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Posted by Brian at 09:01PM, Saturday, December 03rd, 2005

Vinny's at Night (restaurant review)

76 Broadway, Somerville, Massachusetts

A lot of hype has surrounded this busy back-of-a-convenience store restaurant since a recent Globe review. Despite our initial skepticism, we feel it's worth checking out while it's still an honest and authentic red-sauce-Italian place.

My major concern was being able to find a good bottle of wine on a list other reviewers called 'modest.' We ordered a Brunello (we've been racking our brains to remember the name, without success), and, due to our lack of attention, got a Chianti by the same producer, which turned out to be quite good, and reasonable at $34. When we finally got the Brunello as our second bottle, we thought it was a bit of a letdown, though our companions loved it.

Appetizers started strong. The antipasto table descrbied in many reviews wasn't open during our visit, but our dining companions each ordered calamari, I had an antipasto salad plate, and Aaron ordered chicken sausage. The calamari wasn't quite Ming Tsai-level tender, but hot, fresh, and served with a fantastic marinara and sliced, pickled peppers, which were excellent. The sausages were spicy, though not otherwise very flavorful, and in a rustic sauce with lots of yellow and red peppers.

Stretch your stomach before you come here, because we were nearly full after the appetizers. Entrees were huge, and came out nearly as soon as we were done with the apps.

Mine was the last to arrive (by a nearly-awkward interval), and also the most exciting: a lamb osso bucco which was falling off the shank and served on a big pile of risotto. It looked and tasted fantastic. The meat probably could have used a little salt, which is unusual these days and perfectly forgivable. The risotto seemed a little ricey and bland, but with a hunk of gorgeous meat like that, I can write it off to being 'authentic' or something. I wouldn't know. This was some of the best lamb we've had in a restaurant, and nearly competitive with Ellen's otherworldly fresh stewed shoulder at Shepherd's Hill Farm.

The name escapes me, but Aaron and Jeff both ate a lasagne-like dish, though made with a small tubular pasta, cheese and peas. I had half of it for lunch the next day and thought it was excellent. Our friend Cheryl had lobster in red sauce, with scallops and shrimp. It looked amazing, and disappeared quickly.

My overall impression is that Vinny's is the kind of high-energy, fun, and slightly unusual food experience that most people are looking for when they go out. The small, crowded space adds to the experience, and as long as you have some tolerance when it comes to service, you'll be happy you put up with the bustle and noise to try the food. Sometimes stuff like this doesn't last day-to-day, let alone for a few years, so check it out while you can.
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