Since trying Chef Larry Vito’s BBQ last month at the contest in Healdsburg, I’ve been wanting to taste ribs made to his own spec, instead of the contest’s materials.
I was in the Sebastopol area a couple Fridays ago and swung by. I figured that as a caterer, he might have weekend gigs and some extra ‘cue on hand to sell. Lucky for me, this hunch was right, and Chef Vito was checking on some ribs when I dropped in. He said they’d be ready in about an hour if I could come back.
He has two smokers now: a portable rig in the back parking lot and Little Red in the front just behind the counter. He was smoking chicken and racks of ribs in Little Red.
Returning at the appointed time, he had a rack of ribs wrapped in plastic and then foil for me. I was a little surprised at the size, about 5” at the widest point and a little over a foot long. These are trimmed in St. Louis style. When I asked him which regional style he follows, he explained that he did a lot of trial and error on his own expression of barbecue that is close to Memphis style. He spoke for a long time about real barbecue vs. faux ‘cue, and gave me a bottle of his sauce but discouraged me from using much because, “it’s all about the meat”. He offered me a couple of chicken thighs to try as well. The rack of ribs was $18. That’s all he wanted, but I left him with a twenty.
I was prepared for a drop-off in quality from what he served at the competition. But if anything, these ribs were better. The cut is meatier, and the smoke penetrated even more. The texture of the ribs was perfect for me, offering some tooth. Chef Vito likes apple wood for a finer, sweeter smoke, and it suits his style quite well. I also like the idea of using apple products here in the middle of Gravenstein country for a terroir signature. The chicken was delicious too, and it's not usually my thing. The pink and moist meat looked and had a texture almost identical to ham. The skin wasn’t crispy but was well-rendered and was so delicious from the apple smoke, dry rub, and a light glaze of his own non-sweet tomato based sauce. I didn’t add more sauce to either the pork ribs or chicken, they were indeed delectable as is.
I also asked when the place would be opening as a restaurant. As you can see in these photos, the décor is in place. Chef Vito was working on the signs, menu board and getting the patio cleaned up.
Besides ribs and chicken, he’s also planning on offering a pulled pork sandwich and brisket. He said that after smoking for 14 hours, his brisket yield is only 42%. Classically trained in French technique, he described the sauce he served with the sliced brisket as a reduction of the beef drippings and aromatics. I asked him if it set up as firm as demi-glace. He said that it wasn’t “solid enough to stand on like demi-glace” but plenty concentrated for bathing the brisket. He’ll also have a couple sides and is trying hard to keep things affordable for everyone.
The BBQ Smokehouse opens today, Tuesday, June 16 at 5 PM, confirmed late last night via email from the Executive Event Coordinator. It’s a stone’s throw from Whole Foods, located across the street from the police station, just off the Gravenstein Highway, and shares the building with Patisserie Angelica.
6811 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, CA 95472