Shane and I met some friends at a pizza place they recommended called Venice Pizza. Located in a small shopping center near Bridge Street, Venice is a hole-in-the-wall that makes its own marinara sauce. Although freshly made marinara probably isn’t unique among all pizza places, it sounded like the stuff Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is made of, so we were happy to grab a bite.
When we walked in, it was obvious that Venice depends on its delivery business more than its dine-in business. Equipped with just a few tables, our party of six was enough to occupy half the dining space. I was surprised to see that a place of such tiny square footage offered sich a diverse menu. Offerings ranged from calamari to calzones to chicken parmigiana and even cold subs (oh yeah…they have pizza too). We decided to try the pepperoni pizza with an order of cheesy garlic bread. Although not the best pizza in town (Tortora’s still tops my list so far), Venice uses ingredients that are far better than pizza chains. The marinara is fresh and flavorful, the toppings are plentiful, and the dough is a great texture. The cheesy bread was good too. Being made out of the same dough as the pizza, it had nice flavor and texture, but it could’ve used more cheese. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen enough cheese for my taste.
If you’re looking to try a new pizza joint that will give you the dive experience, Venice is a sure bet. I enjoyed the food, and was about as intrigued by what I didn’t order from this pizza place as what I did (chicken fingers? burgers? stuffed grape leaves?). My only complaint is that there was no soda fountain; instead, drinks were bought by the 20 oz. bottle or 2-liter. Being a typical American, I’d like a never-ending soda with my pizza.
Certain things about Huntsville are not stereotypical Alabama. For example, a few years ago, I counted people from five ethnic groups while walking from my car to Wal-mart’s sliding doors. The Wal-mart part of that story is typical Alabama—the five ethnic groups is typical Huntsville…or New York City.
Venice Pizza fits the Huntsville mold well. It’s simple and friendly like other restaurants around here, but it feels like the typical home-owned pizza place you’d find in a big city suburb: It’s been there a while, the same people probably work there all the time, it tastes pretty good, and isn’t a long drive.
The interior of Venice is plain and kitschy. When walking in, the first thing I noticed were the garish orange walls—wow, those walls are something. Decoration is minimal and haphazard but amusing. On one wall hangs a copy of the giant menu next to a Greek-restaurant-in-a-box poster of a lady hawking a gyro. I vaguely remember a few things hanging on the other walls, but it was minimal. Otherwise, there are only a few tables in the store and a cooler of drinks. Strangely, although nothing about the store is uniquely northern, and I don’t have experience eating pizza in the North, those orange walls, the kitschy decor, and minimal eating spaces kept me thinking I was in a northern pizza joint.
I enjoyed the pizza. The crust was tasty and textured right. The cheese and pepperoni also were good, but they could’ve been a bit higher quality. I wouldn’t count the pizza among the best I’ve eaten—it wasn’t a good as Tortora’s, for example—but I didn’t get the impression Venice was trying to feed me a gourmet pizza, and that’s fine. It was good middle class pizza at a reasonable price.
Although Venice Pizza is not perfect, it’s not bad: lots of kitsch, competitive prices, and above average food have me looking forward to eating there again. Plus, how cool is it that a trip to the North is just as easy as driving down Old Madison Pike?
When I think of Venice, I think of four things: