocchi

There’s a kind of purring contentment about this place.

Gnocchi - Cheese dumplings, sausage, and plenty of sauce.
Gnocchi - Cheese dumplings, sausage, and plenty of sauce.

Some bars just get it. They know who they are. They make you feel you know who you are.

I walk into this place on Cañon Street in Point Loma and I feel congeniality wrapping around me like a warm cloak. The space a cross between an elegant salon and a Cheers. Somehow, the name “Old Venice” fits. And the customers are not just oldies, but young arty types, mixed with people talking plumbing, electrics, franchise politics — at least here, tonight.

But I have to ask this gal Erin, because I notice they don’t do lunch: “Do you guys have a happy hour still, since covid hit?”

“Oh yes,” says Erin, “a good one if you’re hungry.”

Erin with my gnocchi, veggie soup, garlic bread, Bogle Cab.

Huh. Guess they had to drop lunch because, like everybody, they probably can’t get enough staff. Whatever, I’m glad they let HH survive. In times like these, such little gifts to us working stiffs mean a lot. So, where to settle in? I know they have cute patios outside, and this bar isn’t too big, but it is warm, and the cool outside has turned to a biting cold. Indoors is the scene to make. Specially as it looks like an interesting bunch hunched up there at the black marble bar.

I look around. This place is definitely classy. Some parts even have framed art on the walls and fluted columns. Makes you think of some Venetian aristocrat’s drawing room. So I haul up to the last empty bar stool and order a house red. Erin brings me a glass of Bogle Cabernet. Costs $9. Not sure if we’re talking a HH price. Could be, this being Point Loma and all. But hey, they subtract $3 on the check. So yes, HH $6!

Place

Old Venice

2910 Canon Street, San Diego

Erin also drops off a HH menu. Boy, not the cheapest, but certainly extensive. Right off, being cold and all, I order a bowl of veggie soup ($8. Cup would have been $6. Garlic bread‘s $1 extra. And this garlic bread! Crunchy, tender, a big golden stain of butter and garlic and green basil wiped into it. Deee-lish. The actual soup becomes secondary).

But now it’s a question of the main plate. Most expensive HH dish is the delicious-sounding stuffed shrimp in a Parmesan crust, $17. Shrimp and artichoke is $16, and steamed mussels go for $13. Of course, I could’ve just asked for more of that scrumbo garlic bread and called it a day at that. But tonight I’m determined to stuff myself like a cannoli. D’aaagh, lessee: Meatballs (or sausage) in marinara, with Parmesan cheese, $8; a garlic bulb with Brie cheese, $11; focaccia with pesto, mozzarella, and Parmesan, $14.

Another solid HH meal - meatballs, two for $8.

But I have already made up my mind. For the first time, I decide to give gnocchi a chance. I know this is crazy, but I don’t remember ever having had it, even once. I just know it as some kind of stuffed pasta. Think I thought it looked like a roll of tasteless carbs. But I find out that gnocchi got its name because it looks like a “knot” of wood. And that we can blame a particular Roman, Marcus Gavius Apicius, for inventing gnocchi, back in the 1st century AD. He created this mix of semolina, water, and milk, fried it, and seasoned it with honey and black pepper. “Gnocchi Romana” today is still pretty much exactly that same combination. Potato? I guess the potato stuffing came back to Europe with Columbus. When you think about it, these are really just mini-dumplings — very Italian, and yet quite Chinese, too.

There’s a kind of purring of contentment about this place. You know people love it here when Larry, a music teacher sitting across the table, tells you he has been coming in for 42 years. He’s eating the focaccia dish. And two seats up, Susan is singing the praises of the HH shrimp and artichoke. Her dinner buddy Gloria swears by the focaccia/pizza she got, and she should know: she teaches cooking herself.

The $1 garlic bread, a treasure of flavor and crispy tenderness.

This is about when bar guy Omar picks my gnocchi up from George the cook and gives it to Erin, who swings it over. My first gnocchi! The plate is stuffed with potato knots in a marinara sauce, topped with Parmesan and basil. Looks colorful, tasty. Costs $11. And I don’t know why, but I’m surprised at the potato-ness of the flavors. Oh, and of course: the whole Polish dumpling thing. That’s what these are! Pierogi.

Potato adds a lot of volume to each bite, and hey, cheesy! That Parmesan topping just seals the deliciosity. I mean, yes, it’s mild, in an Italian way. I miss a bit of bite, until I find the li’l jar of dried crushed peppers to shake out, and discover the herby sausage chunks that ended up under all the cheesy bundles. The veggie soup and the cabernet also make nice taste washes that help the gnocchi go down.

Next time, I’m a-coming back for their walnut gorgonzola salad. Something healthy! Or Magic Mushrooms - shrooms, snow crab, shrimp and provolone. A deal for $11. Or maybe I’ll dive into gnocchi again, as a tribute to the epicurean Roman who invented them, Marcus Gavius Apicius.

He would have appreciated this place.

  • The Place: Old Venice Restaurant, 2910 Cañon Street, Point Loma, 619-222-5888
  • Hours: 4-8:30pm daily (till 9:30pm Friday, Saturday)
  • Happy Hour Prices: Potato gnocchi, $11; Brussels sprouts, $10; meatballs or sausage, $8; Caprese salad, $11; daily soup $6 (cup), $8 (bowl); steamed mussels, $13; baked artichoke $12; garlic bulb and Brie, ($11); magic mushroom (snow crab, shrimp), $11; caprese salad, $11; walnut gorgonzola salad, $12; focaccia, $14; roast leg of lamb (Wednesdays only) $18.95;
  • Buses: 28, 84
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Rosecrans and Cañon Streets (28, 84, northbound); Cañon and Evergreen (84 southbound)
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Gnocchi - Cheese dumplings, sausage, and plenty of sauce.
Gnocchi - Cheese dumplings, sausage, and plenty of sauce.

Some bars just get it. They know who they are. They make you feel you know who you are.

I walk into this place on Cañon Street in Point Loma and I feel congeniality wrapping around me like a warm cloak. The space a cross between an elegant salon and a Cheers. Somehow, the name “Old Venice” fits. And the customers are not just oldies, but young arty types, mixed with people talking plumbing, electrics, franchise politics — at least here, tonight.

But I have to ask this gal Erin, because I notice they don’t do lunch: “Do you guys have a happy hour still, since covid hit?”

“Oh yes,” says Erin, “a good one if you’re hungry.”

Erin with my gnocchi, veggie soup, garlic bread, Bogle Cab.

Huh. Guess they had to drop lunch because, like everybody, they probably can’t get enough staff. Whatever, I’m glad they let HH survive. In times like these, such little gifts to us working stiffs mean a lot. So, where to settle in? I know they have cute patios outside, and this bar isn’t too big, but it is warm, and the cool outside has turned to a biting cold. Indoors is the scene to make. Specially as it looks like an interesting bunch hunched up there at the black marble bar.

I look around. This place is definitely classy. Some parts even have framed art on the walls and fluted columns. Makes you think of some Venetian aristocrat’s drawing room. So I haul up to the last empty bar stool and order a house red. Erin brings me a glass of Bogle Cabernet. Costs $9. Not sure if we’re talking a HH price. Could be, this being Point Loma and all. But hey, they subtract $3 on the check. So yes, HH $6!

Place

Old Venice

2910 Canon Street, San Diego

Erin also drops off a HH menu. Boy, not the cheapest, but certainly extensive. Right off, being cold and all, I order a bowl of veggie soup ($8. Cup would have been $6. Garlic bread‘s $1 extra. And this garlic bread! Crunchy, tender, a big golden stain of butter and garlic and green basil wiped into it. Deee-lish. The actual soup becomes secondary).

But now it’s a question of the main plate. Most expensive HH dish is the delicious-sounding stuffed shrimp in a Parmesan crust, $17. Shrimp and artichoke is $16, and steamed mussels go for $13. Of course, I could’ve just asked for more of that scrumbo garlic bread and called it a day at that. But tonight I’m determined to stuff myself like a cannoli. D’aaagh, lessee: Meatballs (or sausage) in marinara, with Parmesan cheese, $8; a garlic bulb with Brie cheese, $11; focaccia with pesto, mozzarella, and Parmesan, $14.

Another solid HH meal - meatballs, two for $8.

But I have already made up my mind. For the first time, I decide to give gnocchi a chance. I know this is crazy, but I don’t remember ever having had it, even once. I just know it as some kind of stuffed pasta. Think I thought it looked like a roll of tasteless carbs. But I find out that gnocchi got its name because it looks like a “knot” of wood. And that we can blame a particular Roman, Marcus Gavius Apicius, for inventing gnocchi, back in the 1st century AD. He created this mix of semolina, water, and milk, fried it, and seasoned it with honey and black pepper. “Gnocchi Romana” today is still pretty much exactly that same combination. Potato? I guess the potato stuffing came back to Europe with Columbus. When you think about it, these are really just mini-dumplings — very Italian, and yet quite Chinese, too.

There’s a kind of purring of contentment about this place. You know people love it here when Larry, a music teacher sitting across the table, tells you he has been coming in for 42 years. He’s eating the focaccia dish. And two seats up, Susan is singing the praises of the HH shrimp and artichoke. Her dinner buddy Gloria swears by the focaccia/pizza she got, and she should know: she teaches cooking herself.

The $1 garlic bread, a treasure of flavor and crispy tenderness.

This is about when bar guy Omar picks my gnocchi up from George the cook and gives it to Erin, who swings it over. My first gnocchi! The plate is stuffed with potato knots in a marinara sauce, topped with Parmesan and basil. Looks colorful, tasty. Costs $11. And I don’t know why, but I’m surprised at the potato-ness of the flavors. Oh, and of course: the whole Polish dumpling thing. That’s what these are! Pierogi.

Potato adds a lot of volume to each bite, and hey, cheesy! That Parmesan topping just seals the deliciosity. I mean, yes, it’s mild, in an Italian way. I miss a bit of bite, until I find the li’l jar of dried crushed peppers to shake out, and discover the herby sausage chunks that ended up under all the cheesy bundles. The veggie soup and the cabernet also make nice taste washes that help the gnocchi go down.

Next time, I’m a-coming back for their walnut gorgonzola salad. Something healthy! Or Magic Mushrooms - shrooms, snow crab, shrimp and provolone. A deal for $11. Or maybe I’ll dive into gnocchi again, as a tribute to the epicurean Roman who invented them, Marcus Gavius Apicius.

He would have appreciated this place.

  • The Place: Old Venice Restaurant, 2910 Cañon Street, Point Loma, 619-222-5888
  • Hours: 4-8:30pm daily (till 9:30pm Friday, Saturday)
  • Happy Hour Prices: Potato gnocchi, $11; Brussels sprouts, $10; meatballs or sausage, $8; Caprese salad, $11; daily soup $6 (cup), $8 (bowl); steamed mussels, $13; baked artichoke $12; garlic bulb and Brie, ($11); magic mushroom (snow crab, shrimp), $11; caprese salad, $11; walnut gorgonzola salad, $12; focaccia, $14; roast leg of lamb (Wednesdays only) $18.95;
  • Buses: 28, 84
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Rosecrans and Cañon Streets (28, 84, northbound); Cañon and Evergreen (84 southbound)
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