Neighborhood: Central Harlem
Venue: Italian Restaurant
Atmosphere: Low-key, casual
Foursquare Check-in: http://4sq.com/1lG8Dfh
Rating: 4 Stars
Vinateria was excellent. This place has been around the corner from me for probably a year now, and yet I hadn’t made it through its doors until this summer. Now, it may be a while before I find myself back through Vinateria’s doors, but we will get to that in a second.
My night here started off very interesting. Upon arriving, the mother of the owner (or so she claimed) was talking incessantly to my old lady. Needless to say, my presence didn’t deter her, so she continued to talk to me as well. It wasn’t an unpleasant dialogue, but it wasn’t expected either. The conversation didn’t negatively effect my experience here whatsoever, but I thought I’d warn the rest of you to watch out this old lady if you’re in any kind of a hurry when you sit down at Vinateria.
After that delightful conversation, I started the dinner off with a drink. Being the manly man that I am, I got the Pear Cilantro Margarita. Laugh if you want, but it was absolutely delicious. Made with Calle 23, pear nectar, lime juice and cilantro (which is apparently all the rage in the latest evolution of the cocktail wars), this drink was definitely a good start to the meal.
Being the reasonable eater that I am, I ordered a large appetizer for myself. I went with the calamari, grilled, not fried. Being that it was grilled, it didn’t have the usual saltiness that I associate with calamari, but that allowed me to taste a lot more of the flavor, especially since I wasn’t dunking it religiously in the spicy tomato sauce like I tend to do with fried calamari. If you’ve never had grilled calamari, I definitely recommend you try Vinateria’s edition.
For the main course, being the black man that I am, I had the chicken. It was every thing I asked for. I saw somebody at the table next to me order it, and decided right then and there that I had to have it. I ordered it in part because I was really hungry, and the guy that I saw eating it got an extremely large piece of chicken. My piece didn’t seem as big once in front of my face, so that was a little disappointing. That said, the chicken still looked great, and it tasted even better. Technically, the dish is called the “Pan Seared Organic Free Range Chicken Breast,” served with Rainbow Chard and Crispy Rosemary Potatoes. The potatoes were absolutely excellent, and the Rainbow Chard brought the chicken and potatoes together in a heavenly divine way that made me want to order a second helping.
But I didn’t, which brings me to why I might not walk through Vinateria’s doors for a while: I’m not sure I can afford to do so!
As great as the food was, and as emasculating as my Pear Margarita made me feel, it seemed a bit overpriced for a spot on 119th and Frederick Douglass. Naturally, they’re surrounded by restaurants that are charging downtown prices for uptown venues. I’m not sure how they’re getting away with it, especially since the prices have lessened the number of times I’ve eaten in the neighborhood (my own neighborhood), but we’ll see if that pricing strategy works as Central Harlem’s population continues to grow and gentrify.