I happened into Cucina Vanina purely on a last second Peyton Manning-esque audible. My heart was already set on going to Teriyaki Grill, but this place caught the corner of my eye with the “Open” sign, plus I have never been here before and had some time, so I decided to give it a shot.
I enjoyed the atmosphere here. They had Pandora radio going on the Psychadelic Furs channel, and it was busting out all my favorite tunes from high school, they even played “Girlfriend in a Coma” from The Smiths. I know it’s not exactly your classic Italian restaurant Perry Cuomo/Frank Sinatra or other Rat Pack music, but I loved it. I have to admit I was a little nervous about how good the food was going to be, because it was literally 12:05 PM in the afternoon, smack in the middle of the lunch rush hour, and I was literally the ONLY person that dined here, the entire time.
Granted I was the only one there, I thought the service was really good. The waiter that helped me sounded like he was a real fan of the food, and took the time to explain the lunch menu in detail. Cucina Vanina makes their ravioli and fettucine in-house, but I found my favorite pasta dish on the lunch men, the spaghetti carbonara so decided to go with that.
My waiter brought out a complimentary plate of foccacia bread with dipping sauce. The bread was warm and dense. Even after I left the restaurant and was driving back to my office, I found myself thinking about its taste. I still have nothing. I believe they made it that way on purpose so the bread would act as a flavor medium, and not necessarily a flavor delivery instrument. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the bread, and the cracked pepper on top of it made it even better. The dipping sauce surprised me. I first judged it to be a warm marinara sauce, but I couldn’t have been more incorrect. It was actually cold, and had a bit of an acidic taste to it. The whole plate was amazing, it definitely gave me some pretty high hopes for my pasta dish.
I decided to upgrade my spaghetti carbonara dish by adding two house meatballs on the side. Boy was that such a good decision. This carbonara ranks right up there with some of the all-time greatest carbonara I’ve ever tasted. The spaghetti itself was good, but what made the dish was the delicious cream sauce and thick pieces of pancetta. My waiter offered to garnish the top of it with some freshly cracked pepper and also asked “Do you like your pepper fine or coarsely ground?” Clearly he wanted the plate to be spectacular and it was. He asked me how it was when i was half way into my plate, and I replied “Fantasic!” to which he then asked “Is there anything I can do to make it even more exceptional?” I immediately thought to the foccacia bread and how it would taste really good being dipped in the cream sauce. He brought me a few more pieces, and I was in heaven. Even the meatballs were just exceptional.
Probably going to be pretty difficult for me to go back and get anything else here, I enjoyed my carbonara so much. My waiter did try to sell me on fettucine al funghi, which is the house made fettucine with a mushrooms and porcini sauce, but at a $20 price tag, it was a little outside what I was comfortable spending for lunch fare.
My bill ended up being about $12 bucks. Surely a bit more than your everyday quick lunch, but with the quality of food and service I received, it was certainly a bargain. I can see this place fitting a nice little niche of the times, you want to pamper yourself with some incredible pasta. There may be some hits and misses on the menu, but the carbonara was a sure hit. Lunch men and dinner menus can be found on their website. Look to spend about $10 bucks a plate during lunch and $20 during dinner.