I have been one of those women who are, you might say, a bit scared of their birthdays. I was in denial for a period of several years leading up to the big 4-0. I forbade anyone from uttering the “f-word”: FORTY. But I’m over that now. After realizing 40 wasn’t the end of my life and instead began a wonderful new chapter, I milk my birthday for all it’s worth. It’s not a birthDAY…it’s a birthWEEK!
Like I’ve said in a previous post, my favorite form of entertainment is food. So it would stand to reason that I would want to enjoy a special meal with my husband to celebrate my birthday. Choosing the deserving restaurant is always difficult. I feel so much pressure to choose something extraordinary because I won’t have another birthweek for a whole year. Past recipients of the honor include: Porcini’s, Volare, and Mayan Café. I LOVE VOLARE! Therefore I really wanted to choose it again, but I thought it was sort of a cop out to revisit someplace when there are so many restaurants in the city I have yet to try. My husband was tossing out names for consideration, including Vincenzo’s. You may have noticed that 2 of the 3 previous birthday dinners were Italian-themed…so Vincenzo’s appealed to me.
We really had no idea what we were in for.
(Note: I am in no way blaming my husband for this experience because I chose the restaurant, not him. I truly enjoyed our date and had a wonderful time. You may doubt that after reading the following paragraphs so I wanted to be clear upfront.)
I simply can’t wait to tell you about all the strange and wondrous happenings, including: the Overly Exuberant Assistant Captain, the wheely cooking carts, and the dressing that refused to emulsify.
The dining room is a large, open space with significant lighting and crisp, white linens. Silver engraved with the Vincenzo name and gold-rimmed chargers create a lovely table setting. Don’t show up in a pair of jeans – don your Sunday best for this restaurant.
We realized we had stepped back in time once we were seated and began absorbing the atmosphere. It reminded me of the formal dining room at the Greenbrier. All the social niceties are very charming. If you want to be fawned over with constant attention, you would enjoy Vincenzo’s. At any given moment you could look around the dining room and count at least 15-20 employees all dressed in black tuxedoes. At our table alone, we were served by six different individuals. We surmised by the end of our dining experience that what we just paid for was a whole lotta payroll.
Noticing that my husband was perusing the wine list, the sommelier approached our table and introduced himself as the “Wine Guy”. He was very tall. (That’s not important for the story.) He dropped lots of winemaker names and used a lot of wine-y descriptors like “tannins” and “earthy”. When asked for the best pick under $X he came up with a recommendation for a Pinot Noir and we were sold.
Our Captain was a lovely young lady who was quiet, efficient, and friendly. She was knowledgeable about the menu and made recommendations when asked. We chose Tortellini Alla Panna Con Parmigiano Reggiano ($12.95), Insalata Di Cesare ($11.95), Vitello Saltimbocca for me ($33.95), and the red snapper special for my husband.
While waiting on the salad I noticed several portable three-burner cooking stations positioned around the dining room. I named them “wheely cooking carts” and I was intrigued. Were they for bananas foster or some other flammable dessert? Surely they didn’t need so many if that was their purpose. Were they going to use one for us? Indeed! When each table’s entrees were brought out from the kitchen, various components went into the various skillets and then onto the various plates. My husband was disappointed that the Captain, not the chef, would be “cooking” his dinner. More on the wheely cooking carts in a bit.
Our salad arrived at the table and I was instantly disappointed. For $12 I expected more. Not more volume but just…more…better. More attractive presentation, house-made croutons, freshly grated parmesan cheese. This was a run-of-the-mill Caesar salad similar to what you would find at an Applebee’s.
Next up: the tortellini with another side of disappointment. The menu describes it to include peas and proscuitto however I detected neither one. It tasted good, but was nothing special. Meanwhile, we were enjoying the wine the Wine Guy recommended. And that’s when the whisking began. At first, I was unsure what the noise was and where it originated. Looking around I spotted the source: the table behind my husband was receiving tableside service of some sort of dressing which was being vigorously whisked by their Captain. That dressing simply didn’t want to emulsify because the whisking (and the resulting noise) kept on for a long time. When it was finally done I heard the Captain say “it’s worth it”. And then moments later the whisking began again. We were still laughing about it when one of the wheely cooking carts was placed across from our table.
Side Note: Is it okay to refill your wine glass yourself? I think it is. However, my husband poured some and the next thing we know the wine bottle has been moved all the way to the opposite corner of the table, just out of his reach. Coincidence or a subtle hint?
Throughout the meal, I’m going to call him our Assistant Captain because I don’t know what else to call him, was periodically checking on us…asking if the food was alright, if we needed anything, more water, et cetera. He was so overly exuberant and absolutely serious about his Assistant Captaining that I simply could not look him in the face for fear I would giggle. Well, Assistant Captain scooched the little table upon which my husband’s snapper was placed and jarred the plate enough to topple some of the chef’s presentation. No matter, that plate was a hot mess anyway. Much to my surprise the snapper plate was placed directly on top of one of the burners allowing the open flame to heat the dish. The components of my veal saltimbocca went into a couple different skillets and then plated.
The veal was the best part of my meal. Very thin breaded veal cutlets served with a delicious white wine pan sauce alongside purple potatoes and hericot verts. I ate absolutely every bit of it. My husband’s plate had a lot going on. Poorly presented, you couldn’t identify one component from another. He kept asking “what’s that?” as he picked through it with his fork. I knew he wasn’t pleased. My husband is an excellent fish-cooker. By that I mean he does not overcook his fish. He knows what a properly cooked piece of fish feels like and this snapper was overcooked and dry.
I am not sure what benefit is derived from the wheely cooking carts other than novelty. But my husband was not wowed by it, feeling the plates should come directly from the chef to the diner…not retooled tableside.
Overly Exuberant Assistant Captain asked if we would like to see the dessert cart and we accepted, of course, but I didn’t look directly at him. All desserts are made in-house and he had me at “Tiramisu”. We ordered one with two forks. I have eaten a lot of tiramisu in my time (it is my favorite dessert) and this was a slightly unusual approach. There were the typical layers of ladyfingers and zabaglione but it was topped with a rather thick layer of chocolate…ganache? I did not get as much coffee flavor as I would have liked, the cream layers were heavy and the chocolate was overpowering.
My overall take on Vincenzo’s is that it is way overpriced. Sure, overly exuberant Assistant Captains do not come cheap but I am there for the FOOD and the food was subpar for that caliber of a restaurant. I give Vincenzo’s 1 out of 5. I simply have no desire to ever go back.
150 S 5th St.
Louisville, KY 40202