Whether you’re looking for an intimate spot to have a romantic date night or a place to pop in for cocktails and snacks, there is another class of Italian cooking happening in North Asheville on Merrimon Avenue known as Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian. Many of us know it, many of us don’t. For years I have made the trip up and down this quintessential, Asheville artery often times noticing Vinnie’s glowing neon sign thinking to myself – “Must. Go. There!”
Twelve years in Asheville and I’ve finally taken the Vinnie’s plunge and boy they did not disappoint. It was immediately fun and inviting as we plopped ourselves down at the bar where Asheville’s top-rated mixologist was waiting, bottle in hand, ready to pull the trigger on concocting his finest cocktails.
Josh March is Vinnie’s star mixologist who year after year is awarded the ‘Best Of WNC’ – favorite neighborhood bartender. The minute we made ourselves comfortable at his cozy little corner bar, he immediately began working his magic. The first drink Josh assembled for my date and I was the Cherry-O daily drink special. Just the right amount of refreshing ingredients makes this specialty drink a well balanced Tequila lover’s dream.
Something everyone should know about Vinnie’s – the staff is remarkable. From the moment you walk through the front door, the staff is there to make sure your experience is the best it can be. After finding your sweet little table, the knowledgeable waitstaff will greet you with great smiles and big comfort while they highlight all the daily specials as well as answer any questions you may have about the menu. Whether you have dietary needs or concerns, the servers are well trained to handle even the toughest of questions, no problem. Vinnie’s neighborly hospitality is taken to the next level and something about the atmosphere just makes you feel at home.
The mystery of Vinnie’s appears to slip away as we sip our cocktails and reposition ourselves to the most romantic outdoor seating available in Asheville. No matter the weather outside, rain or snow, this little piazza was delicately lit, warm and cozy. Enchanting comes to mind as I begin to soak it all in.
The food was love at first sight. Nick Blackshaw is Vinnie’s stellar Chef and he delivers! We kicked off this debauchery with skillfully grilled Spanish octopus served nicely on our very own wooden cutting board, accompanied by grilled lemon and toasted potatoes perfectly tossed in sea salt. The right amount of pucker, we applaud this winning antipasti.
The second of five dishes Chef Nick presented to us was one of Vinnie’s ‘signature dishes,’ the ever so loved Eggplant Parmigiana. The allure of this dish was one thing but once we sank our teeth into this perfectly textured pasta – it was game on! I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. Covered in house made marinara sauce this authentic Italian dish will have your taste buds exploding. Milan nightlife in your mouth!
The third course was a classic Sicilian dish Rigatoni Alla Norma, named for Bellini’s Opera. This amazing, old-world fare was the perfect combination of pan-seared eggplant, red onion and Vinnie’s marinara. Fresh basil, olive oil and tomatoes tossed with properly tempered rigatoni pasta topped with fresh ricotta, bright basil, and a warm touch of crushed pepper flakes. Come on! Need I say more?
And the Oscar goes to….Penne alla Fungi. The primo pasta dish of the evening (in my opinion). Holiest of all the dishes at Vinnie’s because the flavor profile on this plate was out of this world! Rich earthy flavors, fresh picked wild shrooms tossed flawlessly in a cream sherry sauce. Topped off with delicate micro greens, it was mushroom heaven! If you’re a fan of mushrooms, this is a dish that should be number one on your food bucket list.
As if we could introduce any more food into our overstuffed gut’s, Chef Nick took this dinner to the next level with one more crowning savory dish. The fifth and final course delivered to us was Vinnie’s very special Bone-in Pork Chop Milanese. This very handsome chop was hand-cut, breaded and pan fried to perfection. Bellissimo! Needless to say, we requested a to go box where the next day – all I could think about was diving into my leftovers.
Our experience at Vinnie’s was not quite over, it came full circle when a silky, rich chocolate torte hit the table in front of us. I’m talking one of my favorite desserts, the Flourless Chocolate Torte – layers of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse topped off with a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache. As a former pastry chef myself, who has made almost hundreds of flourless tortes, I must say that this slice of plated cocoa bliss was on point! No matter how stuffed I was with pasta – I was immediately in dessert mode. A Vinnie’s a la mode!
Needless to say, we cannot wait to go back to Vinnie’s for another perfect Italian experience. From the mouth watering octopus grilled to perfection, the impressive craft cocktails to the divine silky torte, we happily give our dinner at this old-world sensation five stars! Heck, five hundred stars. You’ll be seeing stars as you stumble to your car.
Il cibo era delizioso! Google it.
Featuring 1/2 Priced Bottles of Wine
Fresh Made Gnocchi
Kids Under 10 Eat FREE
Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian
641 Merrimon Avenue
Asheville, North Carolina 28804
Sunday – Thursday: 5 – 9pm
Friday & Saturday: 5 – 10pm