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Vannis : Italian, St.Clair & Christie - a quick review

I am surprised that no other Chowhounds have discovered or commented on this small but worthwhile Italian restaurant. (Open for about six months).

The ambiance is certainly not "haute cuisine" but the food certainly exceeds one's expectations from this Bar come Bistro on the North side of St.Clair just East of Christie.

Three of us ate lemon scallopini accompanied by superb sweet potato and spinach; Hawaian pizza with an appropriately crisp and thin crust; calamari and shrimp with spicey mayo; a rich risotto of Italian sausage & sun-dried tomato; plus a portion of cuban lobster tail & filet; rounded off with a soft Tiramisu to die for. Yes, we were pigs!

Total cost including tip but excluding wine less than $100!

Although it might appear that we ate everything on the menu, in fact there was plenty to choose from that we didn't manage to try. (One of the several enticing sounding fish dishes for example.)

Service was surprisingly quick given the complexity of our order and despite the fact that there were several other tables full.

Overall a very decent place to eat although not necessarily a romantic environment being busy e.g TV screens with sports on them and families.

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  1. good to know as my mom lives close by. i will give it a try and pass along my comments

    1. Is this the restaurant next door to the (recently closed) Marcket Fine Foods?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Tatai

        Yep! That's the one. 627b St. Clair Ave. West.

      2. I started a post awhile back searching for the best calamari, and when I read your post I had to go try Vanni's myself. It is spectacular! Crunchy calamari and shrimp deep fried but not at all oily, with some sort of lemon red pepper spicy aioli.
        I reccomend to all calamari fiends!

        1 Reply
        1. re: HerMajestyPrincessBaklava

          i had dinner on thursday night and was not disappionted....we started with the fried calamari which was very good and if you like a sauce to dip the calamari in, the dip they have is excellent...i had the special which was a selection of seafood (didn't like the shrimp) in a lovley sauce and with pasta. one of my fellow diners had a chicken wrap...unlike no chicken wrap i have ever had...full of flavour..sundried tomatoes, cramelized onions, peppers...lettece...it was outstanding...the soup was carrot ginger and was very good..we ordered a plain pizza with feta, which stood out on its own as wonderful....but the best thing was the service...two of our diners asked to share orders so the waitress brought each order in two seperate bowls for the soup, plates for the salad and pasta...when one of our diners asked for a touch of hot water to top up her cappucino she did so with more of the same..no hot water filler here...one of our diners was 8 so when he ordered our first course she asked if we would like my sons dinner brought out then so he wouldn't have to wait for ours.....that is gold when dining with children...we all agreed that for the money vanni's is worth every dollar....p.s...we sat at the front by the wall of glass....very cold...those of us who had their backs to the glass were all wearing coats...

        2. I walked by this place a couple of times, but when I read how many items were on their menu, I decided to give it a miss. I have never had luck with places whose menus were more than 4 pages.

          However, judging from your comments, I may have jumped to a conclusion... I will hope to give it a try in the next few weeks.

          1. Thank you Ribboy, an enriching addition to the original review, appreciated.

            1 Reply
            1. re: AzulH

              I just tried this place a couple of weeks or so ago with a friend who's gone many times since it opened...Gosh!! It was terrific!...I had the Mushroom Risotto and a Caesar Salad...great taste (fresh, crunchy Romaine, homemade croutons and decent size shaved parmigano (sp?)in a zesty dressing. The Risotto was done perfectly and was incredibly rich (so much so, that I took some home..couldn't eat it all in one sitting!) My friend had a filet of Salmon and (can't remember if it was) cous cous and an appetiser & she said it wasreally tasty, the salmon perfectly cooked!...We didn't drink (alcohol)or have a dessert ...the Bill was very reasonable, only $42.The service was awesome , helpful and very pleasant (no pushing of the 'bar') I am so glad it's in my neighbourhood so to speak...I will return very soon and hope to make it one of my 'neighbourhood' stand by's if it is always this good.

              p.s. word to the wise..St. Clair West at Christie is still a MAJOR mess..go up Christie instead of along St.Clair (street parking on Christie).

            2. Okay guys, my husband and I were keen to try Vannis after reading posts about how great it is. We went on Saturday night and were sadly disappointed. It was one of the worst meals we have ever had. We started with calamari and a spinach salad. The calamari was suspiciously uniform in shape and size with no tentacles and very little flavour -- we thought it was from frozen. The feta in the spinach salad was moldy -- I got a big bite of mold and we sent it back (they took it off the bill but they didn't appear all that concerned about it). My husband ordered the penne alla vodka which was okay but a bit starchy -- the pancetta was rubbery and overdone. My mushroom risotto lacked flavour and was undersalted. Even the service was lacking -- I asked our server about the risottos and she had only tasted one so had no opinion. I'm really sorry it didn't work out -- the prices are reasonable and it appears to be busy. Would have liked to support a local place!

              5 Replies
              1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                What an unfortunate dinner you had...too bad, but if you're not totally turned off I would suggest trying again for the sake of fairness.....I/We've been there at least six times since March and have only had one 'main' that was not very good (in that I don't think it would be ordered again..Veal Scallopine..was bland and cooked too long so the texture was 'rubbery') other than that we have been very well satisfied and now consider Vannis one of our 'go to' neighbourhood places...that being said, the place is doing a 'huge' business and it can be very noisy so we have chosen to dine early (6 - 6:30.....
                Do give them another 'try'.....St.Clair West is having a terrible time with the construction mess and I think that more 'neighbourhood' places will close as a result...we have made an effort to support the businesses along St.Clair West....heaven knows there are many to choose from!!!

                1. re: pearlD

                  pearlID, as you know, Arcadiaseeker is not the only person who had a meal at Vannis that was mediocre at best. As I posted in the "St. Clair West" thread, we had an awful meal there a few weeks ago. I'm the first to promote and champion local restaurants that warrant it; yes, times are tough and the construction on St. Clair is hurting businesses, but restaurants -- especially in these times -- must get it right the first time. Very few people have deep enough pocketbooks, or the inclination, to return to a restaurant that was plain, outright lousy.

                  1. re: Tatai

                    Hey "Tatai"...well commented and certainly I do see your point, but we will return to Vannis because for me, one 'bad' experience out of six visits was ananomaly..so I'm willing to keep going.....

                    1. re: pearlD

                      Hi pearlD -- thanks for the encouragement but I am not sure I can get my hubby to try it again. But we are keeping our money flowing to St. Clair when we have enough to go out to dinner. There are so many new places cropping up that will be fun to try.

                      1. re: Arcadiaseeker

                        An new places in the hood to report?

              2. Does anyone know if their menu is available on line?

                2 Replies
                1. We tried out Vannis yesterday and I don't think we'll be going back. Service was friendly but food was only so so. We tried the spinach salad, arugula salad, fried calamari (since it was supposed to be a very good one as per CH), lobster/shrimp pasta, and clam (vongole) pasta. We also had the white chocolate mousse for dessert. No dish was bad but the spinach salad didn't have much flavour (though the walnuts were good); the arugula salad didn't have enough brie (though the small amount of dressing used was a nice fruity vinaigrette); the calamari was a bit too greasy and not very crispy though the calamari itself was reasonably tender; the clams in the vongole were good in terms of tender and tasty but the sauce on the pasta was not too my taste---hard to pin down why (maybe just not enough garlic or other seasoning--it just felt heavy oily); the lobster in the pasta was tough and I wasn't wild about the sauce used. The cake (made from outside) was not very well named (it was chocolate cake and dark and white chocolate mousse) but it was quite nice.

                  Anyway, not a bad restaurant but other Italian places I prefer. My one regret is not trying the pizza since I think I've read it said here that it is very good. But I'd had a bit too much pizza of late so didn't order it... Oh, and I feel sorry for the restaurant trying to cope with all that construction on St. Clair. You really had to get lucky to find a parking space and go through an elaborate street crossing process to get to the door.