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Don’t Stop Believin’

May 6, 2008

If Tony Soprano ate anywhere in Asheville, it would be Vincenzo’s.  The downstairs bar seating always reminds of the 80’s show, “Moonlighting,” with Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd.  The air is filmy, faces look airbrushed, the hairstyles are 20 years old, and although the ambient sounds are coming from the cheesy guitar licks of a live musician, I can almost hear the echo of a saxophone playing underneath it all.  I sat down alone late last night, ready for a glass of dry white, trying not to breath too deeply as the smoke from various Pall Malls, Mistys, and other such brand cigarettes swirled around the room.  Five or so older folks gathered at the bar, their discussion mirroring reports from the flat screened Fox News show behind the bar.  The Austrian Family Dungeon* was on everbody’s lips, as though they’d been waiting through the bright light of day until they could finally discuss this despicably enticing news event in a dark, smoky bar, their clinking glasses and crude laughter cutting into chords of “Sweet Melissa.”

I tried a glass of their house Pinot Grigio, at least I think that’s what I ordered.  The waitress clearly wanted me to eat and run, and when I ordered “something dry” I don’t think she ever told me what it was.  Since it was late on a Monday, I just wanted to eat light, and I ordered the antipasti platter.  If they had served Tony this dish, I don’t think the chef would have made it home that night.  The olives could have been from Ingles, the proscuttio-wrapped asparagus tasted like it had been cooked yesterday and left in the fridge all day, the meats were florescently hued atrocities.  The cheese option, provolone maybe, was completely forgettable and belonged on a deli sandwich, not on a antipasti platter.    Mostly, the plate was abundantly sprinkled with slivers of red onion.  This was a complete waste of $7.50, and I really expected much better.  In fact, I remember just a few years ago when I ordered the antipasti and it arrived with whole marinated artichokes, tender asparagus, exotic olives, authentically cured meats, and a cheerful array of pickled vegetables.   Next time I want antipasti, I’ll stick with La Catarina on Elm.

I moved on to the Wild Boar Ragout tossed with tagliatelle.  The DJ is going mostly vegetarian, so we thought Wild Boar might be a nice sendoff.  I find this dish among the more interesting on their tried and true menu, pairing gamey boar with sweet, heavy dark tomato-based sauce.  The boar was too rich for this late at night, but the tagliatelle was cooked just right, and the sauce was more of a broth.  I appreciated the deep, sensual sweetness of this meal, but the boar just wasn’t quite right for our mood in that moment.   However, I would definitely recommend this dish to anyone who still believes Vincenzo’s has something substantial to offer to Asheville’s ever-blossoming culinary pantheon.

I may return to Vincenzo’s once again if I’m up for some late night slumming.  A drink and an appetizer could be a nice summer evening, especially if the music improves.  I also appreciate that nearly all of their dishes come as half priced half portions, a marvelous idea that can cut both your costs and waistline expansion in half for a night out.  As I said, I’ve had much better nights there before, and I’m open to that possibility again.  Vincenzo’s is a restaurant with something to say, I just may not often be there to listen. 

 

*I was going to link to this story on Foxnews.com, but then I decided a.  I don’t ever want to link to Fox News, b. If you don’t know about this story, you really are better off

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