Thursday, October 15, 2015


There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Chicago and while it may not be obvious if you look at my blog, I love Italian food.   There is an Italian restaurant in Lincoln Park that I have had my eyes on for years called Vinci, and recently things fell together in such away that it was to my advantage to go for dinner.  Vinci is located down the street from Steppenwolf Theater and are a pretty good choice for a pre-theater meal.  It very much has an old school look with hanging lights, candles, and walls that appear water stained (they aren't, it just seems that a lot of Italian restaurants go for a look that is very weathered and worn).  The menu is divided into Antipasti, Pizza, Pasta, Secondi, and Dolci.  If yoou tried to order something from every section though, you would be beyond stuffed.  For drinks, they have a nice selection of Italian Wines, as well as beer and cocktails.  I started things off with a pasta that was actually listed in the Antipasti section, Baked "Roman Style" Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms, Shallots, Cream, and White Truffle Oil.  Unlike regular gnocchi, which is made from potato, Gnocchi alla Romana is an earlier style which was made with semolina flour, butter, egg, and Parmesan Cheese.  It is much lighter and fluffier than the gnocchi that I am used to and it had a light cheese crust.  The mushrooms had a hearty flavor which was added to with the truffle oil, with the gnocchi though, it was lighter and very good.
Because I ordered a pasta as my antipasto, I thought that ordering more pasta would be both redundant and heavy, so I looked at the secondi and chose the duck.  When I am eating out, I try to order dishes that pair well with each other.  I wasn't seeing fish and seafood as going well with the gnocchi, and I generally don't order chicken when I eat out because I eat it so often at home.  That left duck, lamb, and pork.  While I am sure thaey all would have been good, duck was the first one that I noticed and besides, it's my favorite.  The Duck was grilled and served with Tuscan Kale, Polenta, Oyster Mushrooms, and a Balsamic reduction.  The duck was cooked medium rare and was very good,  I am not a huge fan of kale, but I will eat it despite its reminding me of stiff spinach.  The polenta and the mushrooms kind of reminded me of the first dish, and the balsamic reduction added a sweet and tart flavor to everything and capped off a very good dish.
There were some nice looking things on the dessert menu even if it was mostly occupied by the classics of Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, Gelato, and Cheesecake.  I would have been happy with any of these, but when the dessert special was described to me, it wasn't on the menu, I knew what I had to have.  It was an Amaro-Soaked Almond Cake with Honey Vanilla Gelato and garnished with a Mint Leaf.  The cake was as moist as a tres leches cake with a lot of almonds and a slightly bittersweet flavor provided by the amaro (I neglected to ask what they used).  The honey vanilla gelato was sweet and simple and a great ending.  I really enjoyed my meal here and would happily include it as a choice if I'm looking for old school Italian food.  The food was very good, the service friendly and helpful, and the space had a nice design including the fake wear.         

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