Waiter, there's uni on my arancini.
All'onda, located just off of Union Square, dubs its fare "modern Venetian cuisine." In other words: nothing like Venice at all.
Which is just as well. It can be easier to hail a gondolier on Canal Street than find a decent meal in that sinking city. Up in the rustic-modern aerie of All'onda's second floor dining room, it's hard to find a dish that doesn't please.
Chef Chris Jaeckle (formerly of Ai Fiori) leans heavily on Japanese flavors to lighten and enliven his variations on Northern Italian themes. So there are little fishy fingers of sea urchin atop those squid-ink arancini ($9), miso-cured egg yolk mixed in with porridge-like polenta and wild mushrooms ($9) and more uni, this time smoked, tossed with lemony bucatini and breadcrumbs ($19).
Rigatoni ($18) is expertly shellacked in a sticky, dark and deliciously meaty duck ragu and topped with bits of bitter Treviso and a dusting of not-too-sweet chocolate. (Perhaps Jaeckle was thinking of Truman Capote's observation that "Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.")
Restaurateur Chris Cannon, back after his break with Michael White, works the room in his signature puffy vest, dispensing good cheer and esoteric wine advice. (Great merlot from Slovenia--who knew?)
The room, like the food, doesn't feel Venetian, but rather distinctly New York: walls of crumbly white brick, wide plank wood floors, black Scandinavian chairs and industrial-ish light fixtures hung from exposed metal pipes, popping out at interesting angles and casting a low sexy glow. In other words: exactly the kind of place you want to be right now.