Veni Vidi Vici … Vito’s!

October 6, 2009

It was the night of my visit to Vito’s Cafe with the Cincinnati Tastecasting Team that I conveniently changed my personal foodie philosophy from “vegetarian” to “flexitarian.” (And believe me, you would’ve too if you had been presented with the same sumptuous plates …)

This was my first visit to Vito’s in Ft. Thomas, and I’ll admit, I hesitated slightly before deciding to join the group, despite the tantalizing menu. As usual, the food won. I decided to leap the giant mental hurdle of crossing the river for any place other than the Gap Outlet and the airport. A pleasant surprise, the GPS tracked me at only 29 minutes from Mason. Could that be right? Indeed it was. Truly, I barely even needed the GPS, getting there was so easy.

Walking into the dimly lit restaurant entrance, I was warmly greeted by Mary, wife of the restaurant’s namesake owner. She welcomed me and escorted me into the cozy side bar, rich with flickering candles and amber-hued lighting setting off the wood bar. I was presented with a small glass of the restaurant’s only draft beer. Brewed onsite by the owners’ son, the seasonal Cattail Ale was just complex enough to have a distinct bite, which I love. Some restaurant bars are simply places to sit and wait out the time until a table is ready. This is a bar I could imagine making a point to come to the restaurant early to enjoy as part of the dining experience.

The restaurant is separated into two dining areas by a small stage with just enough room for a vocalist and a gleaming grand piano. If you know me, you know ambiance is half the battle with making me a happy patron, and Vito’s has an eclectic but warm vibe. Of course, what really makes the ambiance is the entertainment. The piano hums along, broken up by sporadic performances by the singing waiters and waitresses. Even Vito spent time entertaining his diners. While many of the performers are clearly rising stars at CCM or NKU, I have to say that the real star here was the food.

Our lavish tasting was more of a journey through the menu, stopping along the way to discuss our favorites and the lovely presentations. When it comes to food, quality trumps quantity any day in my book, and Vito’s “small plates” were tailor-made for my appetite (and attention span). The courses progressed as follows:

Primo Assaggio (first taste): Roasted beet with ricotta salata
1st Course: Beef tartar with sriracha aioli and fried caper berries
2nd Course: Shrimp bisque with a petite shrimp salad and micro parsley
3rd Course: Baby arugula salad with a citrues vinaigrette and shaved parmigiano
4th Course: Squid ink fettuccine with a lemon sage butter sauce
5th Course: “Brasato al Barolo” braised beef with Porcini mushrooms
Dessert: A trio of budinos (image below)

Budino - Chocolate with Salted Caramel

Budino - Chocolate with Salted Caramel

While there wasn’t anything I didn’t enjoy, the standouts in my book were the rich and just slightly sweet shrimp bisque (perfectly portioned in a demitasse cup), the decadent squid ink fettuccine (made each day onsite), and the chocolate with salted caramel budino (salted caramel, people … need I say more?). When we return, I’ll insist that my husband (a carnivore, all the way) order the “Brasato al Barolo”. (This is one of the dishes where my “flexitarian” status came into play, as I had several bites of this braised beef that nearly melted into the plate, atop a lovely parsnip puree.) And he will thank me for it.

What a fun night. Thanks to Mary and Vito for having us, Micah Paldino of PB&J for setting it up, and the fantastic performers who kept us entertained.

* I took some lovely pictures, but my camera was conveniently set to “blue” (no idea why, but sometimes it happens) for all of the pictures except for the Budino. 

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