The Via Veneto is a good, entry level pump machine if you can find one at the right price. The list price of $175 US is unreasonable, but these can be found new on ebay for $50 - $75. At this price, they are cheaper than a lot of steam toys.
I bought this machine to hold me over until I could afford a Sylvia. I thought that it would be a good way to learn to make decent espresso before spending a lot of money on a touchier machine. Good plan, but this isn't really a machine you can learn a lot from. The pressurized portafilter allows you to produce shots that are on par with many chain coffee shops, but doesn't give you much room for experimentation. No matter how you modify your tamp, no matter the grind, the shot comes out the same. It is possible to grind and tamp so finely that you choke the machine, but outside of that these two variables seem to have little impact on the shot quality. I suppose there is something to be said for consistency.
Cleaning the machine is awkward. Having little experience with other machines, this may just be the nature of the beast, but I found it difficult to reach all of the parts that needed cleaning. Clearance is pretty low.
Steaming milk with the Via Veneto is not difficult, but the steam often gives out before you're done. A quick search of the web yields a number of good suggestions for remedying this. There is a steam enhancing device on the wand, but it seems to create great big bubbles with a stiff foam you could stand on. Removing this device helps, but results in a steam wand that is almost too short to use.
The machine is covered in the cheap, shiny plastic that is typical of modern kitchen appliances. The fit and finish leave a bit to be desired. Although fine when new, the switches began to pop out of their housings after a few months of use. They still functioned, but didn't look very nice.
As mentioned above, my machine stopped working after 5 months. The power switch quit working, and the machine was just dead in the water. It came with a one year warranty, but I decided not to try to have it repaired. It was just too cheap to justify the expense of shipping and the time trying to get warranty repairs. I was happy with the use that I did get out of it, and will move on to something better.