Vito’s Ristorante: Italian dining with a personal touch
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It isn’t every day you enter a restaurant to be cheerfully greeted by the chef and owner, but that’s the norm at Vito’s Ristorante. Located at the corner of May and Wilshire in the Lakeside Shops, Vito’s is a great choice for an intimate meal for two or even for large family dinners. Cathy Cummings opened the restaurant, which she named after her uncle Vito, about six years ago with the goal of serving amazing Italian food like her grandma used to make. I think grandma would be proud.
The menu goes beyond traditional options like Fettuccine Alfredo and Chicken Parmesan (though both of these dishes are well prepared). Vito’s also offers unique options that you won’t find at just any Italian restaurant. Chicken Scaloppine (grilled chicken breast sautéed with lemon butter, mushrooms, artichokes, Kalamatta olives and capers – see a pic) and Cioppino (a seafood stew cooked with assorted fish, mussels and shrimp in a tomato-based broth – see a pic) are wonderful dishes if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.
Vito’s is only open for dinner, and prices are in the mid to high-mid range, starting at $14-$15 for Lasagne (see a pic), Ravioli with Meatballs and Eggplant Parmesan to $22 for the Cioppino and Fettuccine Diablo con Pesce and $25 for the Shrimp Spedini (charcoal-grilled shrimp served with Sachetini pasta in a roasted red pepper cream sauce – see a pic). In my opinion, most of the dishes are large enough to be shared. All entrees include a wonderful Caesar salad with homemade dressing (see a pic) or house salad if you prefer. And everything comes with Cathy’s homemade bread.
The night my family visited Vito’s, I ordered the Cioppino (mentioned above) while the others stuck mostly with traditional pasta dishes. Their favorites included the Lasagna and Chicken Parmesan, both of which are made with Cathy’s famous “sugo” (read: red sauce).
But don’t forget to ask about the Zuppa di Giorno (or Soup of the Day). Cathy convinced us to try her Italian Wedding Soup made with fresh pasta, sausage, and spinach in a flavorful broth. I was a bit skeptical, but after hearing Cathy describe it, my 11-year old said “I’m having that!” Evidently, we raised a smart kid because the soup was spectacular.
I would describe the atmosphere at Vito’s as “rustic Italian.” There are simple red and white tablecloths and fresh flowers on each table and the lighting is intimate (see an interior pic). There are probably a total of 16-18 tables in the entire restaurant. On the weekends, you can enjoy live music that includes the ballads of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Honestly, I could live without the live music as the noise level in this small space gets quite loud. Weeknight music includes recorded Rat Pack tunes at lower levels.
My favorite part of the ambiance has to be the photos. Most every wall is adorned with black and white pics featuring members of Cathy’s family, including Uncle Vito himself (who, from the looks of the picture, could have been related to Tony Sopprano).
Vito’s also delivers on the wine front. You can order house wine by the glass or choose from a nice selection of bottles, most of which are Italian varieties. Bottles can be reasonable (we choose one that was $35) or you can splurge and go for the expensive stuff.
Oh, and don’t forget to leave room for dessert. Vito’s creates some wonderful desserts including lemon sorbet, cheesecake, Tiramisu, and my personal favorite creme brûlée. Desserts run about $5.95 each and often can be shared with your significant other (or in my case with a 7-year old).
Speaking of 7-year olds, Vito’s does offer a kids menu with plenty of options for even the pickiest of eaters. And since everything on the menu is made fresh-to-order, special requests are no problem for Cathy and her staff.
I’ve visited Vito’s no less than a dozen times over the past couple of years and I have always been pleased with the food and service. Have you been to Vito’s? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
More Photos from Vito’s Ristorante
Photos by Nicole McDaniel Photography.