by Todd Barron @ FoodieCuisine.com
I’ve been thinking about going to a restaurant called Vesuvio for several months now. It caught my eye a while back when I was looking around UrbanSpoon.com and noticed all of the great reviews for it. I’m a huge fan of Italian food but have not been able to find many places in Central Arkansas that I care much for.
I make my own pasta at home and spend days making the perfect Ragu (which I’ve blogged about here.) The problem I have with almost every Italian restaurant around town is they don’t even make their own pasta. I find this offensive and don’t give much credit to places that don’t at least show enough passion to make their own pasta. To me buying pre-made pasta is akin to buying pre-made crust for pizza. You just don’t do it and expect to have great food.
I’ve been waiting to go to Vesuvio for a while since great reviews and a high percentage rating on UrbanSpoon.com do not equate to quality food. All you have to do is look at ratings for places like Senor Tequilas to see what I mean. The location of the restaurant has kept me away as well. I mean, how good can it be if it’s located in a Best Western hotel? Needless to say, my wife and I finally visited the restaurant on a Saturday night and we were surprised by how much we liked it. We liked it so much that we plan on going back many times in the future.
Vesuvio Bistrois located in a Best Western hotel off of Rodney Parham in Little Rock and is located near the 1620 restaurant. They have a nice awning outside that leads you through the main entrance of the hotel. Once inside the hotel you find the restaurant on your left under a bright blue neon sign. Take a few steps down the stairs and you are transformed into an Italian bistro. The decorations looks a little dated but there is a nice bar running along one wall with large images of underwater scenes on HD televisions on the wall. People were dressed in business casual attire but we fit right in with our jeans. I had a dress shirt on and did not feel out of place.
The Maître d’ who greeted us could use some personality training but was cordial enough and seated us right away. We were put in the middle of the restaurant, even with tables visible in better areas, but we did not have reservations so I didn’t complain. It took a while for our waiter to show up and take our drink orders but he did drop off some good looking bruschetta while taking the drink orders. Bruschetta is toasted bread topped with salt, pepper, and various toppings. The bread was not warm but the diced tomato topping had great flavor to it with the perfect hint of citrus.
We ordered the Spaghetti Chitarra ($18.75) to split, the Ribeye ($32) for my wife, and the Filetto Verde ($30) for my entree. The Spaghetti Chitarra is a homemade, yes homemade, spaghetti pasta that is heated in butter and swirled around in a large wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before serving. The pasta looked absolutely amazing as we saw it being made table-side. While we waited for the spaghetti to be made table-side we were delivered another basket of bread, this time with a nice olive tapenade. Tapenade is typically a blend of olives, oil, and spices and is used to top bread, pasta, and chicken.
The spaghetti was delivered after about 15 minutes and was prepared table-side by a nice gentleman. He poured the fresh pasta hot from a skillet from the kitchen into a large wheel of cheese and spun it around for a minute to capture plenty of cheese. He then split it among two bowls and served it. I had to request a spoon in order to eat my pasta but other than that it was a great experience.
How did it taste? Amazing! You could tell the pasta was made fresh and the cheese couldn’t have been better. I am glad we ordered it to split as it would have been too rich for me to have eaten as a full entree. It was very good but I would have grown tired if it quickly. It was just too rich to eat for long.
Next up we received our steaks. My wife’s ribeye looked great but I did not try it. My Filetto Verde, or filet Mignon, was topped with a green peppercorn sauce and sided with mashed potatoes. I ordered the steak Medium-Rare.
It was cooked Medium but had a great flavor and texture. It had plenty of salt and pepper and the peppercorn sauce was very good. The side of mashed potatoes was decent enough, nothing special to write home about, but they were good.
For dessert I ordered the Molten Chocolate Cake ($9.50). I was full by this time but had to take one for the team for this review. The cake is as you guessed it, molten in the center, and is served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on top. It tasted good and is worth ordering. I don’t talk much about it because it was “just” a molten chocolate cake. Nothing fancy but nothing bad either.
We left the restaurant a couple of hours after we arrived which was just about right on the timing front. Some things took a little longer than I expected they would but the great food out-shined any wait we had to endure. One thing I noticed is that not a single employee I saw was female. It may have just been the night we were there for but I hope they have women working there.
The other thing is our waiter. He must be cut from the same cloth as the Maître d’ since the waiter was not very friendly. If I owned the restaurant I’d put them both through some personality training. You don’t have to be happy to be at work (otherwise they would call it going to “fun” right?) but you should at least act like it when serving the public.
I will be going back and already have a list of things on the menu I want to try. This says a lot since I’m normally hard pressed to find one thing I want to try on a menu during a return trip, much less several. Highly recommended!
BW Governor’s Suites
1501 Merrill Drive
Little Rock, Arkansas 72211