WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Vincent’s is the least pretentious great restaurant in New Orleans. It serves familiar New Orleans-style Italian food, combining a lusty flavor with enough polish that its offerings could be sold in a much more expensive restaurant. No restaurant better defines the Creole-Italian cuisine.
Vincent and his cooks (many of whom went on to open their own places) never try to reinvent the local Italian flavor palette. They just figure out how the classics can be executed best. Usually, they succeed, creating a few best-in-town dishes (cannelloni, corn and crab bisque, and soft-shell crab with a red sauce). Seafood is especially fine, napped with terrific and original 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.
Vincent Catalanotto–long-time waiter, bartender, and character–discovered he could cook as well as any of the chefs who shouted at him. So in 1989 he opened a little, well-hidden restaurant in Metairie and started cooking. The place quickly became a runaway hit, with a packed dining room all the time. Vincent bought the old Compagno’s on St. Charles Avenue and made it his second location, as good as the first. 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 is cramped and utilitarian. The Uptown Vincent’s retains the old-time neighborhood charm of its predecessor, but waiters and customers are always squeezing past something there. 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.. There’s not a single good table in either location; all are in funny corners or in the middle of traffic.
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 +2
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted