Meet Me in Italy!

Every once in a while, weeknight date nights are in order to cope with a stressful week or to simply break up the monotony of an overwhelming work schedule. It had been a particularly trying week, so my husband, Zach, and I decided to head out in search of a new little date night spot here in Frisco, which is one of our favorite things to do. Admittedly, it is not often that restaurants come along that transport patrons to another place all together, but one of Frisco’s newest little hot spots, Vicini American Italian Kitchen and Bar, took us from date night in Texas to date night in a sophisticated, retro-modern Italian kitchen.

This new dining destination is nestled neatly on the corner of Warren Parkway and Parkwood Boulevard, just east of the Dallas North Tollway. Vicini’s entry faces Warren Parkway, and as patrons enter, they are immediately transported and enveloped into Vicini’s urban, yet comfortable, ambiance. Our weeknight date came in the middle of a busy week, and upon arrival, our stress levels dwindled as we took in the atmosphere and were seated by the welcoming and friendly hostess.

We sat at a great little booth near the bar that gave us a view of the hustle and bustle of the restaurant. To the right of the entry, behind gorgeous dark wood and barn-style sliding doors, is a private room, perfect for dinner parties, lounging with friends or for celebrating special occasions. The hostess stand is immediately to the left of the entry, and the well-appointed and simply gorgeous bar lies just beyond it. Hanging above the bar, allowing patrons to take in the sights, are exposed bulb fixtures that add to the ambiance. They provide somewhat of an old-world feel of this area of the restaurant. To add to the interior uniqueness, Vicini has a large, garage-esque door that opens to the patio. Guests who are dining or hanging out on the patio are able to receive full bar service as easily as if they were inside. My favorite little gem in the bar area was a seemingly inconspicuous, yet huge antique cash register that fits right in with the theme of the set up!

Perhaps, what I loved most about the décor and atmosphere, is that Vicini truly had a little of everything. Most of the ceiling of the restaurant has the exposed, modern, industrial look, while the area over the bar is an intricate, tiled design, reminiscent of authentic Italian/European decor. The walls and design follow suit with a sophisticated, mix-mash style that ebbs and flows beautifully between exposed brick, tile walls, a huge, rich mahogany wood partition wall with a bar ledge and contemporary, attractively-lit wine choices that are shelved on the back wall. The main dining areas of the restaurant are comprised of both table and booth seating, and in a couple of areas, half booths and half tables, with a couple of strikingly intimate and elegant round booths and corner booths. Additionally, there is a comfortable, covered patio. Whether you are out on a quiet date night with your love, entertaining business guests or out with a group of friends, Vicini has excellent seating choices, depending on the reason for your visit.

Vicini has an impressive cocktail, wine and beer menu, featuring handcrafted, classic cocktails, a wide variety of red, white and sparkling wines (sold by the glass and the bottle) and an extensive selection of beer, ranging from your classic Bud Light to American craft beer and even international selections. In addition to the cocktail menu, Vicini boasts an in-depth vermouth, amaro and aromatized wine selection, as well as a special martini listing featuring Manhattans and Negronis. The Global Wine List boasts 50 wines by the glass, ranging from American classics to boutique Italian varietals. Ever the traditionalist, Zach started off with a draft Bud Light, while I tried a glass of their August Kessler Riesling, which proved to be delightfully light and crisp, with faint hints of apple and pear.

Vicini’s appetizer menu offers both cold and hot selections, and after perusing the food descriptions for a bit, we turned to our knowledgeable and helpful waiter for suggestions. He informed us about the most popular appetizers, including the House Whipped Goat Cheese (from the cold appetizer menu) that is served with a spicy tomato sauce and grilled bread and the Chianti Arancini (from the hot appetizer menu). We decided to go with his suggestion, the Chianti Arancini, and we were pleasantly surprised at what a unique dish it turned out to be. Arancini is stuffed rice or risotto balls coated with breadcrumbs and then deep-fried, and Vicini’s version of the dish was beautifully presented, with three perfectly-fried and seasoned pieces of tangerine-sized spheres of arancini resting atop a bed of roasted peppers. While the outer layer was crispy and fried to perfection, the inside was a warm, velvety mixture of Mozzarella, basil pesto and rice. The portion was perfect for an appetizer for two or even an entrée for one. We were skeptical about the dish upon ordering, worried that it would be too heavy for an appetizer, but we ended up enjoying the dish as a great start to the rest of the food we ordered throughout the night.

Zach and I both really enjoy Caesar salads anywhere we go, so we knew going in that we wanted to try Vicini’s version of this classic dish. All restaurants seem to have their own take on this salad. We split the Vicini Caesar, and it came out in two separate bowls for each of us to enjoy, which we appreciated, so we were not sword fighting with our forks while sharing out of one bowl. (Let’s be honest … sometimes the fork sword fights are just fun). The salad was well-dressed, though not too heavily, and topped with crisp classic croutons, small anchovy filets and Parmesan crisps. After enjoying the hot Chianti Arancini, the cool and crisp Vicini Caesar hit the spot as we progressed through the meal. Also featured on the Insalate E Zuppa (salad and soup) menu are house favorites like the Tomato Basil Soup and the Endive and Radicchio Salad.

Admittedly, when we usually visit Italian restaurants, I am a glutton for all things traditional and pasta, but this time, I wanted to branch out and try to choose something that was not a dish I would normally get, and Vicini had plenty of these options to choose from. Their menu boasts house-made pasta selections as well as House Features, ranging from classic Spaghetti and Meatballs to Potato Gnocchi, Market Risotto (changes daily), Market Fish (changes daily), Pork Shoulder and New York Strip Steak. The evening we visited, the Market Risotto was a wild mushroom risotto topped with a small, whole quail, while the Market Fish was salmon.

Zach ultimately decided on the Potato Gnocchi, which is served with spicy sausage and charred rapini (sometimes known as “broccoli rabe”) topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Having never tried gnocchi, Zach enjoyed the dish, especially the spicy flavor from the sausage. The chef did a great job with the gnocchi, achieving a subtle pan sear on the gnocchi pieces that provided a bit of texture and crunch to the softness. Staying true to my mission of going off the traditionally beaten Italian food menu path, I chose the Seared Chicken dish. The Seared Chicken was a great dish that boasted a perfectly-seared and cooked piece of chicken atop a bed of fava beans, haricot vert (a thin green bean), celery root and cipollini. The chicken was flavorful, and the pan sear on the outer skin provided great color and texture. We were each pleased with our choice, as each one provided a little bit of culinary Italia we had not experienced before.

If you know me or you have read my dining articles before, you know better than to think we headed out after dinner without dessert! It is my favorite part of a meal! We were absolutely stuffed as we listened to the waiter present the dessert options, which included house-made tiramisu. After struggling to choose one item, we decided to try the cannoli dessert, since neither of us had ever had cannoli before (blasphemy, right?). Though the dish was a relatively small portion, it provided the perfect little ending to our dining experience. It featured a couple of cannoli, each with shaved chocolate pieces at the ends. The dessert pieces rested atop a scoop of lemon gelato.This classic Italian dessert proved to be one of the highlights of our evening, as the cannoli shells were light, crispy and perfectly fried, while the velvety cream inside was a light, flavor-filled contrast to the crispy crunch of the shell. Though I am not normally a fan of lemon-flavored anything, the lemon gelato was a favorite for both of us! It had a truly wonderful flavor contrast to the sweetness of the cannoli and delivered a bright and refreshing twist to the end of our meal.

Vicini American Italian Kitchen and Bar might be new to Frisco, but it is not new to the classic flair and flavors of Italian cuisine. The unique atmosphere caters to a plethora of possibilities, whether you are on date night, out with the girls, entertaining business clients or even out with your family. The unique menu provides options for those looking for classic Italian favorites or those who may be looking to try bold, new flavors in exciting and innovative dishes. We may not all be able to make it across the big pond to experience true Italian culture or cuisine, but Vicini brings a little bit of the heart of Italy right here to Frisco with its eclectic and inviting atmosphere, creatively crafted cocktails and exquisite, flavorful dishes.

Allie Spletter

Allie Spletter is a wannabe foodie and lover of all things pink and crafty.