If it wasn’t for the old school Southern Italian dinner, the visit to Wal-Mart, and the 102 F. temperature, it would have been like another day in Berkeley. Oh, forgive us, Bay Area, for shopping at Wal-Mart! We bought some underwear and chicken strips.
Then we staggered across the parking lot to Barnes & Noble for iced coffee. Thanks to computer networking of the highest caliber, we were able to use our discount card, no problem. I would have sworn I was in the El Cerrito, CA branch. Same color scheme, same author photographs, same wall sconces, same God-awful Godiva boxed candy and teapots on the cafe display shelves, same annoying nondescript world beat pounding in the background. Plenty of Binghamton University students, from the looks of them.
During a visit with my dad at his personal three-room inferno later in the day, he suggested we have a “real” Italian dinner. “Real” meaning no skimping on the cheese and being served anything parmigiano on an oval silver platter, for starters. Like at Rutha’s, on Northern Boulevard in Queens, now long gone, but the site of many a biscuit tortoni snarfed down by yours truly. We followed orders and went to Little Venice Restaurant (111 Chenango Street), a Binghamton institution. The street seemed kind of dead but when we went into the place via the back entrance there was a sudden cacophony — the joint was jumping! We were quickly seated and menued in the large rectangular dining room and set about discussing options.
Matt went with rigatoni parm and I with combo (chicken, meatball and sausage) parm. We added fried calamari, which we soon regretted. Not only were there no tentacles, but the rings were all of the same small diameter. I’d like to know what happened to the rest of the squid involved. If you only ate this dish here, you’d never know what a real calamaro looked like, but I guess that’s the point. That and the ability to pour out prepared rings from a large freezer bag, though I have no proof of the latter. The soup and salad were “eh” and we hoped the entrees were better. They were, having plenty of melting mozzarella and a good house sauce. That said, if I ever went back I would have the antipasto I eyed at the next table along with an entree. I do admit to being surprised at how pricey Little Venice is given the economy of the area. Even I don’t like to drop over $17 for a plate of mixed parmigiano.