Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Caniglia's Venice Inn

Restaurant: Caniglia's Venice Inn
Address: 6920 Pacific St
Website: http://canigliasveniceinn.com/
Genres: Italian
Check Constraints: 17% Gratuity for 6 or more
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Escargot ($8.50)
  • Pesto Linguini w/Chicken ($10.90)
    • Salad Bar
    • Beef Vegetable Soup
As I learn more about the restaurants of Omaha and the history thereof, I have come to realize that it's impossible to trace said history without mentioning the Caniglia family. From Caniglia's Original Restaurant to Mr. C's, the family has a long history in Omaha, and I can honestly say I regret that we didn't start this blag before several of these restaurants closed. Still, there are some still operating, and Caniglia's Venice Inn (started by Eli Caniglia in 1957) is one such place. On what was more or less a momentary whim by ND for Italian, we selected this as our destination and boldly marched forth in search of history.

I suppose you could say we found it. I ordered the escargot because I thought it would make for a good blag experience (such things we do for our readers! It's so hard to eat food), and to be honest it did. The small land snails are served out of their shell, so there's no need to fish around with a fork for them or anything difficult. They arrived in a largish ceramic dish with five small depressions around a sixth center depression, in each of which was nestled a piece of escargot, veritably swimming in butter and garlic, which wikipedia assures me is the traditional service for such edible beasts as this. Additionally there seemed to be at least a small amount of Parmesan scattered over the dish, though it wound up not being very taste-able. There was actually a mushroom on the top of the center depression, which fell to Maple to eat, and he seemed to think it delicious. At any rate, around the outside of the ceramic dish were toast points of a sort. The whole deal was very hot when it came out of the kitchen, and I recommend a moment or two of cool down before trying to eat one like ND and I did. I actually had two pieces, as nobody seemed to want the last one, so I got one very hot and one that was far more temperate - I ate both of them on toast, and I think my general opinion of the appetizer was: good, but expensive. Granted, this was my first time trying it so I am no connoisseur of such things, but the butter flavor went well with the subtle taste of the escargot, and it was certainly no more rubbery or hard to eat than your average deep-fried calamari. I'm glad I ordered it once, but it's unlikely I'll get it again - at least here.

The salad bar was better than many, but I've been severely spoiled by salad bars at places like Whole Foods, and thusly I am not the most impartial judge of variety. Still, I was able to assemble a decent salad, and the greenery was not composed of entirely iceberg lettuce. Their signature Sicilian dressing was sweet with a very light vinegar taste, and well worth getting over anything else I saw there. The soup was actually very good; the beef in the name came from ground beef the soup was tomato-based, and the vegetables weren't cooked entirely to death while still imparting a lot of flavor to the overall cup. Both soup and salad come with a lot of the entrees, so you'll likely get the chance to try them.

A brief mention: there is olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table for the bread which also comes with entrees. I recommend using it - the bread is good, but it's hard for me to pass up some balsamic goodness.

The pesto chicken was good, but not overwhelmingly delicious. It was little more than linguine slathered in pesto, with diced tomato, black olives, and chunks of chicken. The chicken wasn't as flavorful as it could have been, but the pesto made up for that a lot. The single downside was that it could have greatly benefited from some fresh-grated parmesan. The table shaker helped, but the flavor zing from fresh would have definitely done more for the dish.

I have heard good things about the steak here, and I might try that at some point. The dinner menu here looks like it has a lot more culinary stars on it, and I'm positive that you'd have a much better ambience and probably experience overall at dinnertime. I fully intend to come back for said dinner at some point, but from what I hear I'll likely need to make reservations. One thing's for sure - if you like the food here, you'll probably like it for a long time. I know of at least one person who has been eating here for 30+ years.

  • Garlic Bread ($4.25)
  • Fettucini Alfredo ($8.25)
  • Cannoli ($3.95)
Okay, first things first. I really don't know what the heck to make of the escargot. I didn't actually get much taste out of it, in part due to the heat. I don't think I'd do it again, but not because it tasted terrible or had a bad texture, but just because it's pretty expensive.

The garlic bread here is actually pretty good quality. A bit charred around the edges, but when you get past that into the gooey center, you're looking at a very nice blend of multiple cheeses and garlic that can top most places, though obviously not my favorites.

I have never had cannoli before, but the essence of my thoughts on the stuff here is that it's rather like eating a cinnamon stick dipped in chocolate sauce and whipped cream. There was a LOT of cinnamon flavor, and it was overpowering in the cream filling. If I had to choose between getting this a second time and getting, say, the tiramisu, I'd go with the latter without hesitation.

Unfortunately, this brings me to the fettuccini alfredo. I am a man who loves his alfredo. This alfredo, it did not love me back. It was bitter. Not so much as, say, Indigo Joe's, which remains a travesty beyond compare, but it had a good helping of bitter. It lacked parmesan flavor entirely, and the somewhat stale shaker of grated parmesan at the table didn't help at all. Worse, when I didn't eat it all promptly, as it was not delicious, it congealed into an awful mess that wasn't even worth taking with me. Heed my warning, and stay well away from the alfredo.


  • Sausage and Pepper Sandwich ($6.95)
  • Tiramisu ($5.00)
  • Iced Tea ($0.95)
The escargot was a fascinating thing. I gave it a shot since I'd never had it before. I was a little afraid of another gizzard incident, but that wasn't the case. It did have a pretty strong flavor and was a bit chewy, but it actually wasn't bad at all. It's one of those things where it looks and sounds a lot worse than it tastes. It's a bit hard to describe the flavor, however. Cham mentioned that it was better with the lemon squeezed over it.

The garlic bread was pretty good. The bruchetta wasn't bad either. I'm not normally a fan of tomatoes, but this actually had a lot of other stuff on it as well. There may have been more of the olives, onions, etc than tomato even. The topping doesn't like to stay on the bread as you eat it, however. Both came with six pieces, which seemed pretty good for the price.

The sausage and peppers sandwich turned out to be "hot dog style". The sausage came uncut on a hoagie bun with the peppers and sauce topping it. It still had to be eaten with a knife and fork because it was so messy. It was an interesting option, and I've never seen it done like that. It was good, but hard to eat. It also came with thin fries, which were average. A lot menu sections mentioned that you could get tea or coffee (free refils) for 95 cents with your meal, so I gave that a go as well. The waiter kept my glass fairly full.

The tiramisu was pretty good. It was a fairly large piece with fresh whipped cream. The bottom bready portion seemed a little dry, but it didn't detract much from the rest of it. The whipped cream was very light and delicious.

Overall, it was decent food with reasonable prices, but you may have to look for some of the dishes that they do best. I would come back to give it another shot.

  • Fettucini Alfredo ($8.25)
  • French Onion Soup ($4.25)
The escargot reminded me somewhat of an oyster. Like the others, I've never had escargot before, so I'm not sure how it compares to what other places might offer, but I can say it was only ok and not something I'd get again at the price point.

I opted to pay the upcharge for a bowl of french onion soup with my meal and was sorely disappointed. The soup not only had the standard bit of cheese on top, it also had a generous sprinkling of parmesan which overpowered everything until you got through the crouton. Once through the crouton it tasted mostly of beef broth and, despite seeing lots of onion, there was very little onion flavor or texture. The Fettucini Alfredo, as ND has already said, was bitter and needed a big helping of parmesan added. I left the place with half of my serving still on the plate.


  • Bruchetta Bread ($6.50)
  • Lasagna ($8.50)
  • Onion Soup ($4.25)
  • Cannoli ($3.95)
What a smattering of random stuff we got!

The s-car-go was a really unique taste, but split between 5 people there wasn't much of it to go around. It did have its own subtle flavor, and I can definitely see why people in general would like it. It really isn't my cup of tea, though, especially at that price. I'd take sushi over escargot for weird expensive deliciousness anyday. The Bruchetta was very full of vegetation, from the tomatoes to the strong olive flavor to some other herbage. Not a huge fan of olives, but it worked reasonably well for the appetizer itself.

I also hit the salad bar, which was pretty light on options (although it had some other independant stuff you could get, a pasta, something that looked like mousse?) and went with their 'house' special dressing, which was a twist on italian. I vaguely remember it as being sweet and interesting, and so wasn't disappointed. The garlic bread was also pretty good. I got one of the pieces that was just the right amount of browned for my tastes, and it was a slight cut above in my opinion. The onion soup that I went with had VERY strong cheese flavor, and almost no onion flavor, which was disappointing. I am a fan of cheese, but no balance makes for a tough dish to want to go through all of it.

My Lasagna went the 'extra sweet' route, for the sauce. This is fairly common in higher end italian places in my experience, and is not generally my preference. That said, the actual body of it was very good, if small, with plenty of meaty and slight cheesy flavor to try to balance against the sauce. I'd probably try something else, but if you enjoy the sweet version of lasagna, this may be a place to take a shot at.

The dessert options were fairly small, but I felt like trying the cannoli here. I actually really enjoyed the cinnamon flavor (and am not a fan of Tiramisu), so it worked well for me and I might have it again were I to return (I am a fan of eating tubes of things.)

With (forced) tip, we averaged 20 bucks a person, which is certainly decent in theory, but there were so many inconsistencies that drove people away (eg: the alfredo). On the overall, I have to agree with Cham. Lunch may not be the best time to give this place a shot (it was fairly sparse in people, which almost always seems to be a problem), and it may smooth out some of the inconsistencies to give it another shot at dinner.

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