Vinny's of Carroll Gardens
295 Smith Street
Couple with booze: $56*
We stepped out of the pre-Ernesto droplets and waited for a table. The crowd was building, but it was early enough that we didn't have to wait too long. By the time we were seated, the line was at least 5 couples deep. Unfortunately, there's no early bird special, but Vinny's keeps their prices low. Besides, we were hungry. So who cares if it was 6:30pm? Doesn't the early bird get the worm?
Previous visits have taught us a very important lesson: order to split. If you want something for lunch the next day, do not abide by this rule. But take my advice. You will overeat if you decide not to split. You will not be able to put your fork down, and the portions are enough for the entire cast of Celebrity Fit Club. The calamari feeds like the loaves and fishes. A regular order could circulate its way around the restaurant twice before you're left picking crumbs. Granted, Vinny's seats less than 30, but the plate is still huge. As a couple, we got the half order. This was the first of three courses, and the beginning of a restaurant journey that relies on nothing but its delicious food to keep the patrons coming back.
After dunking rings of breaded squid into a chunky marinara, the salad arrived. Iceberg, tomato, red onion, oil, vinegar, and dried oregano. The accompanying loaf of bread didn't make it past this course. We went from dunking to dipping to soaking, leaving a trail of crumbs that would have done Hansel and Gretel proud.
The waitress brought the finale out shortly after we buried ourselves in crumbs: Penne alla Vodka with chicken. We assumed that the chicken would be grilled, but we got a diced chicken cutlet instead. I was in no way upset about this. Such a basic dish, but incredible. Thick sauce perfectly glazing each pasta pipe, not cream heavy, not tomato heavy. It was so perfect that there was little sauce left over for dipping the second loaf of bread brought to us. This was one of 10 or so pasta dishes. Vinny's also offers basic Italian fare. Chicken parmigiana, veal saltimbocca, and eggplant rollatine are among the classics. And to wash it down, Vinny's always has two wines available, Merlot and Chianti. Yet another testament to simplicity. I'm sure they would not be averse to BYO, but we've never tried to do so.
For an early meal on any day of the week, Vinny's will never disappoint. Or if you don't mind waiting, go a little later. I do not recommend going minutes before closing. This meal is meant to be enjoyed, and you will be rushed if you choose to show up late. Buen provecho.