Truly great gourmet meals tend to be few and far between. There are a lot of wonderful restaurants out there today, but few can really boast gourmet cooking. Today, my husband and I found a new little café that can do just that!
“The Vineyards” is an unlikely jewel in the Virginia Peninsula restaurant crown. It is located in an out of the way small strip center, tucked inside an upscale neighborhood of Newport News called Kiln Creek. It could be easily overlooked if you don’t live in that area. Luckily, they advertised in a few key spots to help them get the word out. That is how we found them.
One would assume the restaurant would be very casual because of the “strip center” look on the outside. But once you step inside, you know you are in for something spectacular. The restaurant is not big. It is, however, the perfect size to be both cozy and intimate.
Maintaining an upscale theme, “The Vineyards” opted to avoid booths and stick with tables and chairs that could be arranged and rearranged into an array of different shapes and sizes to meet customer needs. All of the tables were covered with crisp, white linen tablecloths and napkins, china, crystal, and silver.
Our hostess met us dressed in the typical black and white garb of a major domo. She seated us in an area that wasn’t crowded. We really appreciated that. Most restaurants tend to lump people together into a tight area to make it easier on the waiters and waitresses. Unfortunately, they have little regard for the comfort of the customer.
As we perused our beautiful, fancy black and white menus, our impeccably dressed waitress introduced herself. She poured our ice water and presented us a basket of fresh twisted garlic knots. She also inquired if we had any questions and responded directly and precisely to my inquiry about her recommendations on the menu.
Although there was a lot to choose from on the extensive menu, my husband and I settled pretty quickly on our choices. He opted for the ravioli and I went for the lasagna. As we waited for our meals, we enjoyed the crisp, cold salad seasoned with nothing more than vinegar and oil. It was wonderful, with various types of lettuce, different varieties of olives, peppers and tomatoes.
We also took the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of the restaurant. Everything from the stunning floral arrangements set in Grecian urns to the greenery that accented the corners and the remarkable Italian prints that adorned the walls was nothing less than picture perfect. Beautiful white columns accented the deep walnut accents of the hostess station and hand painted murals of the Italian countryside adorned key walls of the establishment.
The stunning dark green tapestry chairs were unbelievably comfortable and inviting. The lighting was subdued but not dark. And the room temperature was perfect; neither too hot or cold.
When our dinner arrived, we were amazed. It looked like something Wolfgang Puck would prepare for the Oscars. It was perfectly plated, wonderfully decorated, and piping hot. My lasagna slice was huge, but remarkably light and airy. It was definitely a true gourmet treat. My husband’s ravioli was also delicious and more in line with the portion sizes one would expect.
Here is a cross section of their menu:
Antipasti – ranging in price from $5.95 to $8.95:
Fried Calamari – lightly battered and fried to a tender crisp, golden brown, served with marinara sauce;
Mozzarella Fritta – whole milk mozzarella breaded, deep fried and served with marinara sauce;
Shrimp Orgenata – jumbo shrimps baked in the oven with a white wine and butter;
Brushetta – freshly baked oven focaccia bread topped with fresh diced plum tomatoes, garlic basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar;
Cannoli di Melanzane – Eggplant stuffed with ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella in tomato sauce; and
Clams Casino – toasted clams and garlic sautéed sun-dried tomatoes, in a white wine and chicken stock.
Insolate – ranging in price from $6.95 to $9.95:
Insolate di Polo – grilled chicken breast blended with fresh garden vegetables, artichoke hearts, and fresh mozzarella served on a bed of mixed lettuce;
Lemon Chicken Salad – grilled chicken, fresh spinach, romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green olives tossed in extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice;
Grilled Salmon Salad – grilled salmon, assorted vegetables, arugula, romaine, walnuts, dried cherries, and goat cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette;
Insolate di Gambaretti – grilled shrimp, radicchio, tomatoes, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, and mozzarella in roasted garlic vinaigrette dressing;
Caesar Salad – crisp hearts of romaine lettuce tossed with our creamy Caesar dressing, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and crunchy croutons;
Insolate Caprese – roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, fresh tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella topped with extra virgin olive oil; and
Focaccia Salad – parmesan pizza crust with spinach, romas, and red onions in balsamic vinaigrette topped with goat cheese, and dried cherries.
Sandwiches, Paninis, and Calzones – ranging in price from $5.95 to $7.95:
Veal Parmigiana Sandwich – veal cutlets topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese;
Chicken Parmagiana Sandwich – chicken cutlets topped with tomato and mozzarella cheese;
Mona Lisa Panini – fresh portabella mushrooms, roasted peppers, spring mix, and fresh mozzarella;
Marshall Parmigiana Sandwich – homemade meatballs topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese;
Pavarotti Panini – grilled chicken, baby spinach, fresh tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella cheese;
Supreme Calzone – filled with ricotta, mozzarella, grilled chicken, baby spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes;
Sausage & Pepper Sandwich – sautéed sweet Italian sausage, roasted peppers and onions, in marinara sauce;
Marco Polo Panini – veal cutlets, prosciutto, spring mix, and fresh mozzarella;
Cheese Calzone – filled with ricotta, romano, and mozzarella cheese;
Stuffed Primavera Focaccia – stuffed with broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella cheese; and
Stuffed Rustica – stuffed with ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and meatball.
Pasta – ranging in price from $6.95 to $12.95:
Linguine con Gambaretti – with shrimp in a spicy marinara sauce;
Penne Primavera – penne pasta with sautéed mushrooms, onions, roasted peppers, and broccoli in garlic and olive oil topped with grilled chicken;
Penne Siciliano – penne pasta baked with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, meatball, sausage, and roasted red peppers;
Baked Ravioli – cheese ravioli baked with a marinara sauce and topped with melted mozzarella cheese;
Spaghetti with meatballs, meat sauce, or sausage;
Lasagna Alforno – a blend of meat and cheese lasagna topped with meat sauce and mozzarella cheese;
Tortellini Pollio – cheese tortellini with sautéed pieces of chicken, broccoli, and sun-dried tomatoes in a creamy Alfredo sauce;
Tortellini Napolitano – cheese tortellini mixed with ricotta cheese and eggplant baked with mozzarella cheese;
Penne Alforno – baked penne pasta with ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese; and
Linguini con Vongole – Linguine with fresh whole baby clams in a white or red sauce.
Secondi Piatti – ranging in price from $7.95 to $9.95:
Chicken Picata – breast of chicken sautéed with wild mushrooms and capers in a lemon parmesan cream sauce;
Chicken Marsala – breast of chicken and wild mushrooms sautéed in a marsala wine sauce;
Chicken Parmigiana – breaded chicken breast baked with mozzarella cheese;
Veal Parmigiana – Veal cutlet breaded, fried, and baked with mozzarella cheese;
Veal Marsala – medallions of veal sautéed with wild mushrooms in a marsala wine sauce;
Veal Caprese – breaded veal cutlet topped with diced tomatoes, mozzarella, red onions, basil, and fresh garlic tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar;
Rollatine di Mellenzane Parmigiana – sliced eggplant, fried, and baked with mozzarella cheese;
Rollatine di Mellenzane Ripieno – layers of eggplant baked with ricotta and spinach;
Shrimp Parmigiana – breaded deep fried shrimp baked with mozzarella cheese; and
Flounder Francese – filet of flounder sautéed in a white wine, lemon, and butter sauce.
The Vineyards also caterers most of their dishes. One-half trays, which serve six to eight people, range in price between $35.00 and $65.00. Full trays, which serve ten to twelve people, range in price between $55.00 and $85.00.
Ours was definitely a first class meal. Everything about it, from the entrance to the exit, was exemplary. Our waitress was attentive, friendly, and extremely helpful. Best of all, the prices were more than reasonable. This restaurant was five star all the way. We can’t wait to go back!