Hospitality is Key Ingredient at Little Venice Restaurant – Eatalian Food and Wine
If there is one thing Walter Munaretto has learned during his storied career in the food service industry that has taken him around the world, it is the importance of hospitality.
“If you show people the right hospitality, they will want to come back to you,” Munaretto said.
From the personal greeting patrons receive from Munaretto and his wife and co-owner Candi to tableside preparation, a personal touch is one of the priorities for the couple who opened up Little Venice Restaurant Eatalian Food and Wine in downtown Sand Springs earlier this year.
Little Venice features authentic Venetian recipes with 10-12 freshly-made entrees with a majority of the items changing on a weekly basis. Menus are updated on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
This week’s menu includes bianco, rosso, verde (grilled zucchini, basic, tomato and mozzarella), vitello al marsala (veal scaloppini with Marsala wine) and valtellina (dried cured beef, taleggio cheese, polenta and wild mushroom). Staples like bread, salad and other pastas are also available.
A native of Italy, Walter began his career in food service at the age of 15. He told his mother his interest in the business was because of the “good food and good drink” he witnessed.
“I was always starving so this looked good to me,” Walter said with a hearty laugh.
Munaretto worked in Switzerland and England and first came to Tulsa in 1976. He left and then returned again in 1995 to work at the Summit Club. Munaretto became the general manager at the Summit Club and soon developed a reputation as one of the most accomplished in the industry around Green Country. Walter was honored as one of Tulsa’s Men of Distinction in 2012.
He eventually retired from the Summit Club in 2016. But Walter and Candi, Sand Springs’ residents for the past decade, wanted to bring a unique dining experience into the community.
“We loved Sand Springs and when we looked at places in Tulsa, nothing felt right,” Candi said.
The Munaretto’s looked at another place in the downtown area before being introduced to their current location at 208 N. Main.
“I got a phone call about this building from a friend,” Candi said. “They said ‘it’s got great bones.’”
Candi fell in love with the place immediately.
“I knew when I first walked in this was the place,” she said. “Everything was here. It just needed to be fitted to what we were doing.”
The lease was signed in March 2019 but what lied ahead was a year-long project in order to have the space, previously used as a photography studio and salon, ready for the restaurant business. Candi said some of the focus was to open up the space while showcasing the location’s natural features, all while adding their personal touches along the way.
“We had to do a lot for the City to bring it up to code,” she said. “I felt like we took many steps back to go forward.”
Finally ready to open this past March, Little Venice was hit with another roadblock, the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited to takeout service only, the brand new restaurant was able to survive, thanks in large part to the following Walter had created since his time at the Summit Club.
“We had a lot of support from a lot of people,” Candi said.
On May 1, Little Venice was able to open its doors to the public after the statewide shutdown on indoor seating for bars and restaurants was lifted. Candi remembers Walter getting message as soon after word began to spread.
“They made the announcement on Wednesday (April 29) that things could open on Friday,” she recalled. “I remember hearing Walter’s phone buzzing and looking at the clock. It was 11:39 (p.m.). These were people who had his personal number and were texting him at night trying to make reservations … That’s when I knew we had to do this.”
Despite some ups-and-downs along the way, word of Little Venice is beginning to spread. The restaurant includes the Tavolo de la Familia and Giulia rooms, which allow for larger family or private gatherings.
Munaretto has passed his knowledge onto the staff. Raymundo Macias works in the front of the house while baker Luigi Sposato and Estefani Figueroa, in charge of salads, antipastos and other cold items, help prepare the freshly-made dishes.
“We feel like we have a family here with our staff,” Candi said. “And that’s how we want everyone to feel when they come in. Like a family.”
Little Venice is open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is expected to be offered soon. Walk-ins are welcome during the week. Reservations are preferred on the weekends and can be made by calling 918-514-0134.
By Shawn Hein
Former Summit Club GM opens Little Venice in downtown Sand Springs
Walter Munaretto has a long history in the restaurant and hospitality business around the world.
He has worked on cruise ships and at places in Italy and Florida. A number of Tulsa-area diners know him for his 20 years at the Summit Club, a private club downtown, where his titles included general manager.
Munaretto, his wife, Candi, and daughter Candice Sanders were preparing to open their own eatery, Little Venice Restaurant, in Sand Springs on April 1, but got derailed by COVID-19 restrictions.
“We were all ready to open and got shut down,” Candi said.
Candi said even with little name recognition and being in a small town, they offered a limited menu for curbside pickup until this week, when they were allowed to have dine-in customers again.
“We did pretty well with the takeout,” she said. “A lot of people know Walter. People came from Tulsa and even Grand Lake, and people in Sand Springs have supported us.”
The lunch and dinner menus are posted weekly on the Little Venice Facebook page.
“We will probably have three or four dishes stay on the menu, but the rest will change every week,” Walter said. “It will be as Italian as it can be. The food is mostly from northern Italy. It’s a lighter style. We won’t have pastas smothered with the big, heavy sauces.”
Little Venice is serving lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday and dinner only Saturday. A Sunday brunch will be added in the future.
This week’s lunch menu included antipasto, salads, soups and entrees such as lasagna al ragu di carne (lasagna with meat sauce), gamberi e linguini (shrimp linguini), vitello al coltello (sliced veal scaloppini with mushroom cream sauce and pasta), sogliola al vino bianco (Pacific sole with white wine, pasta and vegetables), and battuta di pollo alle erbe (herb-marinated grilled chicken breast with pasta and vegetables). Entrée prices ranged from $10 to $16.
The dinner menu was considerably more extensive. Entrée highlights included capesante e gamberi (scallops and large shrimp with linguini and arugula pesto), pappardelle Pomodoro (egg noodle pasta with tomato, mozzarella and basil), arrosto di maiale alla Toscana (roasted Tuscan pork with pasta and veggies), brasato di agnello con lenticchie (braised lamb loin with lentils and polenta), plus the veal scaloppini and Pacific sole. Entrees ranged from $12 to $22.
Joining Walter in the kitchen is Enrique Semeria, a co-worker for many years at the Summit Club.
Little Venice is located in an old building in downtown Sand Springs. Though it is a white tablecloth restaurant, the dining room has a comfortable ambience. The room includes a glass-covered, communal wooden table that seats eight to 10.
“It came from an old bar in Dallas,” Candi said. “Walter went down to pick up some stuff and drug it home. I didn’t know what we were going to do with it, but it fit our space here perfectly.”
Candi said when social distancing restrictions are lifted, she hopes to see the communal table filled with diners.
“If you sit there, it’s no telling who might end up sitting next to you,” she said. “I can see business deals being made there.”
Candi said the reason is simple for locating their restaurant in Sand Springs.
“We live here,” she said. “Sand Springs is a wonderful little town.”
April 11, 2011, Tulsa World article:
Summit Grill nears completion
“We used to have a buffet, and the chef would precook one hour in advance,” said Walter Munaretto, general manager. “Now, everything will be cooked fresh; you’ll see the chef cook it for you. At lunch, the best value is the buffet (for) $15, plus everything is nice and fresh.”
Following the renovation of its penthouse, the club saw its membership jump by 24 percent to 1,540.
“We’re hoping to see another jump in membership, as well as usage, because this floor was hardly used except at lunch,” Weger said. “We’re paying a lot of rent for all of this space. This floor will now be open all day long and in the evenings, too, as opposed to just being opened at lunch.”
Munaretto said he expects a couple hundred more members will join.
“Not immediately, but once it’s open with the different situation,” he said. “You have the fine dining. Now you’ll have the casual dining, the nice bar, the outside terrace, the view — there’s no reason for people not to be at The Summit Club.”