Drinks at The Copa; Dinner at Vinci
Last weekend on an evening out, we tried a couple places we hadn’t been to before. We started off with cocktails at The Copa Cocktail Lounge. I’ve driven past The Copa many times before as it’s right behind one of Lima’s favorite stores, The Land of Nod. Lima adores the toy monkeys they sell there, so we’re frequent patrons. And every time we drive past The Copa, I think “That place looks cute. We should try it.”
Well we finally did. Cute little bar with a very hip feeling. Intimate size, nice bar stools and eclectic mix of boldly patterned wallpaper on one wall, retro wood paneling behind the bar, and funky lights above the tables that change color and cast red, blue and green glows on the table. This décor sounds crazy, but it works and comes together for a trendy, but comfortable, feeling. We had the pleasure of meeting a very friendly and competent bartender there and he mixed a terrific Copa Flirtini and a solid rum and Coke. The Copa’s a cute place to meet for cocktails.
After our drinks, we walked a few blocks to Vinci. Vinci offers reasonably priced Italian food that’s quite good. I selected Grilled Calamari for my appetizer. This was marinated grilled calamari steak with farro, arugula, toasted pine nuts, and basil oil. The marinade on the calamari was excellent and the grilled flavor came through nicely. Serving it on farro was a pleasant touch too, as I haven’t had farro in a while.
Win selected Carpaccio for his appetizer. This was seared carpaccio with mustard sauce, capers, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, and pecorino. It was really excellent and the flavor combinations on this plate were terrific.
Happy with our appetizers, we then moved on to our entrees. I ordered one of the day’s specials: ravioli with porcini and many other kinds of mushrooms in a dark sauce with truffle oil. See photo above. This was very good, but it almost was too mushroomy. I think I would have liked it more if it was a little less dense with mushroom flavor and perhaps a bit more balanced between strong mushroom flavor and some ricotta or other cheese in the ravioli. It’s not that the dish wasn’t good---it was very good---but it was just slightly less than ideal.
Win loved his entrée. He ordered Vinci’s Hen, which was marinated hen grilled under a hot brick and served with roasted potatoes, garlic, rosemary and natural juices. This tender, juicy hen was outstanding and full of herb and lemon flavor.
For dessert, we ordered Vinci’s special dessert of the evening which was a lemon tart with a grappa caramel sauce. It was served with fresh berries and was really delicious. Great combination of sweet/tart and rich/light.
We liked Vinci a lot. I wasn’t blown away by the food, but it was quite good. The servers were friendly and helpful and the atmosphere was relaxing. I think what maybe makes me like Vinci a little less than some other Italians I have had recently is that it’s a more “corporate” restaurant and is owned by the Davinci Group which also owns the popular Adobo Grill. When push comes to shove, I’m more of a fan of the tiny, independent, neighborhood places over restaurants owned by a larger corporation. But Vinci was worth trying and made for a fun night out.
1637 N. Clybourn
1732 N. Halstead Street
Web Site: http://www.vincichicago.com