Full disclosure: I get a lot of emails from PR folks, many of them not quite applicable to the blog (if it’s happening in NYC, I’m not really the target audience…). Vito’s PR company pitched me on a free meal, and I took them up on it. The conditions were that the staff didn’t know I was there– I am fairly sure Vito knew when I walked in, but I don’t think our server, Abigail, knew, so it didn’t work out quite the way I had requested. I paid only for the tip.
Vito’s Cafe has been a staple in Ft. Thomas for a long time now– they’re the home of the Singing Waiters. Essentially, their waiters are all either students or graduates of local opera and musical theater programs, most notably CCM and NKU. In the middle of your meal, the waitstaff takes the stage and seranades you with standards, Broadway showtunes, and operatic arias. The waiters are all really great– even Vito himself gets on stage to sing a little!
I was given a few choices for nights to come in– I chose Mother’s Day. First, I’d have another mouth to taste the food, and second, I thought going on a holiday might show me a little bit how the restaurant works under pressure. They have a new Sunday special– family style dishes that serve 3-4, instead of individual dishes. Great idea– I always love the idea of Sunday dinner (but have no time to actually do it).
We started out with drinks– I had a Negroni (a favorite cocktail of mine, made of gin, campari, and sweet vermouth), my mom got a Cosmo, and Terry got Vito’s Lemonade, a spiked lemonade with mint. All three were great– though poor Abigail dropped my Negroni before it actually got to the table. We bonded with her over her mortification, and had a great time after that!
I asked her what she suggested– how to order, since the sizes were different than a normal restaurant portion. She suggested an appetizer, a pasta, and an entree for three people. We started off with a traditional Caesar salad, with homemade croutons and an intensely garlicky dressing, topped with tons of Parmesan and a few anchovies. Very nice, clean flavors and a classic preparation– homemade croutons are a nice touch. It easily fed three, and could have served four (but Terry had two servings– he loves Caesar).
Our entrees came– angel hair agli e olio, and veal Parmigiana. Both are very rustic dishes– this is very good, homestyle Italian cooking, not flashy, but incredibly satisfying. Angel hair aglio e olio is a simple dish– tomatoes, parmesan, olive oil (olio) and garlic (agli). I love fresh, simple ingredients and simple preparation– this fit the bill. I need to cook like this more often at home (but it tastes better out, since I don’t have to do the dishes!).
I love veal Parmigiana, but I hate it when it’s so soaked in sauce that the breading becomes soggy. This dish’s breading was crispy and flavorful, not soggy or greasy, and the pieces of veal were large, but still tender. The sauce, which was rich with tomatoes, thick and flavorful: lots of garlic and basil in this sauce and didn’t overwhelm the veal (but I would have liked just a touch more sauce, since it was so delicious!). It was topped with a browned, bubbly portion of mozzarella cheese.
We had, when all was said and done, two pieces of veal and a good portion of pasta to take home– two dishes would be more than enough for four, I think. Terry commented that this was as good as the food we’ve eaten in Italian restaurants on the east coast (North end of Boston, Philly, Little Italy in New York)– and he is right.
Abigail insisted that we try dessert. Her favorite? White chocolate bread pudding– so we got it. It’s made from croissants and topped with caramel sauce, the sort of bread pudding that is bread with custard, instead of whole chunks of bread. It was delicious– incredibly rich, powerfully sweet, with a smooth texture.
Abigail said that she loved the Key Lime Pie, even though she doesn’t normally like key lime pie– this one’s a bit more like a lemon meringue pie that uses key lime juice instead– a pile of fluffy meringue on top of a key lime custard. Also really good (and I think I’ll try to copy it at home).
Abigail, by the way, is a Master’s student in Opera at CCM, and she finally sang an aria– gorgeous! The pace of the meal is fairly slow on Sunday, which could be due to a couple of things: the family-style service, the number of people there for Mother’s Day, and the servers’ singing. This is not the place to go for a quick meal, but a place to linger. I would like to try their regular menu sometime (maybe a romantic dinner instead of taking out my mom), though my mom is STILL gushing about how much she liked the place. Vito’s is WMDM’s Mom Approved, I guess!