Gio’s Villa Vancheri
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
A restaurant with a real personality at the helm appeals to a lot of people. The chef-owner is an engaging, good-looking fellow who spends a lot of time with the customers in the dining room, telling them how he cooks authentic Italian food. Of course he does. Every Italian chef is the only one who cooks the real thing. Whatever. What can’t be gainsaid is that the premises are charming, the cooking is good, and the portions are eye-popping.
Chef Gio’s menu reminds me of the ones we used to see in Italian restaurants thirty years ago, with their hundred or so dishes. This one, however, covers a surprising amount of territory–namly, from the Alps all the way down to the Sicilian football. It’s usually very good. Sometimes it’s amazingly good. A few dishes are grossly overdone, but one expects that.
Chef Giovanni Vancheri operated restaurants in Las Vegas for decades, a fact attested to by the dozens of photographs of himself with celebrities that cover his walls. A native Sicilian, he worked all over the world before winding up here on what sounds almost like a whim. The building is a little hard to see, especially since the reconstruction of the Florida-East Causeway-No Name 190 intersection.
Two dining rooms, both done up in a rustic Italian style. Twenty years ago, we’d call it a cliche Italian design, but now few Italian restaurants here look like this. The main atmoshere comes from the aromas of cooking: this place makes you hungry with your first sniff inside the door. The chef–who could pass for a movie star–makes sorties into the dining room all night, checking with every table at least once, whether he knows the customers or not.
»Tuscan sausage and potato soup.
Salad Caprese (tomatoes and fresh mozzarella).
»Antipasto plate (enough for at least three).
Capellini pomodoro (tomato sauce).
Pasta alla Norma (eggplant and tomatoes).
Chicken or veal piccata.
»Chicken Milanese (panneed).
Veal or steak pizzaiola.
»Orecchio di elefante (a veal chop pounded out and panneed, topped with arugula)
»Steak fiorentina (porterhouse, easily enough for two).
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make a reservation. The restaurant is small and has a way of filling up when you least expect. You don’t need an entree per person. Three will feed four very amply. (That’s also true of the other courses.)
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The panneed dishes (Milanese style) are a touch too oily.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color
- Live music some nights
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted