For a long time, the only thing that explained the popularity of Venezia to me was the well-known favoritism Orleanians have for bare-bones, well-worn joints. Hurricane Katrina, however, put so much long-standing water into Venezia that a total renovation was required for it to reopen. This they did, but without changing the look of either the interior or exterior one bit. It's as if the flood never happened.
But something else happened, as inexplicable as it was gratifying. The food became much, much better. While they say that everything's exactly the same as it was before the storm, the witness of my palate says otherwise. The murky, overly rich or sweet, enormous piles of overcooked New Orleans-style Italian food has come to the brink of being polished. Everything tastes brighter, fresher, and more exciting. Meanwhile, if there's been any downsizing of the portions (which, frankly, would be welcome), I haven't seen it. Amazing!
Venezia opened in 1957, at a time when New Orleans Italian cooking had evolved far from its roots, even though everybody swore this was the way it was all cooked in Sicily when they emigrated seventy years earlier. It was also a time when pizza was catching on across America. Venezia was one of New Orleans' first vendors of pizza, and the habit stuck. The restaurant took very deep water after Katrina, but opened a second location in Old Jefferson (now gone) while rebuilding. The old place needed a renovation anyway.
One big room with miscellaneous Italian travel posters on the walls. The kitchen is semi-open, enough so you can monitor the pizza ovens as you wait patiently for yours. The service staff--the best members of which are women who have been at it for a long time--has a style all its own, and wishes you would listen to them.
The list of specials has provided the best food lately, particularly in the seafood department. Even though the entree will be big enough to serve as the entire meal and then some, you might want to get a salad or the great fried eggplant. Either is big enough to split at least two ways.