The menu is simple, though high-priced for the modest surroundings. A pair of appetizers accompanies a handful of salads and several pasta options. There are a few familiar, Southern Italian options such as a spicy amatriciana ($15.50) with bacon, fresh tomato marinara, and crushed red pepper. Bruschetta make up a large part of the menu: Ciabatta bread is sliced into narrow rectangles and topped with simple but fresh ingredients like mozzarella and tomato sauce, cured Italian ham and creamy marscapone cheese, or wild mushrooms and bacon.

Ultimately, La Cucina Veneziana is about tradition, a theme embodied by the pepata di cozzi ($11.90). More than a dozen and a half meaty mussels are steamed and tossed in a tangy marinara sauce brightened with chunks of fresh tomato, white wine, and butter. A touch of red pepper adds a pleasant hit of spice.

"That sauce was my father's, and for the first 23 years of my life, every Sunday morning at 11 a.m., I had to be home with [him] eating mussels," Cracco says. "At 43 years old, I'm still doing it, every Sunday, with my wife and daughter."

Addictive dishes burst with bright, rich flavors.
Addictive dishes burst with bright, rich flavors.

Details

La Cucina Veneziana, 3471 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale; 954-990-5435. Open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Pepata di cozzi $11.90

All'anitra $17.50

Penne with speck and Gorgonzola $16.80

Red snapper fillet $22Torta della nonna $5

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Cracco acknowledges his restaurant is one of hundreds of faceless Italian eateries strewn across Broward County, and if there is to be any hope of success, he says, he must develop a following of locals and break free of the rat race restaurants run during high and low tourism seasons.

"I go to each table to explain the menu," he says. "If you want something that's not on the menu and not on the [specials] board, I'll make it if I have the ingredients."

Like his specials, Cracco's house-made desserts are available in limited quantities. One night, the torta della nonna ($5) is lemon. A creamy layer of sweet-sour citrus custard sits inside a flaky butter crust. A dusting of powdered sugar adds a snowy allure to each slice without being overly sweet. Once every slice of the tart is gone, it's off the menu. The following night's diners may be offered a similar tart made with fresh berries, a strawberry bread pudding, or a semifreddo: a frozen mousse atop an amaretto cookie.

La Cucina Veneziana sets a high bar for Broward's Italian restaurants, but its secret is its unabashed simplicity. That wonderful duck ragout pasta? It's served on a plastic plate.

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4 comments
regina_agro
regina_agro

Horrible!  I started my order with a glass of Pinot Noir.  I should have known it was going to be terrible when the waitress questioned my choice.  She said, "Let me pour it for you first."  Needless to say, it tasted like bad red wine vinegar.  

Next was the anitpasti for two.  Sage cheese, goat cheese with lemon bits (lasted more like a torta della nonna then cheese)...the menu was lackluster. It was almost painful trying to pick a selection.  I decided I would just have one of their "famous bruschettas."  It was basically a pile of crap from a jar on top of a pre-made greasy crust.  Unedible!  

I sat there with this mess in front of me for more than fifteen minutes.  All the wait staff was so busy chasing their tails that no one even noticed.  The owner stood next to us talking about how wonderful his food is without noticing the two tables across from us who were complaining that they were waiting almost an hour for their food or the table that sat for almost twenty minutes that no one had greeted.  

My husband ordered the veal.  According to my husband, "it is the fattest veal I've ever had."  He said it tasted like "something someone's Italian grandmother who didn't know how to cook would have made."  My husband is Sicilian and grew up in a family of great cooks.  He said whoever cooked these meals should be "embarrassed."  I couldn't agree more!  

Finally, when someone came by we asked for the check and left.  There are so many better restaurants in Fort Lauderdale.  Don't waste your time or your money.

ednelson
ednelson

It's my second time there and I love the place. I shouldn't be so effusive with my praise because there are only a few tables and I don't want to get shut out.The review was spot on. It's a real delight to hear the chef, not a server, describe that night's creations. Fabio is fabulous!

Jason
Jason

What a pile of crap.

VickiS
VickiS

Thanks for the nice review of my favorite restaurant. I have been visiting Fabio weekly since he opened Panaretto on 17th Street, and followed him to his new location as soon as I heard he had moved.  What I love about La Cucina Veneziana is that I never order the same thing twice because every week there's a new temptation (although I do usually find a way to get the truffle cream with mushrooms added to my meal somehow) and the deserts and especially the coffee, are the best in town. I've never had anything on a paper plate though, so don't be disappointed if the beautiful presentation does not include plastic...

 
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