VinceAnna’s – November 2010 (dt)
6.92 - 7.25, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6.25

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Remember a place you used to go to with your parents, and then you stopped going to when you were old enough to make your decisions, and then after years had intervened, you went back and then you wondered why you stopped going but it felt good to go back?
              That was VinceAnna’s, in South Westerlo, this pleasant November evening. The menu is decidedly Italian-oriented, and large, too, with twenty appetizers, fifteen pasta dishes, thirty Italian specialty dishes, twenty more seafood dishes, ten ‘other meats’ dishes, ten more open-faced sandwiches, and, of course, pizza, setting up a tough decision to make. And even better was the price range – a cut below the fine dining places.
              Decisions of the evening, eventually, were: veal parm (Ken, very good, side of fries (?!); the fried shrimp (Kriss, delicious, very good, with a baked potato); shrimp fra diavolo (Chay, excellent, with pasta that had a tasty red sauce – with vinegar and mustard); shrimp and broccoli (Deb K, excellent, with wheat pasta, a welcome offering that many other places don’t have); broiled shrimp and scallops (Deb T; very good, side of broccoli); and the seafood au gratin (Don, very good, a mix of whitefish, scallops, and shrimp, with a burnt-just-right topping of light cheese, with wheat penne). Everyone seemed quite pleased with his/her choices, and everyone noted how hot (temperature) every dish was, consistently more so than recent DP8 visits. And all of us thought the red sauce was a worthy one.
              You may have noticed only six dinner choices. Tim and Judy were in DC, attending to family, and missed DP8 #96. (We missed you. However, the fill-ins were quite likeable.)
              Arriving seconds after our seating was a basket of Italian bread, thinly cut, with a small ramekin of an herbed, creamy butter which drew praise from all sides of the table.
              A pitcher of iced water was set on the table, with each person filling one’s glass as desired.
              Most of the entrées come with salad or soup. The evening’s soup was minestrone, which Kriss enjoyed. The rest of us chose the salad, a molded, eight-inch glass dish that was filled with mixed greens, a couple stubs of carrot, several circles of onion, a few crescents of pepper, and a couple of tomato slices. Salads came served with a semi-heavy dollop of dressing, unless otherwise directed. All thought it certainly an adequate, solid salad.
              The drink order was taken quickly, necessitating a call for a wine list. Although basic, VinceAnna’s has a satisfactory choice, and fill-in wine steward Don chose a Louis Jadot 2008 Beaujolais-Villages (one bottle), a pinot-like wine.
              The dessert menu started as a possibility but the length of the list, and a bunch of ‘me, too’ enticed everyone to participate. Chay and Deb K shared a turtle cheesecake – very good; Don had his chocolate fix – the Black Satin cake, with three layers of moist cake, and rich icing, good to very good; Deb T tried the peppermint stick gelato, and softly moaned over it; Ken had the Peach Melba – good; Kriss enjoyed the chocolate parfait, this one with enough ice cream to taste, unlike some others she has endured at other places; and Chay finished with his Sambuca. At least another ten choices awaited if we had wanted.
              Service from Christine was very good, with attentive, effervescent cheerfulness. Things went quickly, at times, but she slowed up whenever we needed more time or had questions. Anything that could be done was done. Even when we asked that she pose with the table, along with Mason, to complete an eight-some, there was a genuine pleasure-to-please quality that made the dinner even nicer. Even her dog scampering under the table and through the restaurant was a touch cute.
              The pacing of the meal was relatively quick. First food – bread – was immediate, salads came about twenty minutes after seating, entrées arrived in about forty-five minutes, and desserts about eighty minutes, and we left about ten minutes shy of two hours. It was comfortable but we never felt rushed.
              Entry into VinceAnna’s was interesting. On one hand, one (DT?) remembers back to the 70s when the rock band music drew the young adult crowd. After a short walk past the pile of cut firewood, a short hallway and coat rack greets the diner, with the receiving podium straight ahead, with a dozen-seat bar in the background, just as it always has been.
              The interior is bigger than one remembers, with four semi-distinct sections – the main room with the stage, the bar area with the numerous glass window panels for a view outside in daylight hours, the back add-on that would have sun streaming in, and the roadside addition with it white plaster walls and paintings adorning. Altogether, about forty tables await diners.
              We sat at a round table in the bar area, next to the large window panels. (The corner table was comfortable and gave the rooms a perspective; otherwise, we could have felt as if we were stationed in centerfield.) Four deer heads are mounted, near the ceiling, looking contentedly (or, was it mournfully?) eastward, with a soapstone stove sitting just feet away, waiting for cold weather to be called into service. The lighting was dim, with a couple of recessed foot-square lights, and our table had a five-pronged, clouded-glass-globe chandelier brightening our corner.
              The table was covered by a beige-peach linen spread, set with an artificial autumn-plant centerpiece to brighten. Diminutive water glasses were set upside down on a napkin, with places of four-piece, medium quality silverware.
              On the way out, Jimmy Eufemia, chef and owner for decades, greeted. It was a solid, comfortable presentation, with no pretense that it will compete with the very fine dining arenas of the Capital District but it certainly is a satisfactory local eatery, with only Mountain View Brasserie as the next big step up.
              The final bill came to $84 per couple, including tax, tip and drinks. Kriss thought that was a bunch more than she had paid the last time she was there but a quick review showed it was right on target.
              Congratulations, VinceAnna’s, and a thank you to Christine (and Mason, too).

              The evening had started at the Monteverds’, at a rather late hour of six p.m., indicating a short trip, which it is with VinceAnna’s only ten miles away (and a very welcome one). (The Monteverds later confessed they had another place picked but chose Plan B with the Adamses not in attendance.) This day had been the third beautiful weather day in a row, with a couple more forecast, and the teachers having just had Veteran’s Day off.
              Kriss had waiting a tray of pineapple, grapes, cucumber, carrot, three-kinds-of-crackers, with a center dip. Another wooden piece had salted cashews, coated peanuts, and Christmas-season sprinkled chocolate non-pareils.
              Ken was the liquid refreshment provider, with Sam Adams beer, a Beringer white zin, a Paso Valley 2008 Merlot, and diet soda.
              Tim’s fall from grace was the first topic, with everyone relieved the ladder adventure ended as well as it did. Too many other scenarios, mostly worse, came from memory.
              Kriss’s collection of crocks was admired and their future additions, or subtractions, were discussed. And we talked about Ken’s foray into wine-making, the different stages, labels that should be made, and when we could first taste his Sangiovese. And Kriss had been arranging her rooms.
              Other topics included Deb K’s mom, Deb T’s parents in Mexico, what the retiree has been doing, gobs of school stuff – discipline, etc., dogs on the loose, Monday’s snow in Albany, new attendance rules, consequences for non-attendees, finding substitutes for non-dp8 attendees, the ‘orientation’ of those substitutes, DP8 100, Christmas preparations, Thanksgiving plans, Greene Dish experiences, and more that I cannot recall.
              The anticipation of Christmas 2010 at the Karneses is starting to build.
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