Hi — guest blogger Josephine D’ippolito here.
Hudson Valley Restaurant Week is officially underway and we foodies could not be more delighted. I’m happy to have kicked off my experience with lunch at Via Vanti!, the young Italian eatery housed in the Mt Kisco train station.
Aptly translated ‘the road ahead,’ Via Vanti! is forward thinking in every respect, from its modern Italian aesthetic, to its innovative food offerings, to its creative community presence.
Owner Carla Gambescia was present during my visit and seemed happy to discuss her labor of love with me. Clearly passionate about Italian food and culture, she is eager to spread her enthusiasm through special events like the ‘Discover Umbria’ celebration set to take place in April.
It’s no surprise Carla was formerly a branding expert, as this little café seems positioned to launch into something much bigger (an Italian, more intimate version of Cosi perhaps?) but Carla herself is not so sure. While franchising may have been her original intention, she feels an extraordinary connection to what she’s created at Via Vanti! and is cautious about expanding too quickly. For now, the Hudson Valley is fortunate to be home to her lovingly original dining concept.
[Edit from Liz: Josephine knows all this because when the waitresses saw her taking pictures, she asked what was up, so Jospehine told her about the blog. Carla came to the table and introduced herself and was excited to talk about Via Vanti!. Jospehine says she kept returning to give her a tidbit about this or that throughout the meal.]
During HVRW, the prix fixe three-course lunch menu includes the restaurant’s most popular dishes. Even in its paired down version, the menu selection is all-around appealing, and it was difficult to choose a Primi, Secondi and Dolci dish.
To start, I opted for the Crostini Trio, or bruschetta in three forms: balsamic eggplant, Sicilian caponata and roasted tomatoes with goat cheese. All three versions were bursting with flavor but the caponata, with peppers and eggplant, was the definite standout.
My dining companion went with the Figgy Piggy, a salad of arugula, fresh herbs, figs, prosciutto and pecorino tossed in an orange vinaigrette. We both appreciated the addition of orange to the already classic fig/prosciutto combination.
The entrée options include a breadless panini, a few salmon choices and various pizzettes. Our friendly waitress steered me to the Marco Polo Breadless Panini: a Tandoori chicken salad with cucumbers, pepper, mango chutney and romaine for wrapping.
This is a favorite among low-carb-eating clientele. I was intrigued by the concept and curious to see how Tandori could possibly fit into such a genuinely Italian ambiance. The taste was fresh and clean, with the mango and sweet red pepper providing a nice contrast to the Indian flavor.
My friend went the opposite route, with a carb-full Dante pizzette, made with mozzarella, goat cheese, artichokes and smoky cured pork.
This was delicious, our favorite part of the lunch (well, besides the gelato, more on that later.) The soft, mild mozzarella worked beautifully with the tangy, creamy goat cheese. The artichokes and cured pork added more interest and flavor.
I must say, I frequented Via Vanti! once before and immensely enjoyed the Beatrice pizzette made with sliced figs, crumbled gorgonzola, toasted walnuts and honey. I have a feeling you can’t wrong with any of the pizzette choices!
For dessert, we tried – what else – the gelato. So much has been written about it (Zagat even calls it ‘amazing’), I was eager to see if it lived up to the hype. I’m happy to report that it did. Our gelato experience began at the counter, where we tried nearly every flavor before making our selections.
I ended up favoring Gianduia (if you like Nutella, you’ll love this) while my friend preferred Pistachio (it’s the hint of salt that makes this outrageous.) One of the flavors, Life of the Party (Caffe Sambucca), is particularly unique because it represents the winning dog-in-party-hat of the month. Allow me to explain. Carla was eager to give back to the community; so she combined her love of dogs with her love of gelato! She created a contest in which dog owners invent an original gelato flavor and dress up their dogs to embody the flavor. They send in photos of the adorned pups along with $20 entry fees (all proceeds go to Guiding Eyes for the Blind) and the monthly winners see their flavors come to fruition! For more, visit www.dogsinpartyhats.com.
Via Vanti! is a restaurant, café, bar and gelateria with a vision all its own. Whether introducing us to bold new flavor combinations, giving back to the community or inspiring us with Italian culture, Via Vanti! is one restaurant I hope moves forward for many years to come.