Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Old School Italian - Vito in Santa Monica

 Vito Ristorante rests nonchalantly on Ocean Park Blvd, just a few blocks from my new apartment. Opened in 1980 and maintained by 3 Neapolitan brothers Vito, Roberto and Giovanna Somma, Vito is classic old school Italian. Cozy tables and red leather booths bring patrons close together as the Italian waiters bustle around in bow ties and cravats. With accents so thick I couldn't discern "medium rare" from some intelligible Sicilian word, the servers definitely added to the Southern Italian mood.

Vito was packed to the brim when my dad and I had dinner there Saturday night, so  I highly recommend getting reservations ahead of time. Though Vito is known for its extensive wine list, I was still recovering from a night out with former office-slave coworkers and could not even look at a glass of wine. We did start with one of my newer obsessions, calamari fritti. Lightly breaded, these were just as good as some of the others I've sampled. (I still maintain that Kate Mantilini's lemon-basil aioli and amatriciana dipping sauces place their calamari miles above the rest.)

My dad opted for one of the specials, spaghetti with veal meatballs and tomato sauce (pictured above).  This simple dish was amplified by its massive, hearty meatballs. Easily 5lbs, these monsters seemed to regenerate themselves. I tried a few bites, but had my own meal to attend to: medaglioni al cognac.

Described as one of the oldest recipes of Torino, medaglioni al cognac is medallions of filet mignon sauteed with mushrooms, mustard and cognac. Served with grilled veggies and a dollop of mashed potatoes, this was one of the richest and most addictive meals I've had. I found myself smearing the potatoes, veggies, and meat in the sweet, succulent sauce and even licking my fingers.

After stuffing ourselves to the brim, we were finished. Our robust waiter rolled his eyes at us, typical blunt Italian-style, when we politely refused dessert. I was lucky enough to take both leftovers home (thanks, Dad!). The filet mignon was still tender the next day, and I finished off the remaining meatball wanting more! Thankfully this place is so close, I'll have to take another visit and try one of their famous veal dishes... you know, for research's sake.

2807 Ocean Park Blvd
Santa Monica, CA, 90405
(310) 450-4999


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