Stepping into Vittorio's Italian Restaurant, at the corner of
Springdale Street and Warner Avenue, is like being in a family
restaurant on the East Coast. The dining room is aglow with crystal
chandeliers, red vinyl booths and etched glass panels that divide it
from the small bar and cocktail area where, in the early days, ladies
were not allowed.
Vittorio's, opened in 1969 by Vittorio Cafasso, changed ownership
seven years ago and is now operated by Chef/owner Mourad Hairanian
who comes in around 11 a.m. to prepare his homemade sauces, soups and
sausages for the 5 p.m. opening where he is ready to great customers
at the door.
All dinners are served garlic bread and soup, but soup is usually
a good test of the kitchen so I chose the tortellini, "little twists"
in a chicken consomme with three chewy cheese-filled pastas with bits
of tomato and scallion scattered on top. The other soup my friend had
is a beef stock thick with lots of vegetables and pasta. Both were
The menu is a delicious and tempting map of Italian specialties
from Milan to Bologna as in the lasagna a la Bolognese ($10.95), the
three pasta sheets are layered with quality meat and lots of
mozzarella and ricotto cheese smothered in the best thick
lumpy-with-tomato-pieces-sauce -- more mild than tart. Our server,
Heather, a local girl who attended St. Bonaventure and Ocean View
High, came by to grate imported pecorino cheese over the robust dish,
which was really hot -- another mark of a good restaurant.
Servings are generous at Vittorio's and my selection of beef and
veal filled ravioli ($12.95) covered the plate in a rich meat and
herb sauce. The balance of meat and tomato kept the sauce from being
runny as can happen when an Italian sauce is hurried.
Hairanian prowls the dining area stopping to chat with local
families that fill the booths by 6 p.m. or to smooth the crumbs off
the table with a tiny scraper into a small tray. Now where have you
seen that nice custom? Usually in truly Italian cafes where the owner
likes to meet his diners.
Desserts, from a vender, are the frozen cake and a pie variety,
and the spumoni ($3.50) we shared is excellent -- two layers of ice
cream, vanilla and chocolate, flavored with rum and filled with nuts
and candied fruit, iced with whipped cream and on a thick sweet
Owner and chef Hairanian, originally from New York, calls
Vittorio's an "East Coast Style" Italian restaurant and his
restaurant reflects the kind of family place you'd find in the small
neighborhoods of a big city. He was executive chef for various
Marriott hotels for 15 years. At Vittorio's he has plans for
enhancing the menu to include, in addition to the halibut, salmon and
blackened swordfish, more seafood from Mexico and the Gulf.
Vittorio's Italian Restaurant is a neighborhood cafe with extra
sparkle and lots of friendliness.
* MARY FURR is the Independent restaurant critic. If you have
comments or suggestions, call (562) 493-5062 or e-mail