Election day 2016 didn’t just signal a dramatic change in direction for the country; it was also the day that Steve and Jessica Longet opened Cafe Longet. The couple came to Venice from Annecy, France, a stunning, canal-crisscrossed tourist town situated in the Alps near the Swiss border.
Steve, the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, has worked in a number of renowned restaurants; he most recently spent 11 years as the chef for a wealthy Swiss family. You can see his international experience in the way the menu veers away from the expected French classics and toward a more contemporary mashup.
There’s no beef bourguignon or escargot, and while the menu includes a range of galletes sarrasin (buckwheat crêpes) and quiches, it also includes a ginger and pineapple salad, risotto and a selection of hamburgers, served up to a soundtrack laced with Brazilian jazz and American crooner standards.
On the walls hang saturated photographs of tinted wide-mouth Mason jars. Simple black tables dotted with colorful woven placemats line one half of the space. The other half is dominated by an elegant bar where servers pour from a small selection of bottled beers and a choice list of French wines. During the daytime, the café is a quiet retreat, painted with the sunshine that filters in through the eatery’s street-fronting windows. A handful of tables placed beneath fake-thatched coverings provide fresh air. The European theme extends to the check, handwritten with commas in place of decimal points à la Française.
The menu’s burger selection isn’t just a beef bonanza. In addition to Longet’s main burger (beef topped with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, bacon and cocktail sauce), you can also select a patty made with ground chicken and dressed with basil, spinach and goat cheese, as well as a shrimp burger. The patty consists of little nubs of shrimp meat bound together and grilled. Flavored with sesame seeds, slathered with guacamole and topped with sprouts and cabbage, it’s a light and effervescent concoction, made even better by the made-in-house bun that holds it all together. Sweet potato fries the size and shape of tongue depressors make the meal a bit more filling; a handful of greens doused with an assertively acidic house dressing punches up the rest of the plate.
The dessert menu is stocked with housemade shortbread, cheesecake and chocolate cake, as well as simpler options like crêpes adorned with sugar or salted caramel butter. The cafe gourmand platter includes a pull of espresso (a little thin) and a rotating pick of four desserts—an excellent way to taste what’s popping today. The shortbread is dry, but the dollops of lime-strong cream atop make it all OK. A house-made cocoa sorbet delivers a powerful jolt of almost-bitter cacao, while a caramel tiramisù provides deep, buttery bliss.
Ads plopped in between the songs on the stereo puncture the otherwise delightful ambiance, and while the service is friendly, it can be discombobulated. On a recent visit, menus were not removed after ordering. But these are minor quibbles.
During lunch, a customer at another table offered some minor advice to her server. She suggested more clearly marking which of the two doors guests should use, to make entrance easier. “My motivation is to keep you here,” she said. As you might guess, she liked the food.
239 Miami Ave. W., Venice
Open 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5:30-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday