The impromptu decision of a friend and I to go for lunch on Saturday meant a wander down Park Street from the top of the Triangle to find somewhere (a), not too expensive, and (b), that we hadn’t tried before. We hadn’t walked very far before we ended up at Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant, and were lured in by the blackboard outside advertising a ridiculously cheap lunchtime deal…
It’s a strange place, Vincenzo’s. I don’t know whether the decor is genuine or an ironic homage to the ‘traditional Italian restaurant’, but you’ll find yourself describing both of the two dining rooms as either ‘tacky’ or ‘fun’ depending on your point of view.
The front door takes you into a dimly-lit dining area, with the kitchen and a drinks fridge to one side. The exposed brick walls are hardly visible underneath the postcards with which they are decorated, and the tables are covered with the stereotypical checked, wipe-clean tablecloths.
We were shown through into the second room, which you can actually see from the road: a conservatory-style dining area above Park Street’s TM Lewin which – rather than postcards – gives diners Italian football flags, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and a large fishtank to look at while they eat.
Disappointingly, it turned out that the lunchtime offer isn’t available at weekends (this wasn’t clear from the sign outside) – a fact that we found out only after we had ordered our drinks, not thinking that we needed to check in advance. Another pair of diners came in while we were waiting, planning to order the lunchtime deal, but left when they were told that it wasn’t available.
I’m not sure how this was conveyed to them, but we found the service to be a little curt and abrupt at first – the lady looking after our table did seem to cheer up and enjoy a joke with us by the end of the meal, though.
We both went for a soft drink, which were fairly averagely-priced: £2.20 for a Diet Coke, £1.90 for an apple juice. If you want a beer, the menu’s not very specific (‘Italian bottled beer’ or ‘lager’), and the wine list is divided into two. The house wines are available in sizes ranging from a glass (£2.50) to a 2 litre bottle (£23.50), and a selection of 12 further bottled wines is available…described on the menu by grape variety only and not brand.
It was far too warm a day for more than one course, and so we ignored the very long antipasti list – you can see it on the photo below, though, if you’re interested! It was still tricky, though, to choose just a main. Although the restaurant has helpfully divided the menu into sections (pasta, fish, chicken, veal, steaks, salads and pizzas), you’ll still struggle to decide: diners have over 50 options to choose from for their mains…
We both stuck to the pizza menu – a Pizza Della Casa (£7.85) for my friend, and a Quattro Stagioni (£7.95) for me. Both featured tomato, ham, salami and cheese, the only difference being the mushrooms featured on mine and the olives on hers.
The pizzas, when they arrived, turned out to have beautifully cooked bases – crispy round the edges but not burnt and still easy to eat. We had a decent smear of tomato sauce over the base: not so little as to make the pizza dry, not so much as to make it sloppy.
The rest of the toppings were ok, but nothing special. They’d skimped a bit on the cheese around the edges of the pizza, and I’m not a fan of having the toppings underneath the melted cheese – I like to be able to see what I’m eating!
To be honest, I don’t think I’d rush back – there are plenty of very well-reviewed Italian and pizza restaurants in Bristol, including a number that I still haven’t tried. The Monday-Friday lunchtime deal of pizza, pasta or omelette for £4.95 does seem like good value if you live or work nearby, but we were a little disappointed by the atmosphere on the day we went, and weren’t over-impressed by the quality of the pizzas that we tried. In terms of ‘authentic Italian restaurants’ that are nearby, I’d probably pick Sergio’s or Mamma Mia over Vincenzo’s next time.