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VinciTorio's, Tempe - Part Un

Early Saturday evening,post the mid-matinee at Tempe Cinemas. A drink and maybe something to eat...and look! VinciTorio's, winking and beckoning. It's a bit crowded inside, nt as large as the exterior seems to promise. A brick wall, a tiny, four-seat bar, small patio and tables jammed into the narrow space between bar and exterior wall.
Lots of family photos showing parents, grandparents, schooldays in
Italy. Open kitchen with a lively crew, and that undeniable scent of pasta, bread, a whiff of garlic and a sharp green hit of basil
Mario has a practiced and warm greeting for all, suggests that if we want dinner in addition to a drink, we should say NOW because they will be very crowded. We demur and wait anyway.
A reasonable wine list, not phenomenal but fair and definitely what one might expect in a neighborhood place in an old Italian area of ..Chicago, or maybe Philadelphia or Baltimore.
A guitarist and vocalist who's covering 70's tunes - "No Sinatra here!" - capably if without much inspiration. but he's pleasant and eager to please. With wine and good, promising scents cming from that open kitchen filled with fabulously Italianate cooks and chefs...Lots of promise hangs in the air as the crowds begin to roll in.
A glass of wine later, one more on the way...not a table around, and with the realization that the bar is literally a high bar (how could you reasonably eat at a bar that hits at shoulder level?), we opt to split a Caesar and a special pizza - the Puglia, named for the region this family comes from.
Alas! All that promise and so little delivery...the Caesar is dripping...with water, which dilutes the dressing so much it's barely noticeable. Worse, it has a slick, mayonnaise-y feel in your mouth. The croutons are...boxed? Their garlicky taste is just a little stale-tasting, but they crunch nicely. The romaine, however, is lovely (if wet) - all pale green crunch.
Here's how the pizza's described on the menu: "Pizza Pugliese sliced potatoes, caramelized onions, sausage, mozzarella." Pizza comes in small, medium or large...
We ordered a medium (huge!) and here's what we got: Pizza Puglilese...with a ton of mozz', crumbled sweet but virtually tasteless sausage, mechanically diced onions that were barely cooked through and french fries larded across the entire pie.
That's right - french fries. Straight from the freezer bag.
A small mention of the discrepancy to your charming host Mario elicited first a look of outrage, then a shrug.
Finished the wine, paid the bill, and left. Determined to come back and see if the alleged handmade/homemade pastas live up to all that promise....
Stay tuned for part deux to come.....(check them out at www.vincitoriosrestaurant.com)

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  1. Don't bother. We can tag team on this one as we went there over the holidays and tried the pasta. We were really disappointed as like you it seemed to have promise when we walked through the door.

    The folks next to us were having pizza so we thought we should go back and try the pizza since the pasta was a bust. Thanks for your review we won't have to bother! Here's ours from Dec:


    1. You know, I'm just so disappointed. It's one place you just WANT to be better than it is. I'm so tempted to hypothesize that perhaps there's a terrific dish neither of us hit...but then I remember that perfectly dreadful Mexican resto in Mesa that is always completely jammed on weekend nights...and then I remember where (and in what era!) we're living and that crowds don't necessarily indicate anything about the food. D'ya think there's anything on that menu left to try? One of the not-so-special pizzas? An appetizer? (I'm dyin' for a place to go after the movies...without driving very far!)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Alice Letseat

        Alice - I'd recommend Caffe Boa in Ahwatukee (although I don't have first-hand experience) for Italian not too far away from Tempe Cinemas.

        1. re: Alice Letseat

          I don't know. I hear what you're saying though. We really really wanted to like it. The only other thing that might be worth trying are the baked pastas...there seemed to be quite a few coming out of the kitchen the night we were there. We thought that or the pizzas might be worth a return visit...but based on yoru experience the pizza isn't it either...so maybe the baked stuff.

          Im' not a fan of Papa Razzini's but on a thread I posted a while back about trying to find good inexpensive Italian in the neighborhood someone said the other Italian place in that same shopping center was worth a try. We haven't been there yet but it's on our list to try. It's up at McClintock/Guadalupe on the SE corner(across from TJ's).

          edit: The other Italian place in the spot where Papa Razzini's is is called Miele's according to this thread. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33980...

        2. Is TC Luigis still there at Elliot/McClintock? I used to work in the ASU Research Park and would stop in for pizza every now and then...very good pizza for the area.

          1. AH, TC's? not that I've noticed. But see, there's that qualifier "for the area!" I'm up around the TJ's/Changing Hands corner (not to mention Abe the shoemaker) fairly often....I'll check Miele's next time, ZLu. (Cafe Boa's a little outta the way for that "quick-fix" deal unless the movie's in that direction.) (Maybe we all should consider importing a restrauteur from ...oh, all right. not such a good idea. After all...these folks are actually old-country Italian...not that that gives anyone any more expertise around a kitchen. Obviously.)

            2 Replies
            1. re: Alice Letseat

              I only said "for the area" because I know how people are with their pizza. Personally, I think TC Luigis is up there with Slice of Sicily and NYPD (which are my PHX #3 for pizza behind Bianco and Ray's). It's good pizza and recommended if it's still there. I know they sold part of the group as Mozzarelli's (sp?) but that location kept the TC Luigi's name. From the website (http://www.tcluigispizza.com/locate.html) it still shows it there. Check it out.

              1. re: azhotdish

                Wow. I am so disappointed. My wife and I were going to try Vincitorio's this weekend. Your review sounds exactly what I expected of the place just looking at it from the outside but a previous thread here and a review of their website had me thinking it might be tolerable. Oh well.

                I will concur with the thought that this particular part of Tempe really needs a decent restaurant. I was at Bunna Coffee this weekend and they told me that the Croissant place at Rural and Elliot was moving to the corner spot of that strip center where Flowerama used to be. I hope that increased visibility drives more traffic to the area which overflows to Bunna. We need all of the independent shops with character we can get down here.

            2. Odd - I have never had the pizza there, but all of my pasta meals have been great. I go there with a group of fellow Italians and we have always enjoyed great meals there.

              Just curious here (please do not take offense) but what do you all consider good Italian? Some of the restaurants mentioned in this thread (Caffe Boa, TC Luigis, NYPD, etc...) are not what I would consider Italian restaurants.

              1 Reply
              1. re: StuCazzo

                Stu - those aren't places I consider good Italian, just neighborhood places to get pizza/pasta. I'm not a huge Italian eater but I usually head to Daniel's or La Locanda when I'm in the mood for something Italian.

              2. We eat regularly at Tutti Santi. We enjoy this place a great deal and consider it a very good Italian restaurant. So far, in six years, we've been disappointed in the Italian options in Phoenix. We used to trek up to Maria When in Naples when we first moved here as we thought their homemade was pretty decent. They've been gone for a few years now.

                I had the good fortune to spend a few years living near Bergamo, so I'm pretty sure of what I, at least, consider good Italian food. ;)

                1 Reply
                1. re: ziggylu

                  Yes - I would consider the one's you mentioned as "good Italian" too.
                  Have you tried Cafe Roma in east Mesa?

                  Bergamo huh? You consider that part of Italy? ;)

                2. Lago d'Iseo to be exact...and yeah, I"m pretty sure the Bergamasci considered it very much part of Italy...they did have a particular view though on where that southern boundary of the country might lie. ;)

                  Haven't tried Cafe Roma...where in Mesa? How is it pricewise? I'd love to find something a bit cheaper than Tutti Santi for a regular place but have been regularly disappointed...especially here in the East Valley....

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ziggylu

                    Cafe Roma
                    2011 N Recker Rd
                    Mesa, AZ 85215
                    (480) 654-0558

                    Prices are not too bad.

                    1. re: StuCazzo

                      Cafe Roma is indeed a gem. I've found it's one of those places where it's best to wave away the menu -- the first few times I went, I tried ordering what I was in the mood for; then I wised up and I just give them a bright smile when I walk in and ask them to bring me what's good today. The chef's wife will just wink and bring out a couple of courses with the perfect wine -- generally what he's cooked for them to eat, later, a humble pasta dish.

                  2. Well, sounds like you are much better off getting to run into the papa himself. I had the misfortune of dealing with the classless, rude, bimbo assistant manager that practically yelled at my friend and I for entering the restaurant three minutes early even though the doors were unlocked and the place appeared to be open for business. After getting into the restaurant the same girl made the entire experience very uncomfortable by walking around acting somehow annoyed by our presence. Although the bread was delightful and the lasagna pretty tasty, I really would never waste my time or money in a family restaurant where my friends and I are not welcomed.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: daniellej83

                      And yet...refer again to the splendiferous review in the recent Phoenix mag....maybe nikki ate at the alternative VinciTorio's...

                      1. re: Alice Letseat

                        I had dinner there a few weeks ago and thought it was great. I had pasta with shrimp and salmon. I plan on going again soon.
                        I tried Brunello, Baseline and Dobson, last night. Not bad. I'll have to keep them on the list too!

                    2. We tried this again last night. Friend picked it for his birthday so we couldn't say no.

                      Wasn't much better the second time around unfortunately.

                      Asparagus and "prosciutto" appetizer. A bunch of overcooked asparagus wrapped in some sort of ham that was NOT true proscuitto. Hot cooked ham at that.

                      This time I had the the Linguine Vongole. Terrible! So bland....lots of liquid in the bowl...but no flavor of clams, wine or butter. Just watery and blah. Came with soup or salad so I tried the mushroom soup...tasted of plain cream with mushrooms thrown in. Again blah. Husband had one of the homemade pastas with a basic tomato basil sauce. The sauce wasn't bad but the pasta again disappointed...same as the last time we tried...gummy.

                      We did order some Tiramisu for dessert. This was actually pretty good! They also pull a very respectable shot of espresso here. And the waiter that sang had a very nice voice. Service was pleasant and efficient.