Prior to the restaurant boom in Encinitas there were a handful of go-to joints including Pino’s Cucina Italiana where the Lumberyard Tavern is now. It was a bustling place from 1997 to 2009 and the chef owner Pino Bottalico developed a loyal following. After Pino sold the restaurant he had stints at Tuscany in La Costa and Il Fornaio. In October 2017 he took over Venetos in Oceanside and has brought back his recipes that helped him develop such a following.
Pino has been in the restaurant business since his childhood in Puglia, Italy. At 19 he made his way to Florida and landed a job at Alfredo’s in the Italian Pavilion at Disney’s Epcot in Orlando. After a brief stint back in Italy he came back and continued his culinary career in Encinitas by opening Pino’s. During a recent conversation he reminded me of the “Big Night” dinners he did at Pino’s that were based on the fabulous movie of the same name. By the way, if you have not seen “Big Night,” I strongly suggest it.
Venetos specializes in classic Italian dishes from many regions. The name Veneto or Venetia comes from the northeastern part of Italy where it is located. It lies between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea and is crossed by several rivers and includes seven provinces, Venice and Verona being among them.
The Linguine Pescatore, Osso Bucco, and Fettuccine Steak Toscana are favorites that bring folks back. I was stoked to see Vitello alla Parmigiana — also known as Veal Parm on the menu — and have a hunch that Venetos may be one of the few Italian restaurants west of I-5 serving veal in this form. It’s one of my favorites though and they do it right. Now if they would only make a veal parm sub I would make the drive from Encinitas to Oceanside on a regular basis. Although, after further review they do have a chicken parm, sausage parm and meatball parm in their sub selection so it looks like I’m making that drive.
We started with the Carciofo alla Medetterenea that has artichoke hearts sautéed with olive oil, garlic and sun dried tomatoes in a lemon white wine sauce. That and a really nice Caprese salad with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil in olive oil were a perfect way whet our appetites.
Of course I went with the Vitello alla Parmigiana and my friend had the Linguini Pescatore. It’s linguini with a healthy mix of fish, large shrimp, mussels, calamari and baby clams sautéed in olive oil, garlic and a white wine tomato sauce. My friend is a charter boat captain and knows his seafood and he was impressed.
When the weather cools down a bit I will be back for the Osso Bucco that combines tender veal shank braised and served over a creamy parmesan risotto.
There is a full selection of pizzas and that have been getting rave reviews and a portion of their menu that includes all the crowd pleasers like Capelini Pomodoro, Spaghetti Bolognese, Ghocchi, Fettuccini Alfredo, Linguine alle Vongole (clams) along with Lasagna, Pesto Tortellini and Ravioli.
After meals like this there is hardly room for dessert, but when homemade Tiramisu is involved there is no way we could turn that down. It was perfect to split and they have a nice desert selection including Bread Pudding.
Our drinks included Proscecco by the glass and a nice red on the lighter side that Pino suggested that went great with our fish and pasta. There is a nice-size, moderately priced wine list that has wines to pair with everything on the menu.
They have a kids menu and plenty of salad options for folks who want to keep it on the lighter side. I go to a restaurant like Venetos hungry and ready to indulge and they satisfy that hunger perfectly.
Pino was out working the floor and interacting with customers, which has always been his style and it’s a nice touch. The menu is very reasonably priced with most pasta dishes going for $10 to $15 and house specialties in the $18 to $28 range. Venetos is on my Italian restaurant radar and I will definitely be going back for more.
Find them at 608 N. Coast Highway in Oceanside. Call (760) 722-1228 or www.venetositaly.com.
Lick the Plate has interviewed over 700 chefs, restaurateurs, growers, brewers and culinary personalities over the past 10 years as a column in The Coast News and in Edible San Diego. He can be heard on KSON, FM94/9 and Sunny98.1. More at www.lick-the-plate.com