How many times have you been to a restaurant with a large group and the experience was a disaster? I know. Me, too. You’re all excited about taking your family or group of friends to one of your favorite places only to be embarrassed by the disappointing service and lackluster quality. Serving large parties is a challenge. Some places do it better than others. For example, my family went to Jeff Ruby’s to celebrate a milestone birthday and the entire experience was amazing. Another great group experience was Vincenzo’s.
I know what you’re thinking: didn’t she diss them in her review a few months ago? Yes, yes I did. I wasn’t overly impressed with the so-so quality for the top shelf prices, although service was good. In the interest of fairness, I felt it was important to convey the details of an outstanding group dinner at this landmark restaurant.
Let’s set the stage: it is a group of about 20 business professionals. We are seated in a large private room at one long, rectangular table. We have one primary server. Someone else is picking up the tab for the food. The menu has been predetermined for us.
The first course was very similar to the TORTELLINI ALLA PANNA CON PARMIGIANO REGGIANO from the dinner appetizer menu. That dish is described on the menu as “pasta pillows filled with ricotta cheese served in a Reggiano Parmigiano cream sauce with prosciutto, peas and mushrooms”. We were served bow tie pasta with peas and cream sauce. While I still maintain that fine Italian dining should feature fresh made pasta, this dish was yummy. Put cream sauce on pretty much anything and I’ll eat it. I also happen to adore peas. I like the way they burst in your mouth when they cooked to just the right doneness and the bright green color looks so pretty on the plate.
After that we were served INSALATINA DEL KENTUCKY described on the menu as “Kentucky limestone Bibb lettuce with walnuts, goat cheese and orange supreme with Champagne vinaigrette“. This was a delicious flavor combination in a fresh, light presentation. I usually skip the salad course to save my appetite and my wallet for the “good stuff” – hot, savory dishes. But this salad was very enjoyable and I would like to recreate it at home in my own kitchen. Goat cheese=delightful.
The entrée course was a combination of a version of the FILETTO RIPIENO (9 oz filet grilled and stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, wild mushrooms glazed with Bordelaise sauce) and the POLLO CON ASPARAGI (Farm raised airline breast of chicken served with asparagus tips, sun-dried tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese).
I pride myself on attaining level 20 in the “food” category on Quiz Up. In fact, it’s my best category aside from “name that celebrity”. (yes, I watch a lot of mindless television. It’s a guilty pleasure.) However, I did not know what “airline” chicken was. I guessed it had nothing to do with the mode of shipment to the restaurant. A few seconds of googling and I had my answer. Airline chicken is another term for “frenched” breast of chicken. It is a boneless chicken breast with the first wing joint and tenderloin attached and is generally served skin on.
Our group did not receive an “airline” breast of chicken as no drumette was attached to the breast pieces, but the rest of the description rang true on our plates. This is one of the most delicious pieces of chicken I have eaten in my entire life. And I’ve eaten a lot of chicken, folks. First of all, it was a thick piece but tender and moist throughout….perfectly cooked. A light breading provided subtle crunchy texture. The sauce is to die for. It was a lick-your-plate moment. My birthday dinner may have turned out differently had I chosen this chicken dish. Typically, I shy away from chicken at nice restaurants because 1) I make pretty good chicken at home, 2) it usually isn’t very impressive, and 3) I feel so unadventurous and boring ordering chicken. This chicken dish was the polar opposite of the stereotypes.
The filet was so tender there was no need for a steak knife. Of course the staff already knew this and saved us the trouble of working around a needless utensil – no steak knives were provided. Accompanying this mouth-watering beef medallion was an amazing Bordelaise sauce. Bordelaise sauce is a classic French sauce named after the Bordeaux region of France. It is typically made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and sauce demi-glace. I’ll give you my definition of this Bordelaise sauce: heavenly.
As much as I am drawn to cream sauces, I am also a sucker for asparagus. Cream sauce AND asparagus together would launch my tastebuds into another dimension. Adding asparagus to this plate made me such a happy girl.
We also had a super cute little red potato that had been hollowed out, the potato flesh whipped with who knows what deliciousness, and then artfully piped back into the potato shell. It tasted as good as it looked.
The meal was topped off with tiramisu, made in-house. Impressive-looking with multiple layers of zabaglione/mascarpone and ladyfingers, it is topped off with what could be chocolate ganache. I’m a “dusting of cocoa” kind of girl and I felt the chocolate ganache-y stuff overpowered the flavors and lightness of the tiramisu. Nonetheless, it was a sweet, rich ending to this outstanding meal.
The service throughout our dining experience was impressive. Extra help materialized to facilitate the presentation of each course, serving the ladies first, but placing all plates on the table within moments. No one was awkwardly sitting with food in front of them, waiting on the entire party to be served before they could dive in. We were all able to enjoy hot food simultaneously. In addition, the pace of the meal was efficient but relaxed. The space between courses was never so long that I felt like I was actively waiting nor did I become impatient.
Of course my satisfaction level for this meal had nothing to do with the price since I wasn’t paying for my food. I am considering only the food and the service. I highly recommend Vincenzo’s for large parties, as long as your wallet is fat enough.