The Italian Kitchen- Vero Beach- 4 Stars
Persistently pursuing my goal of reviewing every grease-pit to fine dining place and everything in between to be found within the confines of my beloved Space Coast, I was putzing around Vero Beach when low and behold it was magically lunchtime. Punching in the secret code and GPS coordinates into my random slop house generator while at a red light, I let the machine decide what and where I was scarfing down for lunch. Just as the light changed it dinged and my navigator informed me that we were going to a place called, Italian Kitchen just off U.S. Hwy. 1 near 21st Street. Pointing the Big Boy Dining Out horseless carriage in that direction, I began to get myself psyched for the upcoming job.
With an old-time Italian rustic motif, the inside atmosphere was of the old country warmth. Our waitron introduced herself as Heidi, who was extremely good and I was hoping this meant the food was as well, went over the specials and excused herself to give me time to look at the menu. After some scrutiny over the aforementioned menu, I placed an order for their Veal Picatta along with an order of the self-promoted "Homestyle" Lasagna. Each entree came with a choice of soup or side salad (we did one of each) and an order of garlic knots. Having a few minutes to kill gave me ample time to more closely inspect the fine abode we occupied at current. I found Italian Kitchen to be clean and tidy with the perfect lighting array for casual dining. Placed in front of a beautiful mixology station, the seating area is arranged in such a way as to allow the maxim number of patrons without crowding the tables, leaving room for private conversation. In due time, Heidi returned with our meal and I immediately got to work on your behalf.
The Veal Piccata, simply put, was delicious. While it was not made with a prime cut of veal, it was obviously above average and the Piccata sauce spooned lovingly over it was a perfect example of how this staple of Italian cookery is supposed to taste. It was made to order, lemony and savory while not being overbearing and burying the flavor of the delicate hand breaded scallopini of deliciousness underneath. The capers enfolded within this masterpiece of Piccataness sank graciously into the flavor of the tender veal and did not hi-jack the sauce away from its delicate blend of tart and tangy goodness. The House Salad is a completely different subject and I would be hard pressed to claim it came from the same kitchen if I didn't witness Heidi being it our herself. This was a cheap conglomeration of Iceberg lettuce, premade croutons, canned black olives. the world's loneliest slice of tomato you ever saw and a small cup of industrial fake blue cheese dressing. Needless to say, the salad tasted as it just read and left my taste buds screaming for redemption. Turning my stainless steel eating apparatus toward the "Homestyle" Lasagna, I could only hope that this entree mirrored its menu mate in enticing deliciousness and not fall flat ala the salad from Cheap land.
Having been made to order, the Lasagna, like the Veal Piccata was extremely appealing and served at the perfect temperature (obviously they don't use heat lamps). The sauce was flavorful with just the right blend of Italian herbs and garlic with a hint of oregano staying behind on the palate for a brief respite before joining the rest of the family in a scrumptious aftertaste. The meat was fresh and well-seasoned adding an immaculate balance to the texture and overall composition of the lasagna. For low-end ingredients, the lasagna was flavorful and put together well. As much as I enjoyed both entrees, I disliked each side correspondingly. The Vegetable Beef Soup was a greasy medley of canned crapola and caused the meal to come to a screeching halt and shift lanes from the Boulevard of Bombass entrees into the doldrums of Cheapsterville sides. I would be remiss if I failed to mention their version of the ever-present Italian Garlic Knots found in every Italian cafe, deli and sit down establishment from coast to coast these days. The garlic "bread" was just a prefabricated dinner roll with garlic butter brushed on top before being browned in the oven. They had exceptional flavor (I can only surmise this came from the use of fresh garlic butter) but were hard. Bread is only hard for a few reasons, none of them because it is just out of the oven and baked to perfection. These appeared to be left over from last nights dinner crowd or were just plain overcooked, regardless, they were leaning more towards hockey pucks at this point than any semblance of Garlic Knot I have yet encountered.
The Big Boy says, "This is 4 Star all day long, baby."