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Vingenzo’s dining review, Woodstock

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“I’m in heaven,” said my friend, describing that special kind of uplift you can only achieve from long-distance running, true love or intensive carbo-loading.

Pizza with fig and proscuitto (Do these photos make your stomach rumble? Thank Becky Stein)

Pizza with fig and proscuitto (Do these photos make your stomach rumble? Thank Becky Stein)

I passed another of the four bowls of pasta on the table to her. “Try this one.”

My wife, friends and I have picked at our salads, devoured two thin-crust pizzas and are now floating on a pasta high as the bowls circle the table. One is rich with cream and cheese, another bright and saline with flecks of tomato and Manila clams. One you stab, another you twirl. We are giddy with the food at Vingenzo’s.

This two-year-old Woodstock restaurant has become a destination for Atlantans looking for ingredient-driven Italian food as well as a local treasure for those lucky enough to live nearby. To say this restaurant serves pizza and pasta doesn’t tell the whole story. The mozzarella is made in-house, the Neapolitan pizzas fashioned from all-Italian ingredients and cooked in a wood-burning oven, and the pastas of every shape and size, strand and spiral, are made daily. Before your brain can even process the question of whether or not you like the food, your palate recognizes the flavor of fresh.

Review by John Kessler

Review by John Kessler

Indeed, owner/chef Michael Bologna and his partner Gary Slivenik know their ingredients. The two lead an interesting Batman-and-Robin existence. During the day they run the culinary program at Chattahoochee Technical College; at night they repair to this sunny corner space in a retail strip in old downtown Woodstock — just along the railroad tracks and across the street from the Right Wing Cafe.

Bologna — who grew up in New York in the kind of Italian family where a home cooking project might result in 500 ravioli for the extended clan — keeps the menu simple and focused squarely on the fine ingredients in his larder. He prepares a dozen or more appetizers and salads, and an equal number of thin-crust pizzas that, in European fashion, are portioned as individual entrees.

The pasta program is interesting: each night Bologna prepares three fresh pastas that you can mix and match to the standing list of sauces. In the kitchen they come together with a light touch that allows every component — even those scattered slivers of basil — to register on the tongue.

Mozzarella tasting

Mozzarella tasting

Start with a tasting of house-made mozzarellas ($18) — the best way to grok the spirit of this restaurant. Bologna sources fresh cheese curd from American producers and produces latte fresco (cow’s milk) and bufula (water buffalo) cheeses — the former mild, sweet and stretchy, the latter moist and saltier to underscore its delicate tang. These two share the plate with stracchiatella di burrata, cow’s-milk mozz wrapped around a soft filling of cream and marscapone. Capers, roasted peppers and cherry tomoatoes, olives and a few drizzles of oil offers bursts of contrasting flavor.

So there’s the cheese. You want more? Of course you do! In fact, I might gingerly suggest you skip an overdressed arugula salad ($9) heaped on a chewy round of pizza dough and get right to the reasons you’re here.

The pizzas certainly merit a spot on the Atlanta short list. Blistered with fat bubbles at the edge, glove-thin in the center — these are the pizzas for those of you who can’t stand the weak, puddly middles of some other Neapolitan pizzas around town. A thin veneer of San Marzano tomatoes, bufula mozzarella and those all-important basil leaves adorn the margherita ($12) for a correct version of the classic.

Given the super-thin crusts — crunch here, flop there — these pizzas seem more appealing as vehicles for bigger flavors. The fico e prosciutto ($15) combines a respectful sheen of fig preserve with 24-month-aged Parma ham (sheer and rosy), gorgonzola crumbles and fresh arugula leaves. Folds of flavor, this thing.

As much as I like and admire these pizzas, I can’t say I love them with all my pizza-passion heart yet. Bologna makes them with only Caputo 00 flour, Italian water, salt and fresh yeast without any of the fat that some add to tenderize the dough. I admire the purity of flavor, though these pies do tend to toughen as they cool. They seem to support the toppings rather than meld with them.

Spaghetti with clams

Spaghetti with clams

But I do love the pastas with abandon. Thin spaghetti con vongole ($16) sing with the briny flavor of clam liquor infusing its spicy tomato sauce. Handmade fusilli (extruded from a machine and left to air-dry in the afternoon) arrive baked al forno ($16) with mozzarella, handmade ricotta, roma tomatoes and (dryish) pellets of house sausage. This is not bubby, gooey, Sunday-dinner-on-”The-Sopranos” ziti al forno, but something lighter and fresher.

This kitchen likes fresh. Even the funghi d’estate mushroom sauce ($14) comes with dusky slivers of shiitake mushroom, tomato, basil and olive oil rather than cream. It’s an ideal sauce for the kitchen’s shimmery egg-white fettuccine.

That said, Bologna does have a gutbuster or two up the sleeve of his chef’s jacket. If the night’s special involves lobster and shrimp in a parmesan cream sauce ($23), don’t even think of resisting. It hits that macaroni-and-cheese spot dead on.

Vingenzo’s is open for lunch only on Friday and Saturday, but I highly recommend it. The bright dining room — with its plate windows, open kitchen and clattery tile — floods with light and good energy. There are no pastas at lunch, but the kitchen makes an interesting pasticcio di maccheroni ($8) — a sweet tart shell filled with pasta, mushrooms and sausage. It’s odd but charming and brings to mind “Big Night” — never a bad thing.

If you prefer your tarts for dessert, may I steer you to the ricotta cheesecake ($7), studded with marsala-plumped raisins and chocolate chips? I thought so.

I mean, you’ve had cheese and carbs — fresh, delicious, happy-making cheese and carbs — for every course. Why stop now?

VINGENZO’S
105 E. Main St., Woodstock, 770-924-9133
3stars5
Food: Neapolitan pizza and pasta
Service: Knowledgeable and attentive; helps you understand this is no typical pizza joint
Best dishes: Fresh pasta with clam sauce or mushroom sauce, pizza with figs and prosciutto, mozzarella tasting, ricotta cheesecake
Vegetarian selections: Quite a few. Vegetarians will be like cows in pasture here
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Hours: 5-9 p.m., Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays
Children: Fine
Parking: In lot
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Smoking: No
Noise level: Moderate
Patio: No
Takeout: Yes
RatingsKey_3

19 comments Add your comment

Kirk

November 12th, 2010
8:27 am

Ok, my mouth is watering now.

Reds

November 12th, 2010
8:30 am

Yes, please! And not 10 mins from me. I will definitely have to try this out sometime. The fig and proscuitto pizza sounds heavenly.

Hungry Gringo

November 12th, 2010
8:48 am

“Grok” lol

Niklas

November 12th, 2010
10:01 am

This would be my only complaint about V’s as well: “I admire the purity of flavor, though these pies do tend to toughen as they cool. They seem to support the toppings rather than meld with them.” While I’ve never experienced the toughening with the margherita, perhaps since it’s one of the offerings that has more tomato sauce to moisten the dough below, some of the other pies do indeed become more like crackers with toppings.

The house-made mozzarellas are glorious.

Liz

November 12th, 2010
10:27 am

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this restaurant! My husband and I have been coming here since it opened and we’re treated like family every time we walk in the door. It is such a great addition to the mostly bland/chain dining scene in Woodstock. The food is amazing and their service is exceptional. Many of kitchen and wait staff are students learning a craft and you can tell that they love their work and have a passion for quality and freshness. I highly recommend getting on their email list to receive an email of their specials each weekend.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jennifer Brett, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Vingenzo’s dining review, Woodstock http://bit.ly/auGNul [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Steven Josovitz, Anne Shirley and Lisa Chan-Simms, Jenny Turknett. Jenny Turknett said: Have to try this place! Vingenzo’s dining review, Woodstock http://t.co/iMuEDaH [...]

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SophyB

November 12th, 2010
11:10 pm

The pastas are glorious indeed, but the pizzas I can live without. The crust on both that we sampled was definitely cracker like and overdone. I’m not one for a spongy crust, but this was dry as dust. Also did not appreciate the house made sausage – it was dry and had an unpleasant aftertaste. But the pastas are definitely worth the drive.

chuck

November 13th, 2010
2:20 am

Yes, vegetarians will love it because there are hardly any dishes with meat in them. Also, the portions are tiny and the prices are ridiculous. Did I mention there is no meat!!!!!!!!!!???? The owner was there and was friendly, so that was nice. One star for that.

chuck

November 13th, 2010
2:25 am

You get a tiny meatless pasta dish for about $17 and that does not even include a salad or bread. I left there starving. one star.

mamast

November 13th, 2010
10:58 am

The food is fresh and delicious, but after dropping $70 (we got a bottle of wine as well as a pizza and pasta dish) my husband was still hungry – the pasta entree is small for the price. The best pizza (and pasta) in Woodstock has to be San Vito’s!

Bill

November 13th, 2010
12:42 pm

Has Meredith Ford left the staff? If so, where’d she go? Kessler is the man, though.

Atlanta Scene

November 14th, 2010
1:13 pm

Great fresh food, they are horrible to work for though. I felt like I was working in a 5 star restaurant sans the five stars, relax guys it shows in the service.

RJ

November 17th, 2010
12:30 pm

Fabulous food and fabulous atmosphere! We live around the corner and it is a great addition to the Woodstock area. One great compliment is that they have a gluten free menu for those that have gluten allergies!

The only complaint we have had is the last time we were in, on a Saturday evening, our server was slow and by the time she came back to check on us towards the end of our meal, we decided to pass on their amazing deserts and went elsewhere for desert and wine.

Overall though I would say an B+ to A- depending on service!

Abner

November 17th, 2010
12:59 pm

An allusion to Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land?” Not sure if that is clever or creepy given the element of cannabalism in the book.

Sandy

November 18th, 2010
8:58 am

Oh, I would love to sink my teeth into that cheesecake.

Gary

November 18th, 2010
9:33 am

A bowl of spaghetti does it for you, huh ? That’s hilarious. Thanks for the laugh. I prefer a can of Chef Boy Ardee. It’s cheap and I don’t go away hungry.