OUR RATING: Do It! (Especially after theatre)
Providing a formal atmosphere with friendly, family service, and solid Italian cuisine, Vinci, located in Lincoln Park, would seem to have everything going for it. Definitely positioned to cater to the theatre crowd generated by Steppenwolf and the Royal George, Vinci’s prices are inflated for the demographic it serves, but its food tends to be quite excellent. One must order wisely, and we have this sagely advice just for you.
Adam: Vinci’s selection is quite vast. Excellent for people with varied tastes, but are perhaps not too adventurous, groups are welcome here and can sit at the long, community-oriented tables that are excellent for conversation and camaraderie. To start, I suggest you sit back with a Vinci Caprese Salad, made special by the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, not generally present in other local varieties of this dish. Actually rather filling it is slathered in balsamic and tastes divine.
Then, why not tuck into a lovely margherita pizza. With an emphasis on sauce rather than cheese, you can feel a little better about yourself afterwards, as well as satisfied that you’ve tried something quite simple and authentic. Of course, the preponderance of sauce also means that this pizza might not be to everyone’s taste, being more soft than crispy, but I wouldn’t let that deter you.
An Italian meal must be finished in Italian style: with panna cotta and Italian cookies. The panna cotta comes with a dried cherry balsamic sauce and sugared almonds, but seems too small to truly recommend itself, although the amount given is quite enjoyable. The cookies on the other hand are a treat, and go perfectly with the Italian dark coffee, in which they should be dipped for full effectiveness. In all, I crafted a decent meal at Vinci, but it didn’t come without its own surprises.
Alicia: Vinci is elegantly casual dining at it’s best, and super welcoming despite its high status in the Chicago restaurant scene. One of the things that impresses me the most about this place is the wide variety of atmospheric experiences you can have. You can enjoy a glass of wine at their bar, sit near the windows enjoying a fresh salad as you look outside, have a conversation with friends at their booths, or even go back into the cavernous wine room for a more intimate culinary adventure.
What Vinci also does well is balance your typical Italian ingredients of cheese, tomato and cream. To celebrate these ingredients I started with a sampling of their risotto of the day, which happened to be a spinach, caramelized onions, gorgonzola and walnut risotto, which was insanely rich and creamy with a savory saltiness from the chopped nuts and gorgonzola. I’m glad I just sampled this though, because this dish is beyond rich and heavy, and eating this dish in its entirety would be quite the undertaking.
To transition from cheese to more cheese I tried a piece of their 3 meat pizza with sausage, crispy prosciutto, applewood smoked bacon, fontina, tomato sauce and red onions. This was one of the most delicious pieces of pizza I’ve had in awhile, with the hierarchy focusing on the sweet and spicy tomato sauce and the thinly sliced onions, and then perfectly complimented with a healthy (but not too-healthy) dose of salty pork in three distinct and flavorful variations. Then, finally, came spots of fontina, which were lovingly placed instead of completely overwhelming everything else.
But perhaps the focal point of the evening was one of their staple dishes: the rigatoni. Perfect al dente rigatoni basked in tomato cream sauce that victoriously coated, rather than soaked, the tender pasta. But that’s not all. Parmigiano cheese, broccoli di rabe and herby Italian sausage changed things up a bit with every mouthful I took, and the variety of textures made for an adventure.
One visit I have taken to Vinci was actually a work holiday lunch, so when a large table of us ordered the tiramisu, we were flabbergasted when a GIANT sheet of tiramisu was brought to us, along with a few handfuls of berries that cut the heaviness of the tiramisu, but which failed to trick us into thinking we weren’t eating the most sinful thing in the world. The espresso and rum soaked ladyfingers provided the perfect cakey texture to balance a mascarpone and zabaione cream. Oh, and there was chocolate sauce too, just to top everything off.
Final Thoughts: Vinci seems like a great place to take the folks, out-of-town friends and long-lost acquaintances, as it combines the comfort of familiar food with fine stylings. Have fun, get some wine to start, and you’ll be well on to the via Italiana.