Vento in the Meatpacking District is noted on Open Table as a "Neighborhood Gem". After eating here tonight, I can appreciate why! Vento is at the corner of 14th Street and Hudson just where 9th Avenue ends - a beautiful triangular building with lots of outdoor seating overlooking cobblestone streets - though inside was beautiful too. The menu is affordable, with lots of tapas like dishes meant for sharing, pizza, pasta and other entrees.
We started with an amuse bouche - which I was very pleasantly surprised with - it was a mild fresh tuna salad - raw and diced with onion and maybe celery mixed with Isreali cous cous. It was very fresh and had a mild flavor. Rick didn't care for it, and it was a bit bland, but I enjoyed it. We ordered cocktails, and I selected the Summer Thunderstorm - a vodka martini with apple and cucumber, and Rick ordered a Grey Goose on the rocks. I wanted to try a few of the tapas - the Florentine Dip was high on my list, but alas - they were out. They were also out of the rotolini, a roasted sliced eggplant rolled with ricotta, mozzerella and tomato sauce. I must say I was disappointed. We tried the polpette, meatballs in a marinara sauce with a little cheese on top - they were wonderful! Made with a mixture of pork, veal and beef, they were rich and flavorful, and not too dense. Unfortunately our appetizer arrived before our cocktails, but not too much earlier. My cocktail was refreshing and very reminiscent of a summer thunderstorm - a nice flavor! At this point I think we moved to VIP status in the server's mind because we'd not been faring too well - he was very attentive, and the host was too, and they made sure we had everything we needed and more from that point on. We ordered a Siciliana pizza which comes with roasted eggplant, zucchini, peppers, goat cheese, marinated tomato, and basil. It was delish - A thin crusted pizza, which I prefer these days, and it didn't have the usual tomato sauce so it was very interesting! A really spicy kick! Even though Rick doesn't care for eggplant, and usually I don't either, don't let that deter you from ordering this dish - the eggplant was not at all bitter, and was peeled and cut in a jullienne. You can add chicken or shrimp or a number of other toppings as well.
For dessert we ordered a selection of gelatos - all 6 on the menu! You can get 3 flavors for $5 and they are made in house. My favorite started as the white chocolate chip, then moved to the caramel a la sel and ended up with the nutella with pretzels, thought the chocolate brownie was good too. Rick liked the Cherry Vanilla. When all the flavors arrived, the waiter brought us complementary champagne, which was very sweet.
Rick isn't sold on Vento, but I'm looking forward to my next visit!