We spent a happy Memorial Day Weekend Friday at Vespa in Chapel Hill. We love Vespa. And yet I know we really shouldn’t.
Why? Because they serve several dishes that are just not quite perfect, and with a $92 tab for two they should be getting there. (That includes tip, three drinks, entrees, salads, and bread.) Take the pasta with seafood and tomato sauce that Fred ordered–basically clams, scallops, and mussels served over linguini. (My horrible habits as a reviewer are again revealed; I never wrote down the name). The sauce was exactly right–a little brothy, a wee bit spicy, just the right amount of herbs. But the scallops had been cooked a hair past perfection and were turning rubbery around the edges.
My dish had similar issues. I ordered Penne al Fumo (at least, that’s whay my pathetic excuse for a memory recalls), which was basically smoked salmon in a tomato cream sauce with peas over penne. Again, everything was as it should be, except that the peas were, again, a teensy bit overcooked, having slipped from bright green into greenish-yellow. Perhaps they were related to the salmon.
But despite the prices and the imperfections, we’ll go back. We love being greeted and warmly welcomed by the owner. We love the warm interior, the patio with the cedar bushes and the white tablecloths, the attentive staff. We also love some of the dishes–like the house salad, simply but perfectly done with tomatoes, greens and just the right amount of vinaigrette, and the pasta dishes that do not involve seafood. We like sitting on Franklin Street and watching the earnest Chapel Hillians and UNC students stroll buy, though we do not like thinking about how very old we must look to them. And most of all, I think I like going to a place that does not remind of my former life here, and that makes me think of Italy, and of new possibilities, no matter how imperfect they may be.