CLIFTON PARK — Get dinner to go, or dine in for a very good casual Italian meal at Venezia Pizza & Pasta, a fixture in Clifton Park.
It’s been in Plank Road Plaza almost 30 years, venerable for any business, a record for a restaurant. That alone tells you that they are doing something right. It’s not fancy, but the important thing is that the food is very good.
The decor is simple, formica tables with red bench seats, linoleum floor, brown drop ceiling and pine wainscoting brightened up by yellow painted walls with some Italian accent pieces. It’s double-sized, a main dining area and another, almost as large, with wood tables and chairs and, proudly, a wall of sponsor’s photos and plaques from many local kids’ sports teams.
Order at the high counter, which dominates the front of the restaurant, unless you want table service. It’s not a glass pizza showcase-counter, it’s all business, with large menus and specials listed behind on the wall.
The clientele was mixed: families with small kids, couples, singles at tables, folks dressed in work clothes who showed up to pick up fragrant carrier bags to go. I joined this last group, bringing home my own bag for dinner.
Prices are family-friendly and there are daily specials that are even better. A large pizza is $13.95, $1.95 a slice. Pasta dishes like spaghetti, baked ziti, stuffed shells and manicotti are under $10. Chicken Parmesan is $12.95; the most expensive item is veal Parm, at $13.49. Specials come with pasta, all come with salad, bread and butter. Add 50 cents for the to-go charge.
Get a bucket of ziti or spaghetti with sausage or homemade meatballs: $18.49 serves 4, $21.49 serves 6.
Sounds like dinner for the family when everybody’s busy.
And, I can tell you, everything we had was good. Just check your order before you leave: The very nice server made three mistakes on mine, most crucially by omitting the slice of plain cheese pizza I dearly wanted to examine — and eat.
As I sat and waited for my order, a mile-high plate of antipasto went by, as did a paper-lined plastic basket of bread and a gorgeous round cheese pizza, flat as a pancake and just how I like it. It all looked delicious.
When I got home, I unpacked and set the table, and realized the slice, which I had been charged for, was missing. Husband Eric was grouchy about it, until he saw his dinner. Then he completely forgot.
“This is the hit of the night,” Eric said, digging into his lasagna ($10.49), which truly did look amazing. “Is that one serving?” he asked, just to make sure, looking at two big pieces side by side. “The heavy covering of melted mozzarella is great,” he added.
I tried some myself. Layers of pasta were filled with ricotta and some ground beef and onions, with enough sauce and that blanket of cheese, melted over the top, running down the sides and pooling in the sauce. We both liked it very much and would get it again, to share.
The side salad packed in styrofoam was OK, iceberg lettuce with one grape tomato, a black olive, a green olive and hoops of red onion sliced thin. Eric thought the Italian dressing could have had a bit more oomph, but enjoyed the bread with whipped butter, provided in packets. “It tasted like a sub roll,” Eric said of the bread, “not in a bad way.
My chicken Parm hot sub ($7.99), recommended by the otherwise forgetful employee, was great. Thank you, Venezia, for turning away from deep-fried chicken tenders. This sub was made from breaded chicken cutlets, cut into strips. They tasted like they’d been fried, with good oil, and there was just enough sauce, not enough to soak the roll, which held up admirably anyway.
The leftover half was even better the next day after reheating, the chicken stayed moist and the roll got nice and crunchy. And the mozzarella obligingly melted again, beautifully.
Venezia gets serious points for their mozzarella cheese. It’s creamy and it stays melty for a long time.
Husband Eric enjoyed a cannoli ($2.99), which Venezia fills to order, and cleaned the smeared filling in the take-out container with a finger. He liked the crunchy shell and sweet filling with the requisite mini chocolate chips. It was gone before I had a chance to try it.
The tab for our dinner, with one soda, came to $26.83.
I’ll be back for that slice, which has been promised to me, along with more attention to accuracy, when I return for another order of lasagna. And a cannoli. Or two.
Venezia Pizza & Pasta Restaurant
WHERE: 629 Plank Road, Plank Road Plaza, Clifton Park, 518-371-3943, veneziapizzaandpasta.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m seven days a week
HOW MUCH: $26.83, including one soda
MORE INFO: Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Parking lot. ADA compliant.