It was my turn to pick a venue for dinner this month and I finally, after some consideration, decided upon Venuti. This Italian restaurant is from the people who gave us Portafino on the Terrace prior to the earthquakes and that was a great Italian spot.

Quite a change in venue, Venuti is situated on Colombo Street, just down from the Kilmore Street corner. In fact it’s possibly in about the spot Johnsons used to have (although I get confused, it could be a block down). There are empty lots all around it.

Inside the decor is reminiscent of Portafino with the curtains on the back wall, and the dark wooden interiors and tables.

The service was pretty good, with water being topped up regularly etc, although I would have liked to be advised that my sparkling water wasn’t complimentary unlike the still. Baretta offer both as complimentary so the $5 charge for my bottle could have been mentioned. I wish restaurants would be a bit more consistent with this. Sparkling water is becoming more prominent in lots of places and I have always preferred it as an option, knowing the cost wouldn’t necessarily deter me, but it would inform me!

Orders were placed and it took about 30 minutes for the food to arrive. It was busy so that was fine, but it was bordering on an acceptable wait, particularly as we were near where the food was doing coming out and could see and smell divine creations being served!

Between us we had ordered the seafood risotto, the cannelloni, the spicy sausage pasta, seafood salad and my choice was a vegetarian penne Venuti (spinach and sundried tomato in a creamy sauce).  The food was absolutely beautiful, with everyone enjoying their choice.  I found my serving size just perfect.  Pasta dishes in a restaurant are notoriously filling and often way too big.  I finished my plate and felt full, but not stuffed. There was room for a light dessert!

This is where the night nearly came unstuck.  When I booked they did warn me that there was another booking after us, so I knew we’d be rolled through pretty quickly (this was due to booking only a few days out, so we had to take an early booking at 6.30).  However the waitress informed us, at 3 minutes to 8 that we couldn’t be served dessert as the next booking was due.  Reaction was a bit typical – disappointed.  I thought for a minute, hang – on… so I called her back and told her I’d been told when I booked that the next booking was at 8.30.  To give her credit, she went away and checked, came back apologised and said she’d get dessert menus.  The 1/2 hr time to eat our desserts limited choices (we couldn’t order the dessert calzone, for instance) but two ordered Tiramisu, two ordered the sorbet selection and one decided to be good!  The Tiramisu got a thumbs up and the sorbet selection was lovely and refreshing, with the Lemon being my pick of the three flavours offered which were Mango, Passionfruit and Lemon.

We did have to get up and go after that, as the 8.30 party arrived dead on time.  But apart from that wee hiccup (which is avoidable probably if you book a later time slot, or book a bit more in advance than 4 days!), I must say Venuti ticked the boxes; great food, attentive service with drinks etc, nice vibe.

If you can arrange it so you’re in a later sitting you will enjoy a leisurely and delicious meal.  Booking ahead is advised as when we were paying at the til, the waitress informed us it’s always busy and booked.  We might have close to 800 eating venues in post-quake Christchurch, but obviously good quality restaurants are still in demand!


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