Chow Italia: Lasagna at VinciTorio's and Humble Pie
For some, the ultimate comfort food is fried chicken. For others, it's meatloaf. For me, it's lasagna -- a thick, saucy, cheesy slab of Italian heaven. Of course it has to be homemade with Italian sausage like the lasagna I feasted on every holiday season growing up with Italian friends and relatives. Anything out of a box or filled with carrots and zucchini is a travesty.
This week, two hungry Americans went in search of lasagna that would transport our taste buds back to holidays gone by.
The first stop: VinciTorio's
1835 E. Elliott Rd, Ste. 108 in Tempe
|VinciTorio's sauce tastes like fresh vine-ripened tomatoes.|
VinciTorio's is one of those places that could easily be overlooked. Located in a boring beige strip mall next to a religious meeting house and a dollar theatre, it doesn't look like much on the outside. But 4- and 5-star reviews from locals claiming things like "it blew almost everything else out of the water, even some restaurants in Italy" (Nikki V., Yelp) made me curious enough to try it this week.
My dining partner and I ordered up the lasagna and snacked on garlic bread while we waited. Our server presented a large portion of lasagna with a pool of watery red sauce about ten minutes later. Color me surprised. Lasagna tends to be a very "heavy" food, the kind that has you loosening your belt after having a slice. But this was the lightest, freshest tasting lasagna I've had in decades.
I'm used to tomato sauce that's thick and blood-red, with tons of oregano and basil. VinciTorio's sauce is light in color and texture, with just a smattering of spices and a taste that's closer to tomato juice. Surprisingly, it was very good. "Looking at it, I didn't think I'd love the sauce," said my companion. "But it tastes delicious. Like fresh vine-ripened tomatoes." To my delight, onions were used sparingly here as to not upset the balance of the ingredients.
The thin, slightly al dente noodles were double-layered. Chunks of sausage between the layers had a delicious fennel undertone without the strong licorice flavor that can easily overpower milder ingredients. All of these ingredients were held together with liberal sprinklings of browned mozzarella that oozed and bubbled out of every crevice.
The cheese was potent and salty, a contrast to the more earthy ricotta. The texture of the ricotta was a delight. Normally this cheese gets mashed down into a tough, paneer-like layer during the cooking process, but here, it was fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Molto bene!