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Cake & Courtship at Vic’s

Cake & Courtship at Vic’s

When a handsome, Italian man offers you a slice of cake, say “yes.”

And so I said “yes” to the Limoncello cake, the Cinnamon Dolce Godiva cake and the Tiramisu.

Each dessert brings the richness of its distinctive flavor. But what makes each cake a masterpiece is the lightness of the cream. The sweetness of the mascarpone in the Tiramisu, for example, is lifted by a sprezzatura, a nonchalance of being.

Cake began my courtship with this unassuming, Old World, Italian restaurant nestled between a yoga studio and a bridal shop in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Old World Meets New Location

Vic’s at Lake Boone is the second location of a growing series of successful restaurants established nearly 30 years ago in Downtown Raleigh’s Historic City Market.

The original location was the sometimes Friday night hangout of my then journalist colleagues and their friends for New York-style pizza and beer after a long week.

I was a little more than curious when the second location opened up next door to the yoga studio I attended. While walking by a few times a week, I watched as bits and pieces of an empty building became a cozy restaurant.

Since it opened, I hadn’t been disappointed.

As the chefs knead the new kitchen into their own, the entrees keep improving. I still daydream about a grouper I once ordered with a light lemon sauce and seasoned vegetables. The chicken sage with shitake mushrooms, peas, and a spring vegetable mix ran a close second for my favorite dish.

I even loved the shrimp carbonara, even though I fought with the spiciness of the dish. I cannot handle the heat of spicy food. Nevertheless, I kept diving back into the shrimp carbonara after extra heapings of a sweet, fresh tomato sauce and a couple of swallows of water because the food smelled too good to leave on the plate.

Pizza is a perennial favorite for the streams of families and couples that dine in or pick up ginormous pies of specialty pizza like “The Hawaiian” (pineapple and ham) and “The Meat Eater” (Italian sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, ham and extra cheese.) Vegetarian pizza options are also available.

Like Family, But Better

Like any business, what makes Vic’s at Lake Boone special, is the people who work there.

“Family” is a way of life at Vic’s; not just a slogan or a hackneyed phrase in website copy.

Mario Longo Jr., the eldest of three children, inherited his restaurant savvy from his father and added his own modern touches. Mario returned to the family’s restaurant business after a successful career playing professional soccer.

Like a midfielder who supports the offense and the first line of defense, Mario greets incoming guests and supports his servers by making sure guests have whatever they need to amplify the pleasure of their dining experience. He’s constantly thinking of touches that can enhance the dining experience.

Mario is charming in the way that all Italian men are – for the moment their spotlight shines on you, you are the most beautiful, captivating woman on the planet…until the next light shines. It is perfect in a restaurant because each customer feels genuinely cared for.

In between waves of customers, Mario banters in Italian with his maternal aunt, Anna Maria, who serves as a bartender, assistant manager and in some ways as the heart of the restaurant.

Her expansive friendliness coupled with her calm under pressure holds everyone together. She’s like the best girlfriend you can talk about buying bras with tell jokes about men and yet she’s always courteous and professional with customers. Sometimes, I just go in to have a glass of wine and talk to Anna Maria about my week.

Farid is the head chef and sometimes Mario pitches in on making pizza. Lucia, Mario’s mother, and Anna Maria’s sister bake the goodies that make me cake-gasm whenever I ordered dessert.

Overall, Vic’s Italian Restaurant is definitely a restaurant I’d bring home to mama. We would all feel just like family.