Vincenzo’s: A Liverpool Legend
Hello foodies and welcome back to DadBodEats (the UK). This flog is a departure from Japan and a return to the fantastic city of Liverpool. Finally, after a month of being stuck indoors, we were allowed out (by the time this is published, we’ll probably be back in). Lucy and I decided to celebrate by visiting a place that I have wanted to visit for ages! This venue isn’t in the city centre, so we went to Childwall to visit the Liverpool institution that is Cucina di Vincenzo. I’ve never been to this area before, but it is only a 30-minute walk from my flat, so it was really nice to arrive on foot and see the other lovely venues which are around that area. Vincenzo’s stood out though, with beautiful fairy lights on their small outdoor area. This set the scene nicely for a lovely inside and great, cosy venue.
After a decent walk, we were very excited to get sat down and stuck in… Imagine Lucy’s thoughts when the waiter couldn’t find my reservation! It turned out I had booked for the following week all along. This was a bad moment indeed. Luckily though, the staff were incredibly helpful and managed to slot us in on a lovely table in the corner – saving me from a frosty walk home. Once seated, we got attentive service and both water and wine arrived nice and quickly to keep us going. The menu was fantastic and it’s one of those where you could order everything on it. It really was very tempting! Sadly, we had to restrict ourselves to a starter and main each (like normal people do), and with the portions that were about to arrive, this was a good decision.
I ordered the Beef Carpaccio and Lucy got the Arancini with scamorza cheese inside. This is where things got really exciting! Two Italian classics from an iconic Italian and both looked incredible when they arrived. The beef was perfectly pink and gorgeously presented. The arancini was also great to look at with a vibrant ramekin full of some epic Arrabiata, but some slightly dated salad. It wasn’t the cheesiest arancini, but it was nicely flavoured, and the textures were all just right. What really made it a special dish though, was the sauce. This was rich in genuine tomato flavour and had a lovely chilli note running through it which was ideal for balancing the richness of deep-fried rice. It was just what you want from a starter and really got us both excited for what was to come.
While the arancini was good, the carpaccio blew it out the water, in my opinion. The beef was lovely and thin and could have been cut with a plastic spoon. It was tender and took on that melt in the mouth quality that only high-quality meat can. This was served classically with rocket and parmesan, but that was just what it needed. Nothing overpowering, just that peppery kick of rocket and beautiful salty flavour of parmesan highlighting the stunning beef. It really was mouth-watering, and as you can see from the picture, they didn’t skimp on any of it. It was just mouthful after mouthful of juicy, light, perfection. Even after all these mouthfuls, I could have gone on for ever because it was so fresh – not something I often think about beef dishes. If you ever go to Vincenzo’s, then this is a must try!
After washing these cracking starters down with some of the very decent house wines, we couldn’t speak of anything other than how good the food was and how buzzing we were for what was to come. In my case, this was one of the specials: ‘Ravioli Scampi’. Lucy ordered the ginormous ‘Pollo Milanese’ with Spaghetti Pomodoro. Everything that came out of the kitchen looked and smelled delicious, so it was a happy moment when our food came, and we knew we had ordered right. The Milanese was a perfect golden brown, garnished with garlic and rosemary which hit your nose as soon as it arrived. You could see some lovely crystals of sea salt over it too which were essential to the overall satisfaction that this dish provided so well. Having tried this dish in an overpriced restaurant that was famous for it in Milan, I can safely say that the Scouse version was better both in taste and value for money (something that is extremely important to stingy old me!) The chicken was juicy and tender, the breadcrumbs were crispy and well-seasoned without any unpleasant greasiness, and garlic and rosemary made it fragrant and moreish. Then, the spaghetti provided some of that lovely, sweet acidity of tomato that goes so well. Think of it as almost replacing the ketchup you’d have with nuggets, although obviously much more sophisticated. And special mention really should be made for the pomodoro which was incredibly good. You’d think a tomato sauce can only be so good, but this took something incredibly simple to the next level. Lucy had the majority of this, but I savoured every mouthful I could pinch! It was just proper good grub that everyone and anyone would be excited by. A true classic!
As good as the Milanese was, I think that my ravioli might have even topped it! I was hesitant in ordering this because, so often, ravioli dishes are tiny, with just a couple of pieces of pasta and a load of drivel about it being ‘rich’. Luckily, I needn’t have worried. My plate came out and it was huge and full of super ‘rich’ ravioli in a decadent, creamy sauce. This was littered with beautiful scampi tails and just oozed beautiful smells and flavours. There was brandy, monkfish and cream all over the place too, as if the scampi wasn’t enough. Now, I feel that an English mind jumps straight to scampi and chips when we hear the word scampi. As delicious as this is, it is a very different image to when someone says ‘langoustine’. However, they are of course the same thing! Scampi is just the Italian word for it. And this was a far cry from the reconstituted ‘Whitby Bay’ scampi that holds a special but very different place in my heart. This was opulent and luscious with a great al dente bite to it. It contrasted brilliantly with the pasta filling, which was soft and almost mushy, but in a very good way. The whole thing came together so nicely, and the sauce was heavy but not overpowering, allowing all the flavours of fish to shine through. These were then also elevated with the hints of cress, tomato and basil which did what garnishes should do – looked pretty but also really added to the food. They gave a fresh hit to an intense plate. It was one of those dishes that you get to the end of feeling very full, but somehow still desperate for more!
Sadly, it was a Monday night when we went, so Lucy and I restrained ourselves from getting too many drinks or even pudding. However, we really didn’t need any more food after the generous portions we’d been treated to. I couldn’t resist a Cappuccino, though. I was glad I got it, because it was a perfect way to round things off and a bloody good coffee in its own right! With the extra caffeine giving me a boost to face the walk home. A walk that was much needed to help digest the incredible feast that we had just enjoyed.
So, Cucina di Vincenzo is definitely one for anyone on/in Merseyside to try! I really can’t see anyone walking away disappointed because everything lived up to the hype around this restaurant. The setting is gorgeous, the staff are helpful and most importantly, the food is epic! Plus, they were kind enough to sort my booking out, even though I had been a prize idiot. It is now vying with Bacaro for the spot of my favourite Liverpool Italian – a decision that is too hard to make. Oh, I should also mention that they have a stall at the amazing Duke Street Market which gives you a chance to try them in the city centre if you’re not convinced about making a trip to the suburbs (you will be once you’ve tried the food).
Finally, I hope you all ate far too much over Christmas and that you are prepared for a great year of eating in 2021. Please let me know of places you think I should try if you’re local and, if you’re further away then hopefully I will be able to travel to your favourites soon too! Don’t forget to like this article and subscribe so you never miss my next flog – who knows, it may just be one you actually care about!
Yours in food,