We were in Venice this past New Year’s Eve and wanted to enjoy a traditional Italian multi-course meal, which they do up big for New Year’s Eve. We had done the same in Rome a few years back and were not disappointed. Many restaurants have a fixed price menu that night that allows you to sit down and just enjoy. I had read some good reviews of this restaurant, noticed it was featured in Rick Steve's guide, and liked the look of the online photos; so decided it was likely worth the 150 euro per person price tag (not including wine).
I won't try to describe every course but none would be considered great by any standards. The main course consisted of a "sea bass" filet, fried shrimp, and grilled polenta with a side of eggplant parmigiana. The poor little "sea bass" (which it wasn't a true sea bass) was maybe a centimeter thick and tasted like they poured a little salad dressing over the top to give it flavor; the shrimp were overcooked and flavorless, and the polenta cold and rubbery. The biggest disappointment was the eggplant parmigiana. I know a good eggplant parm and this was nothing like I had ever seen. It was a grayish/black blob resting in a puddle of what I can only assume was all the oil that had been cooked out of the parmesan presented on a separate little plate. It was completely inedible.
We did notice several other diners near us complaining about their meals so we knew we were not out of line in our thinking. Several of the dishes, including the parmigiana we sent back after only a couple bites. The first time we did this the waiter inquired if we did not like it, and when we said no I caught him rolling his eyes. Regarding the service; it was pretty dismal; the food was brought to the table with not even a word of explanation of what it was and trying to get the attention of a waiter was near impossible. We simply did not feel welcome.
Of course they had a special wine list for the evening with the least expensive bottle being a 50 euro bottle of chardonnay; the waiter recommended that one and it was mediocre at best. Also the menu said water was complimentary, what they didn't say was only the first bottle was free; so there was another 10 euro.
Normally I would have said something about the meal at the time but it was New Year’s Eve, we were headed for the fireworks, and I didn't want to spoil an otherwise festive evening in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. After my wife got sick (from the food, we are not big drinkers) that night I decided I needed to say something so I emailed the restaurant and respectfully asked for a 50% refund on the meal only. They promptly wrote back and said they would be glad to provide a complimentary meal if we would come meet with the owner. Since we had already made other dining plans for the little bit of time we had left in Venice we declined and asked if they had any other resolution. The owner wrote back, we exchanged a couple emails, where he wouldn't apologize or even admit the meal was not up to their standards, so I said I would be leaving an appropriate review. He then became rude and accused me of blackmail and that they would “respond accordingly.” So, here is my accurate review which I'm sure will get some sort of denial from the owner.
I can't believe this meal was up to their normal standards, otherwise they would not be in business very long. Maybe their normal chef walked out, or possibly they were just overwhelmed on a busy evening, but none of that excuses how we were treated by the staff and the owner. It was a wasted 360 euro and a stain on an otherwise spectacular trip.