Wine Press: Touch of Venice is a place you should try

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Frutti di Mare, an entree served at Touch of Venice in Cutchogue. The dish includes scallops, shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels over linguine pasta in a white clam sauce.

There’s nothing quite like a romantic dinner at a cozy Italian restaurant around Christmas time.

Picture it: dimmed lights, elegant wine glasses, soft Christmas tunes, a loveseat semi-circle booth forcing an intimately tight squeeze for you and your dining partner.

Unfortunately, my relationship status was single when I went to Touch of Venice in Cutchogue for dinner last week, and my dining partner was my good friend and colleague, who is happily married but also willing to be my dinner date when I need one.

Nevertheless, we had a dining experience at Touch of Venice that would make top 5 list of best dinner dates.

Family-owned and operated, Touch of Venice moved into its new home on Main Road in Cutchogue this past spring after sitting on Wickham Lane overlooking the water in Mattituck for more than two decades.

Guests to the restaurant’s new location walk through an inviting bar area to the main dining room, which is filled with cushiony booths and small tables blanketed in white tablecloths.

My friend and I arrived at the eatery early, so we decided to order from the three-course prix fixe menu, which is available until 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday evenings. While perusing the menu, we both sipped glasses of Nautique Rosé, a rosé from Peconic Bay Winery’s sister brand that launched in the summer of 2009. Bright pink salmon in color, the rosé, my friend and I agreed, went well with each course, from nibbles before appetizers to the gelato atop our desserts.

While selecting our dishes, servers immediately brought crusty slices of Tuscan bread and tiny bowls of tasty pickings: sun-dried tomato spread, pesto and shavings of parmesan cheese.

My appetizer was a mixed green salad with balled buffalo mozzarella, locally-grown cherry tomatoes, Mediterranean olives and hearty croutons dressed in a lemon-basil vinaigrette.

Our waitress was speedy, cheerful throughout our meal (it was “her pleasure” to serve us, she assured us many times) and very knowledgeable. She even knew the chef uses two types of basil in the lemon-basil vinaigrette: an Italian basil and an African basil some people call “purple basil,” for its color.

I ordered the Frutti di Mare for my entrée, which was a generous bowl of scallops, shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels swimming in a luscious helping of linguine and tossed in a white clam sauce. I’ve ordered the dish, a staple on Italian restaurant menus, many times, and Touch of Venice’s version was truly scrumptious, with the tender scallops and succulent shrimp standing out. There was also no skimping on any of the seafood, which is always appreciated.

My dinner date and I finished the evening with matching desserts: warm, moist, please-never-end flourless chocolate cake with a dollop of ice-cold vanilla gelato.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more, except for maybe a gentleman friend to dine with who would insist on paying the bill.

The beautiful dinner on a Christmasy December night with my good friend was the best it could have been.

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Places you should try is a review column written by staff members who have felt a particular need to rave about a local dining establishment. Check out our previous places column on The Riverhead Project.