There’s not much point in reviewing a place like Vesuvio Pizzeria and Spaghetti House. It’s been around for about a million (perhaps closer to 53) years and is a Junction institution. A good or bad review here or there isn’t going to make a lick of difference in their next 53 years of business. But here goes.
As we walked up to the door we were greeted by the delicious smells wafting out the window of of their take-out pizza counter next door. It’s really quite amazing it’s taken me a year and half to enter Vesuvio because every time I walk down Dundas West my appetite is stirred by the aroma. I think they must have fans blowing it out onto the street. I think they also must add some kind of pheromone to it because the magnetic pull towards the door takes every ounce of my willpower to fight. Every. Single. Time.
Just before we entered, someone in a group walking past us complained Vesuvio were just copying The Sopranos which apparently had a restaurant called Nuovo Vesuvio in it. One of them replied in that kind of know-it-all voice that this Vesuvio had been around since 1957.
Upon stepping into the restaurant, it was clear some of the furniture had been around since 1957 as well. Actually, probably closer to 1987. A pair of faux-leather chez lounges near the window were quietly delaminating. The rest of the decor seemed fine though. A warm family atmosphere not nearly seedy enough for Tony Soprano to hang-out in. I’m not sure if there was even a booth in the back corner.
Though the place was very busy (always a good sign), we were quickly seated by a friendly young boy who reminded me a bit of Even Stevens. I thought, Well, the service is pretty good. Of course, we hadn’t met our server yet.
Not that she was by any stretch a bad server. She just wasn’t very attentive, prompt or personable. Whenever she did manage to eventually come around to our table, she seemed to treat us with an off-hand manner that implied we were merely an incidental facet of her job instead of actually being her job.
Which, all things considered, was actually fine in my books. I don’t much care for insincerely gregarious and chatty servers. And she definitely wasn’t that.
I was glad, however, I didn’t want my water refilled at any point because it wasn’t going to happen. A trade-off I’m ultimately comfortable with and as far as service in the Junction goes, this was pretty darn good. Though the Junction’s standard extra-long wait for the bill still applied and she didn’t even make eye-contact when she swept past to pick up my credit card. Which felt a little weird. Like she wasn’t going to come back with it.
But what I came for wasn’t service and ambiance, it was to find out if the pizza could live up to its aromatic promise. It did, but only partially. The sauce certainly had the garlic and basil zing its smell advertised, but they could have been a bit more generous with it. The crust was also a bit of a disappointment. It was neither the fluffy, bready style crust of Pizzaiolo nor the gourmet, thin crust of Terroni. Instead it was a sort of dense, chewy middle ground. Not a terrible crust by any means, but also not as delicious as the toppings. I have to say, I’ve been more impressed with the cheap and absurdly named 1 Plus 2 Pizza and Wings take-away down the street.
Mandi’s spaghetti carbonara was apparently an entirely different basket of eggs. She said it was delicious. This made me wonder if I shouldn’t have tried the chicken parmesan or another of their dishes instead. Perhaps pizza isn’t really their specialty after all. Also not a disappointment was our half-litre of house Merlot. It wasn’t, as is sometimes the case, disgusting but was pleasantly inoffensive.
One of Vesuvio’s strengths, though, has to be the people watching. The joint was full of older couples with a hint of that old-world charm. They’d probably been patrons since the place first opened and there’s something about that vibe which is always great to drink in. And if the service and pizza is good enough for them, who am I to say different?
Jakob: 3.5 slices out of 5 mouth-watering aromas
Mandi: 5 spaghettis out of 5 carbonaras
Service/atmosphere: 3.5 empty glasses of water out of 5 old couples dressed-up for a night out