By Tab Hauser
Vito’s Ristorante and Pizzeria on Forest Avenue in Glen Cove is a two-part story. Part one starts with a well-liked traditional pizza place. I have come in for a quick slice as well as had deliveries to my house and enjoyed both. Glen Covers are particular on pizza and Vito’s meets the challenge. Part two of Vito’s is their full-service restaurant, which is a hidden gem behind the pizzeria.
Vito’s is a family operation. Momma Angela and Poppa Mario used their Sicilian roots to open up their first restaurant in Brooklyn 40 years ago. Vito, their son who oversees the place, started in the business at 8 years old, learning the family traditions and recipes. Mario said he would give Vito a crate so he could reach the counter. One year ago they opened in Glen Cove.
Our Italian food feast started with stuffed garlic knots cut in half and layered with fresh mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil. Because it was served warm, we found the inside creamy and the outside having just the right amount of garlic. The rice ball was next out and served with a side of marinara sauce. The rice ball was slightly crunchy on the outside with a smooth texture inside. The marinara sauce was fresh and delicious. We learned that they start with fresh tomatoes cooked and simmered for three and half hours, adding fresh basil and the family’s secret seasoning. I would come back just to have anything with this sauce.
We also tried two seafood starters. The Little Neck baked clams were shucked fresh and broiled. The seasoning and bread crumbs did not overpower the clams. Our taste buds got a pleasant jolt with the calamari arrabiata. Here, we were served tender pieces of calamari in a flavorful spicy red sauce, complete with roasted peppers and cherry peppers. That appetizer and a salad would make a fine meal.
The last first course was the tennis ball-size meatballs. Mario said they grind their own meat to ensure quality and use only 10 percent bread crumbs, giving them a tender texture. Our dinner came with salad or pasta. We chose the salads because people who frequent Vito’s rave about their homemade creamy Italian dressing (with no cream, milk or mayonnaise). Only Vito and Mario make the dressing from their family recipe. (A pint to go is $5).
To put Vito’s kitchen to the test, we ordered from all sides of the menu. This included veal, pasta, chicken and seafood. Vitello Sorrentino is veal sautéed and layered with eggplant and thin-sliced prosciutto topped with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers served in a rich brown sauce.
This dish, like other Vito’s main courses, was a large portion. It was flavorful and not salty, as I have sometimes found this dish. We were able to cut it with a butter knife because it was so tender. On recommendations from other patrons, we ordered the gnocchi alla vodka. Here, we had a plate full of gnocchi, covered with sauce and topped with mozzarella. The gnocchi was just firm enough and not sticky. The vodka sauce stayed together with a good consistency. We found this dish very calorie worthy.
Chicken marsala was ordered because it is a standard of old-school Italian restaurants. We found it classically made with fresh mushrooms giving the sauce an intense flavor. For seafood, we ordered linguini frutta di mare. This pasta dish in a red sauce was surrounded by mussels and swimming with shrimps, calamari and little clams. There was plenty of seafood flavor here. We also ordered one side dish of fettuccine alfredo to sample, which is classically rich and creamy. Side vegetables available ala carte include sautéed spinach, broccoli or broccoli rabe. If you have room for dessert, I recommend the fresh stuffed cannoli or the homemade Nutella-flavored gelato.
Vito’s has a nice following. Mitch Schlimer of Glen Cove said his family loves very good Italian food, and after hearing about Vito’s opening here in Glen Cove, tried it and was hooked, especially after getting to know the owners and their family. He said he dines there about twice a month and has never been disappointed.
Another patron, Laura Rittenberg, said not only do you have good food with large portions, but they make you feel welcomed. This is whether she stops by for a slice or goes to the restaurant.
Vito’s will celebrate their one year anniversary on June 27, and to give back to the community will be donating half of their proceeds of pizzas sold to local charity Children’s Tumor Foundation. They will also be offering a free bottle of wine for reservations of four or more that day.
Vito’s prices range for appetizers run $3 to $9.75, with main courses going from $9 to $18.95. Vegetarians will be pleased with plenty of offerings. Tuesday is their three-course pasta night for $11.95. For hours and to view the menu, go to www.vitospizzany.com.