WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Vincent’s is the least pretentious great restaurant in New Orleans. In both of its small, cramped, well-worn restaurants, it serves familiar New Orleans-style Italian food with a lusty flavor and enough polish and originality to make everything they do stand out, even when compared with much more expensive restaurants. No restaurant better defines the Creole-Italian cuisine.
Over the years, Vincent and his cooks fine-tune the flavors of the kind of Italian food you loved when you were a kid–assuming your mother was a great Italian cook herself. From that effort came quite a few best-in-town dishes (cannelloni, corn and crab bisque, and soft-shell crab with a red sauce), and a few alluring originals (eggplant sandwich, artichoke Vincent, parmesan-crusted chicken). Seafood is especially fine, napped with great sauces. Some of the heartier dishes verge on grossness, but that may be appropriate. Little touches like breadsticks (uncommon in New Orleans) and the blue cheese vinaigrette create nice moments.
In 1989, Vincent Catalanotto–long-time waiter, bartender, and local character–discovered that he could cook as well as any of the chefs who had been screaming at him. He took over a failed, little, well-hidden restaurant in Metairie and started cooking. The place quickly became a runaway hit, with a packed dining room all the time. In 1997 Vincent and partner Tony Imbraguglio bought the historic Italian trattoria Compagno’s on St. Charles Avenue and not only made it as good as the first Vincent’s, but kept up Maria Compagno’s high standards. Two other locations–in Baton Rouge and Mandeville, both franchises–were less good and folded.
Neither location gets and prizes for atmosphere, unless you find haphazardness atmospheric. The Metairie restaurant just underwent a major renovation and expansion, but it’s still unfussy. The Uptown Vincent’s retains the old-time neighborhood charm of its predecessor, with waiters and customers squeezing through the rare gaps in the darkness. The service staff is chummy and quite willing to serve whatever you want.
»»Eggplant sandwich (panneed eggplant, Italian sausage, spicy mozzarella, red sauce)
Oysters amandine, lemon tarragon cream sauce
»Artichoke Vincent (shrimp, crabmeat, tomatoes, artichoke)
»»Rose of Sicily (marinated, fried baby artichoke, proscuitto, basil, garlic, olive oil)
Seafood stuffed mushrooms
»Veal meatballs on garlic toast
»Italian chicken soup
»Corn and crabmeat bisque in toasted bread bowl
»»Cannelloni (pasta sheets rolled around ground veal, spinach, parmesan cheese, Alfredo and red sauces)
Angel hair bordelaise (aglio olio)
Spaghetti and meatballs
Angel hair and Italian sausage
»Sautéed Italian oysters, green onions, garlic, olive oil, angel hair
Eggplant parmesan, angel hair pasta
»Braciolone (sliced veal rolled around artichokes, bacon, garlic, parmesan cheese, baked and simmered in red sauce
Seafood stuffed pork chop, pineapple demi-glace
Filet mignon, sauce of the day, whipped potatoes
»Grilled, sliced duck breast, pepper jelly glaze
»Garlic chicken (bone-in, baked with garlic and herbs)
Panneed chicken, lemon cream sauce
Stuffed chicken breast (provolone cheese, prosciutto and artichoke hearts)
»Parmesan crusted chicken, creamed spinach, champagne beurre blanc
»Sauteed fresh fish, crabmeat cream sauce
Stuffed shrimp in pastry, crabmeat cream sauce
Crab cakes, champagne beurre blanc, Cointreau aioli
Crabmeat and shrimp Parma, champagne beurre blanc, baked with parmesan cheese
Herb crusted salmon, jumbo lump crabmeat, garlic braised spinach
»Soft shell crab with garlic butter tomato sauce
»Veal florentine (egg batter, parmesan spinach, lemon cream sauce
Spumone ice cream
Torroncino ice cream
FOR BEST RESULTS
Come here very hungry. It’s often a good idea to split appetizers and entrees, three plates per four people. If you’re in the mood for a funny but perhaps naughty joke, ask for Vincent.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
They overcook the pasta more often than not, particularly the side dish of it that comes with most entrees. Same story on the vegetables. They should always toss the sauces with the pasta, but they don’t.
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
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color +1
- Open Monday dinner
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted