Via Vai report (long)
Due to the board's discussion on Via Vai, we decide to go try its pizza Saturday night.
Just to get it out of the way, their pizza was indeed excellent. We ordered one for the table as an appetizer. I forgot the name, but it had spicy sausages, capers, roasted peppers, fresh herbs and of course cheese. The thin and crispy crust had a little trouble holding up all the topping, but it was worth the trouble. The combination of spicy sausages, the sweet peppers, and the sour capers really worked towards a great pizza. I only got one slice, which makes me definite want to go back to order a whole one for myself!
For starters we ordered beef carparicco, prochiutto with melons, minestrone and fried calamari. The two bad things were the soup and the melons. The soup was flat, though it was chock full of vegetable, somehow it just didn't taste flavorful enough. The prochutto and melon dish came with a ton of prochutto but only four tiny slices of very unripe melons. I should have known it's not melon seasons. The fried calamari was one of the best fried calamari I've had. It was not oily, not chewy, perfectly fried, and paired with a great marina sauce.
For the entree I almost had to say, don't bother with their daily specials (did I break a Kitchen Confidential rule?) I ordered a spaghetti with mussels and clams, and it was terrible. The pasta was too aldente, not enough sauce came with the dish, I had to ask for more, nothing special about the flavor. While the everyday menu pasta dishes my dining mates ordered were all good, especially the egg noodle pastas.
For dessert, only two things were ordered for the table, an affagato and lemon sorbet. I have to say it was one of the best affagato ever. They chilled the espresso before pouring on to the gelato, so unlike the usual melted mess you get at other places, theirs were wonderfully firm but still full of flavor. The lemon sorbet was excellent as well. Tiny bits of lemon peel studded the sweet and sour sorbet. The right combination was achieved so that it was not too sour or too sweet.
Overall the service was slow and inattentive. Perhaps because they were extremely busy, but that should not be an excuse in my opinion.
We would go back again, but probably only for lunch and only for pizza and affagato.
I've only been to 'Via Vai' for the pizza, which I found to be wonderful, particularly when lightly topped (Margherita and Diavola were fantastic) so that the crust maintains its structure.
The lemon sorbet sounds wonderful too, fitting the description of lemon 'granita' from the pizza restaurants of Naples and Amalfi...
Admittedly, I did have a hunch, initially, that 'Via Vai' was a place for antipasti & pizza... not pastas and entrees.
You've confirmed my hunch.
You know, I think someone mentioned, in a previous discussion about Italian eats, that it is best to go to 'Pane e Vino', the mother restaurant, instead of the little sister that is 'Via Vai' (same owners).
I think that's probably true, except perhaps when what you want is nothing more than a simple, tasty lunch with a few apps, a couple pizzas, a beer or two, and authentic italian ambience/service. ;>)
For that, 'Via Vai' more than delivers.
re: Lois Cherner
In defense of Via Vai (even though I've only been once!) I must say that one's perception of the service probably varies greatly with what one orders.
Like I said in another post... I would really only recommend Via Vai for the *pizza*. They have a true wood fired oven, after all, and pizza seems to be their specialty.
Now, service for a pizza or two can hardly be loused up, can it? (keep the worm out of this!) :>)
In addition... since the waitstaff at Via Vai seems to be primarily genuine Italians... one might expect service that resembles genuine Italian service in Italy... i.e. no huddling around the table over-pouring drinks and no pushing the check until it is requested.
The upside of these "flaws" (or charms as I see them) is that one can get truly great pizza *and* feel free to linger on without being rushed out of the place.
Personally, I find that the table "turnover" strategy of American restaurants can be offensive. So, sometimes I really appreciate a restaurant that seats you, takes your order, brings your food/drinks, and leaves you be unless called upon.
In short, if it's entree-style meals with attentive, wine and water pouring service that you want...
I suggest a trip to *Pane e Vino* down the street.
It's not the "water pouring" kind of thing that got me. It's the "I don't want to know you are here" attitude. We sat in an almost empty restaurant for 10 minutes before anyone would even acknowledge we were there. We were two women, I don't know if they do that when men are in the party.