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May 23, 2007 05:24 PM

Via in Worcester -- Great Start

We went to the long-awaited Via tonight -- the latest addition to the Ahlquist (Sole Proprietor, 111 Chop House) empire. It's Italian, and on Shrewsbury Street, which is sort of redundant. But Italian like Shrewsbury Street has never seen.

The space is expansive and dazzling, with multiple bars and an open kitchen and a gelateria and a salumeria, and all sorts of different scenes inside. Large windows bring in lots of light from the non-Shrewsbury St side, where they promise to have al fresco dining in a few weeks. A decidedly informal tone is set when you sit down and see the printed on your paper placemat. But it's a menu that can accomodate just about any mood, I think, with interesting apps and salads, creative but down-to-earth entrees, upscale pizzas, enticing side dishes, and so forth. We decided to make a meal out of a pizza (potato, fontina, romano, herbs), an entree (spit-roasted Tuscan chicken with mushroom risotto), and a side dish (brussels sprouts with pancetta).

From an all-Italian wine list (sorry, no oaky Chardonnays to be found) we chose a nicely-priced ($30) Valpolicella Ripasso.

Ka-ching. It was all terrific. The pizza was wafer-thin and savory, reminiscent of the very best we've had in Italy, and erasing all memories of anything else we've had in New England. It was also so generous we had to stop ourselves before we finished it, to save room. The chicken was nice but outshone by the risotto, which had such a great mushroom thing going on I wondered if they somehow had gotten their hands on some fresh porcini. But it was just the usual mushrooms, beautifully coaxed into showing off. The chicken skin was crisp and the dark meat tender; the breast was dry, but you'll have that. The brussels sprouts were outrageous, green and cooked just right, and studded with LOTS of very crispy pancetta.

Tho' we were full, we had to at least hear about desserts, which led us down the path of a killer orange panna cotta. Lots of other nice choices, not the least of which were about 7 freshly made varieties of gelato.

The tab, including a $30 bottle of wine, for two people who eat like trenchermen and brought leftovers home? $77 before tip. Giddyup. And there were SO many things on the menu that make me want to go back.

The decor is wonderful -- creative lighting, open spaces, etc. The bathrooms have marble slab sinks and real Italian music to wash your hands by. And the service was great -- it seemed as if they had about twice as many people as they needed, perhaps a strategy to open by. We recognized some of the staff from the Sole.

What a great start, what a great space to work with. I went with somewhat high expectations and was blown away. Check it out, and please report what you think.

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  1. Hi Rick,

    What a wonderfully wry and cinematic revue that definitely puts Via at the top of the "must try" list.

    Thanks, Harp00n

    1. I went a week ago late night with my husband and sat at the bar. There were only two other couples and what appeared to be three bartenders doing side work. We were ignored for the first ten minutes- no greeting or acknowledgement of our presence. We stayed because it was late and we were hungry. When one of the bartenders decided to serve us he was nice enough. We ordered a pizza and some beer. The pizza was really good. Roasted onions and portobello mushrooms on a really nice thin crust. This really is the best pizza I have ever had in Worcester. The atmosphere is also really nice if only the people who worked there cared a little bit more it would be ideal.
      Overall my experience was neutral-bad service good food. I am trying to decide whether I want to try again and see if things have gotten any better.

      1. Went to Via last night, arrived ~8:30 on a Saturday night, and the place was hopping. Lucked out in that there was a table (first come first serve) in the outdoor seating area. Very smart- situated on the back of the restaurant, so no noisy Shrewsbury St traffic! Beautiful patio.

        We were very spoiled by a waiter named (Mike) Leger, he was fantastic. And you must to try a drink called the 'Diva', which is a Limocello spritzer with fresh mint (reminds me of a Mojito). Unbelievably refreshing.

        We had the mushroom risotto & brussel sprouts sides (only 6$ each!) and we asked for (and received) a half portion of gnocchi with a basil pesto sauce for $9.

        We also had the orange panna cotta and loved it.

        Great experience, can't wait to go again!

        1. Gramma's best friend went last night and said it was loud. She had lasagna no salad for 25.00. I will try it someday but too many other choices I still need to try in Wormtown.

          3 Replies
          1. re: luci

            The lasagna's $17.
            $20 with a salad.
            Straight from their website.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              That certainly sounds more than reasonable, considering their aspirations.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                The quote must have been with tax and tip. They are elderly so this was probably not their scene. They are fans of the Sole.