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Raise the steaks

You like thick slabs of meat? You like a room full of dark wood, tuxedo-clad waiters and a wine list that looks like a small phone book? Then you will like Vito's Chop House.

From the folks who brought us Fish Bones Restaurant comes Vito's, a re-creation of an old-fashion New York steakhouse. Over-the-top elegance is the game here, from gigantic portions to ultra-attentive waiters to the decor, which packs wine bottles into every spare millimeter of the main dinning room.

As seafood plays a strong second to red meat at Vito's, my friend and I started with "cold seafood antipasto" ($29.95). Ludicrously served in multiple trays of ice stacked 3 feet high (like a wedding cake), this was a delicious, if overpriced, appetizer. The chilled oysters, clams, New Zealand mussels, jumbo shrimp and Maine lobster were succulent and first-rate, but the $30 price tag was as excessive as the presentation. It effectively blocked all eye contact with the other side of the table. This dish should be served on one tray and the price cut by a third.

To help decide entree meats, our waitress presented a tray of thick, raw steaks wrapped in cellophane and proceeded to explain the various cuts. The show and tell was a nice touch. Fortified with knowledge, we ordered a 24-ounce prime rib-eye ($22.95) and a 24-ounce porterhouse veal chop ($22.95). According to the menu, Vito's grills meat very hot and fast over orange, oak and mystique woods. With cuts often 2 inches thick, this is the perfect place to order a steak "Pittsburgh blue" (seared on the outside, cool blue and raw on the inside). But not being into the raw-beef thing, we opted instead for medium-rare on both cuts.

The meat was served alone, glistening and sizzling atop a gleaming white plate. The steaks were huge, covered most of the plates, suggesting not just dinner but some lower species freshly conquered and killed by the kitchen staff.

Being well-marbled, the selections had spectacular flavor. Silence fell over our table as my friend and I descended into unrestrained protein lust. Eating meat at Vito's will make you feel like a caveman (or a stockbroker).

An excellent salad and wonderful bread comes with every entree, but vegetables are an optional side, ranging from a giant baked potato ($2.50) to a medley of oak-grilled vegetables ($5.95).

The dessert tray offered more ridiculously huge choices. We went for the "peanut butter explosion" and a house special "grilled peach D'Vito" (each $8.95). The "explosion" should have been called "wall o' peanut butter." This monstrous slab was too dense for us to tackle without a gallon of milk and several sugar-starved teen-agers. The "peach D'Vito" was a similarly sized but glorious mix of grilled peach chunks, cinnamon, flavored whip cream, ice cream and liquors. We demolished this sweet treat down to the last drop. It should not be missed.

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