Early Saturday evening,post the mid-matinee at Tempe Cinemas. A drink and maybe something to eat...and look! VinciTorio's, winking and beckoning. It's a bit crowded inside, nt as large as the exterior seems to promise. A brick wall, a tiny, four-seat bar, small patio and tables jammed into the narrow space between bar and exterior wall.
Lots of family photos showing parents, grandparents, schooldays in
Italy. Open kitchen with a lively crew, and that undeniable scent of pasta, bread, a whiff of garlic and a sharp green hit of basil
Mario has a practiced and warm greeting for all, suggests that if we want dinner in addition to a drink, we should say NOW because they will be very crowded. We demur and wait anyway.
A reasonable wine list, not phenomenal but fair and definitely what one might expect in a neighborhood place in an old Italian area of ..Chicago, or maybe Philadelphia or Baltimore.
A guitarist and vocalist who's covering 70's tunes - "No Sinatra here!" - capably if without much inspiration. but he's pleasant and eager to please. With wine and good, promising scents cming from that open kitchen filled with fabulously Italianate cooks and chefs...Lots of promise hangs in the air as the crowds begin to roll in.
A glass of wine later, one more on the way...not a table around, and with the realization that the bar is literally a high bar (how could you reasonably eat at a bar that hits at shoulder level?), we opt to split a Caesar and a special pizza - the Puglia, named for the region this family comes from.
Alas! All that promise and so little delivery...the Caesar is dripping...with water, which dilutes the dressing so much it's barely noticeable. Worse, it has a slick, mayonnaise-y feel in your mouth. The croutons are...boxed? Their garlicky taste is just a little stale-tasting, but they crunch nicely. The romaine, however, is lovely (if wet) - all pale green crunch.
Here's how the pizza's described on the menu: "Pizza Pugliese sliced potatoes, caramelized onions, sausage, mozzarella." Pizza comes in small, medium or large...
We ordered a medium (huge!) and here's what we got: Pizza Puglilese...with a ton of mozz', crumbled sweet but virtually tasteless sausage, mechanically diced onions that were barely cooked through and french fries larded across the entire pie.
That's right - french fries. Straight from the freezer bag.
A small mention of the discrepancy to your charming host Mario elicited first a look of outrage, then a shrug.
Finished the wine, paid the bill, and left. Determined to come back and see if the alleged handmade/homemade pastas live up to all that promise....
Stay tuned for part deux to come.....(check them out at www.vincitoriosrestaurant.com)