Dear Gentle Readers:
On a crisp, Autumn day, in the midst of a sun-shower, my traveling companion and I decided we needed some comfort food.
I had never visited Vitale's and I don't know why. Maybe it was because my old-lady stomach cannot tolerate certain spices prevalent in Italian food. Or, maybe it was because the word, "bistro" conjured up images of metal umbrella tables sprinkled with the residue of pigeons. Whatever the case I'd like to share with you a true adventure in dining.
We entered a dark and rather dreary-looking room that housed a bar and several high tables with bar stool chairs. The bartender, a rascally, good-looking man directed us to the dining room and we were seated by a congenial server who welcomed us with menus and a lovely smile. She rattled off the specials and I was impressed with the descriptions she had memorized. When we were ready to place our orders she brought us a covered bread basket, butter, and some spiced garlic and oil in a small bowl. I was disappointed that the bread was cold; it would have been a nice touch to dig into a crisp, warm loaf of Italian bread.
My salad arrived and it was fresh, crisp, and had just enough vinaigrette to make it
We both ordered chicken--I decided on the Pollo Italiano with fried onions and peppers, melted provolone and spinach all on a fresh, warm roll. It was served with a side of french fries that were obviously hand-cut and fried. My companion ordered the Marsala chicken. We were satisfied with the quantity as well as the quality of the dish. I asked our server if the pasta was homemade and she admitted that yes, it was. I think that was a lovely touch and a very pleasant surprise! The Marsala sauce was divine and my companion had half his dish wrapped so that he could enjoy it, later.
We were offered several unique choices for dessert and settled on a dish called Fried Cheesecake. Our server described it as "like a cross between a fried dessert taco and funnel cake". We gasped at the gorgeous plating when it arrived and dug into one of the most sumptuous hybrids to ever grace a table. It was flaky on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside, presented with a drizzle of raspberry sauce and caramel, and peppered with powdered sugar. I'd like to order one for my birthday, please. And Mother's Day, and Halloween, and the Fourth of July....
Here are my ratings for Vitale's Italian Bistro, located at 942 9th Street in Gloucester City, NJ:
Atmosphere: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Service: 4 out of 5 stars
Quality of food: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Pricing: moderate at lunchtime. 2 entrees, with 2 non-alcoholic beverages and 1 dessert--a little under $25.00
Rita's suggestions: Although the napkins were linen there was not a tablecloth, anywhere. The seats were unpadded and hard and the entire dining area seemed dim and drab. If Vitale's were to pad the seats, up the lighting, and add tablecloths, they would go from a very good restaurant to an excellent one.
I would definitely go back to Vitale's. If you haven't tried it yet, Gentle Readers, I suggest you give it a whirl. Tell them Rita sent you!
Pictured: Vitale's Chicken Marsala with homemade pasta