Vinny’s Ristorante gives you the North End, and plenty of it, in East Somerville
In their occasional Bread & Butter column, Linda and Uri Guttman review dining experiences in and around Cambridge.
What do you do when you have a hankering for North End red sauce Italian but don’t want to deal with North End parking, prices and hit-or-miss quality? Our secret is to go to East Somerville on Broadway near Sullivan Square. You need to know the key, which is that an ordinary-looking Italian deli is also a front for a great Italian restaurant called Vinny’s at Night.
And when we say front, we mean front. You actually enter through the deli with its glass display refrigerators and service counters and bright lighting.
In the evenings – the “at Night” part – a rear room is the sit-down place for fine pasta, red sauce and other delights. The room is cozy and the servers do well snaking between the tables and seats. It is wise to make a reservation or be prepared to wait in the deli area.
You can start your meal with a plate from the antipasti buffet table, which is an extra $10 with a meal and well worth it. The table has 10 to 15 items that vary, but you will likely find dry salami, cheeses, olives, marinated mushrooms, arancini, cod cakes, grilled eggplant and stuffed pepper slices.
All are made in house and are very tasty. We usually order a salad to share, and they are meant to be shared. A house mesclun salad could be split with three to four people easily.
It has greens, sliced carrots, tomatoes, olives and hot peppers. It is unusual for a mesclun salad to have so many other ingredients. It comes with a nice balsamic vinaigrette. Unfortunately, the restaurant is a bit heavy handed in dressing the salad; we recommend that you ask for dressing on the side.
When it comes to the entrees and pastas, be warned: You will be taking home some for lunch the next day. Very few finish the generous portions, and the staff is well equipped and experienced in packing up leftovers to go.
There are a variety of pasta styles you can order, including a house-made fresh fusilli. There are the usual popular dishes such as chicken/veal parmesan, pasta with meatballs, sausage or shrimp, etc. – pretty much what you expect from a red sauce place. The lasagna is very good and the size of a brick (we said the portions are large!).
The menu is extensive, including sautéed dishes, chicken, seafood and veal sections. Beef Braciole is a thin slice of beef stuffed with prosciutto and cheese and rolled up and, of course, served over pasta.
There are plenty of choices without pasta, including a delicious lamb osso buco – a lamb shank braised with celery, onions, carrots and potatoes and served over risotto. Linda thought it was outstanding. There are also dishes with rabbit, ostrich and a rack of lamb.
The dessert menu is short and includes the ubiquitous tiramisu and cannoli. Desserts are individual sized and a good value.
We enjoyed the Tartufo, which is a ball of dark chocolate ice cream, rolled in cocoa and chopped nuts. It was flavorful and excellent.
Uri has tried a peach ripieno, which is a frozen peach shell filled with peach sorbet. It was good, but we prefer Uri’s homemade peach ices. Also available are orange and lemon ripieno.
There is street parking on Broadway, but you may need to park a block or two away to find a spot.
Call them for wait times or to make a reservation.
They have made a name change to Vinny’s Ristorante, but it will always be known as Vinny’s at Night to us.