Vito Caters to Power Lunching & Romantic Dining
One could easily fall in love again at Vito, an oasis of comfort, and a restaurant that caters to intimacy. It's stomping grounds for savvy connoisseurs of Italian food who enjoy Ceazar salads being tossed at their table. But it's also somewhat of an escape‑haven away from the chaotic noisy places where romance, coziness and good service have become as extinct as Dinosaurs. Its "Italiano," all the way, rekindling favorite recipes from the little towns in Italy that make the Italian Gods happy on Sunday & Monday after 5:00pm. That's when this beautiful upscale restaurant features a three-course dinner for $32; certainly the best buy in Santa Monica by a restaurant of this caliber.
The special dinner offers a choice of appetizer from a list of Mozzarella Marinara; Fresh roasted peppers, smoked salmon; beef carpaccio; Calamari Fritti; Minestrone Soup, or a salad. As a second course, the selections are a fantastic Pasta Penne Arrabiata; Capelline Checca; Spaghetti Bolognese, or Linguine Al Pesto. Entrée's entrees consist of Medaglioni of Filet Mignon; Scampi Alla Vito; Chicken Artichoke, or Veal Parmigiana.
When watching my weight, I've chosen their wonderfully thick "kicky" tomato sauce paired to the Chicken Cacciatore; interpreted to mean "hunter style." When requested, the kitchen will prepare it without salt or any other ingredients.
This place has so many regulars that one doesn't always have a choice of which dining room to be seated in without a reservation. However, there are three of them, and each has charm, with dark woods, comfortable booths and tables lots of candlelight, and lacy curtains. There are walls of mirrors, paintings, photos, cut glass, drapes, mood lighting sconces, and an especially good looking carpeted bar lined in vintage style lamps.
The tables are formally set with white linens, wine glasses, flowers in a vase, and an immediate presentation of garlic toast, along with basketed pizza bread. Because I've been to the restaurant many times, I'll mention some of the dishes that have become favorites.
At dinner any of the Antipasti's are great starters, such as their Scampi a La Gringlia, (shrimp); Calamari Posillipo, (baby squid sautéed in garlic, white wine, black olives, capers & tomato sauce) or the Trio for two, (Mozzarella, with roasted bell peppers, also grilled eggplant filled with Goat Cheese. Their Caesar salads are made for two at the table, but we usually have the "Patriota" for two, (radicchio, arugula and shaved Pecorino).
There are about 17-pastas, one is a masterpiece, with clams, shrimp, calamari and mussels in a Marinara sauce. I especially like the "snappy" Puttanesca, made with anchovies, capers, black olives, and garlic in a tomato sauce; also their Homemade Lasagna, one of the famous pasta dishes of Naples. However, the combinations are many, and Vito's personal favorite is Spaghetti Della Casa, chopped shrimp sauteed with shallots, flamed with cognac and a touch of cream and tomato sauce. He refers to it as positively scrumptious.
Entrees include eight popular veal platters, (Marsala, Parmigiana, Piccata, Portofino, Florentina, Saltimbocca, Sorrentina, and Cacciatore). The fish of the day is always interesting, such as their "Zuppa Di Pesce," a classic Neopolitan Cioppino, with clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari, a "Seafood Euphoria." In addition, besides variations on Italian style chicken, the kitchen features Filet Mignon smothered in sautéed mushrooms, or one of the oldest recipes of Torino; medallions of Filet Mignon sautéed with mushrooms, and a touch of mustard with Cognac.
Vito's genuinely appeals to all the happy‑hearty eaters that are watching their intake, as well as those who are not, (the dessert cart will "getcha!). And I would certainly put it on top of the list for any occasion, from a clandestine romantic rendezvous, to a loving night out with mom. It's a diamond among zircons. 2807 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica; (3l0)450‑4999. Valet in rear, or street parking; major credit cards accepted; full bar with 4-star wine list. Open 5-days for lunch; 11:30am-2:30pm; dinner 7-days from 5:00pm.
Try lunch from $2 to $4 dollars less. Antipasti, $11.95-$13.95; Salads for two, $17.95-$18.95; Pasta, $15.50-$22.95; Eastern Milk-fed Veal, $25.95-$27.95; Chicken, Steak, and fish $21.95-$35.50.
Save some room for the chef's Tiramisu, Italy's answer to the English "Trifle," (no pun intended, but it should be crowned for excellence.
For more information, visit www.vitorestaurant.com