203 East Nezpique • Jennings, LA
There’s been quite a bit of buzz surrounding a new restaurant in Jennings. More often than not, when a new eatery opens their doors, I’ll see a lot of feedback hinting they may need a little time to get it all together. This didn’t appear to the be the case with Verona Italian. By all accounts, they are firing on all cylinders. Perhaps it’s a little easier when you already have a well respected and established restaurant in Alexandria.
Luckily, the owners decided to open a sister restaurant for us here in Southwest Louisiana. With all the positivity, I didn’t want to waste any time before spending an evening with my wife and this potentially great food. Jennings really isn’t a long drive. It’s just far enough to escape the remaining blue tarps, tangled wires and piles of unaddressed debris though.
Just a block off of historic downtown Jennings, situated in the old courthouse, sits Verona Italian.
Walking through the glass doors, we were welcomed by the maitre d’, who escorted us across the slate tiled floor to our table. Our server, Mackenzie, introduced herself and took our drink order.
Often, restaurants open prior to obtaining their liquor license, but that’s not the case here. A well-stocked and classy bar sits off to the side — a separate room with additional seating.
Our first impression of this place was that it was gorgeous. The lighting was low, and the building had dark ceilings, neutral brick and soft taupe walls. There were deep accents and white linen tablecloths with glass tops. Jazzy dinner music was piped in from above. The glowing fireplace added ambiance and warmth on a chilly winter night.
The staff was well-dressed and professional, clad in all black, from their shoes to the masks. They were courteous and moved around the place as if they’d been practicing for some time. It was impressive, to say the least.
A basket of fresh baked Italian bread was brought to the table, and Mackenzie asked if we’d like to start off with an appetizer. The menu was loaded with classic Italian dishes, from chicken and veal to pizza, pasta, seafood and salads. There were more than enough options to make you second-guess your choice, but the menu wasn’t overwhelming.
To start off, we decided on crab-stuffed mushrooms and an order of eggplant rollatini. For the main course, my wife didn’t have as much trouble making her choice — Red Snapper Marichara — as I did choosing between the Veal Saltimbocca — a savory dish with mushrooms, ham and spinach — and Scaloppine Principessa, a lighter dish overall with tomatoes and a delicate white wine sauce. I went with the latter.
The crab-stuffed mushrooms were flavorful with fresh crab and a mix of seasoning in a generous serving of white cream sauce. The eggplant rollatini had my attention from the moment it was set on the table. It consisted of tender eggplant, stuffed with ricotta, provolone and mozzarella cheese, baked in a pink tomato sauce until the cheese on top was perfectly caramelized. It was mouthwatering and was almost a meal in itself.
After the plates were cleared and we had a few sips of wine, our entrées arrived. My wife received a grilled snapper filet topped with mussels, clams and shrimp sautéed in a white wine with a hint of marinara. My thin and delicate veal was topped with shrimp and asparagus in a light white wine. Both of these dishes were mouthwatering. Each had its unique flavors and complexity.
It didn’t take much for Mackenzie to entice each of us into dessert. I thought we might split a dessert. However, my wife had a different plan. Not at all interested in my suggestion, she chose the Italian wedding cake, while I opted for my personal and classic favorite, tiramisu. As the desserts were placed before us, Mackenzie asked if we’d like a port wine. Yes, please. Port is typically sweeter than table wines and has a lower ABV content. It was a perfect way to finish out a perfect evening.
From start to finish, from the ambiance to the food, from the service to the pace, this experience was dining excellence. It’s good to see Jennings land such a wonderful restaurant with a great staff. Verona is open for lunch from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. They take a reset break until 4:30 pm, when dinner service begins.