Vitale's Italian Ristorante - For Food That's Amore!
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
It's been almost four years since my last review of Vitale's Italian Ristorante, located on the second floor of Tumon's Plaza Arcade next to SandCastle and directly above the 7-11 adjacent to Bully's. Before I go any further, I need to remind you that "genuino" is the Italian word for genuine, which means you get the real deal when it comes to Italian cuisine here. Vitale's owner, Joseph Vitale founded Vitale's Pizza Queen in 1992, which at the time was an immensely popular restaurant with the best take-out pizzas available on Guam and then in 1996 he opened Vitale's Italian Ristorante.
The food at Vitale's is what would be considered traditional American-Italian favorites, like the kind of Italian food you'd get in the Michigan suburbs where Joseph founded his original Vitale's Ristorante in 1967. Joseph's extensive menu is developed from authentic old country recipes, so you can get different pasta selections ranging from Manicotti, Lasagna, Mostaccioli, Tortellini, Spaghetti, and Fettuccine Alfredo, to Cannoloni and Ravioli. You can also find Veal Parmigiana, Eggplant Parmigiana, Chicken Parmigiana, and Linguine Clam.
When we entered Vitale's for dinner the other night, we were astonished by the large number of tourists who filled the room. It must have been good timing, for as we entered the only table in the non-smoking section was just being vacated. While we waited for the table to be cleaned we glanced at the attractively layed out menus and ordered our choices, starting with two appetizers, Green Salad ($6.95) and a bowl of Minestrone Soup ($5.50). To this, we added a new menu item called "Tour of Italy" ($14.95) which had a sampling of Lasagna, Chicken Parmigiana, and Fettuccine Alfredo in a special white sauce. This came with a basket of Garlic Bread. The final dish was a 10" Small Deluxe Pizza ($16.50) with Cheese, Ham, Onions, Pepperoni, Sausage, Green Pepper, and Mushrooms.
Since my dining partner Zee is on a special diet that has her eating a special home-made vegetable soup, she was only able to eat the salad and the soup, whilst I had the task of having to eat everything else! The salad was a bit of a disappointment, since the hearts of iceberg lettuce seemed to dominate a salad that had tomatoes, black olives, canned mushrooms, white onions, and cucumbers, all drizzled with an Italian Vinaigrette that was more vinegar than oil. As you might surmise, the bitterness of the hearts undermined the sweet expectation one has when eating green romaine or even green iceberg lettuce. To me, though, being more stoic, I felt the salad challenged my palate. It was certainly fresh and crisp, once the cucumbers kicked in.
The Minestrone Soup was not at its peak, but it did have old-world character. It was stout and hearty, and you couldn't help but taste the co-mingling of kidney beans, garbanzo beans, carrots, tomatoes, celery, and green beans, and dissolving pasta - all the elements that are splendid when first made were now simmering in their last days. The soup, too, unfortunately at the time of this review, would have rated "superieur" had it been first batch.
The expectations I had of my "Tour of Italy" entrees were righteously met when I had my first bite of the Fettuccine noodles that were cooked al dente and soaked in a sinfully divine creamy alfredo sauce - wow! It was great. My true preference is for a thicker, denser, cheesier alfredo and this was all of that and more. Vitale's Garlic Bread's heady aroma seemed to permeate through the room...this was garlic bread so strong that it would have made vampire bats fall! Biting into this hot flavorful bread, which is also available as a side order for $2.75 (with cheese $4), was awesome.
Then I cut through my Chicken Parmigiana. It was a fairly good sized crusted breast with a thick blanket of melted parmesan cheese spread over the top, immersed in a hearty marinara "like a momma used ta make ah"! The Lasagna and the Chicken Parmigiana shared a large plate, whereas the fettuccine had its own little dish. I don't know how to compare Vitale's lasagna to others I've had on the island, but I can say that it's the I believe it is what most people would expect from a restaurant and wouldn't mind paying for - a good lasagna in other words. Sumptuously layered with meat sauce, pasta, ricotta and parmesan cheeses, this is one of those classic dishes that define Italian, since there's so much effort involved in making it. The portions of both the lasagna and chicken were more than adequate, and I guess I could have eaten a few more fettuccine noodles.
Vitale's pizzas are all served on an elevated pizza stand. When we looked around all the tables we could see more than one or two of these towering over all the other foods...it makes for an appealing presentation of one of America's (and the worlds) favorite foods - pizza! These are made the old school, thick crusted way, with a flavorful fresh marinara spread with cheese, meats, more meat, and vegetables. Though our pizza was small, I could only eat two slices, and the rest of the meal was a wrap!
Vitale's must have the largest Italian menu on island and I'm sure somebody will correct me if I'm wrong. When you look through Vitale's menu, they have sections of food, and enough offerings of each that it would take you days to eat your way through. There are 15 submarine sandwiches and these are not toy submarine sandwiches; they feature ingredients that'll make you hungry. The Amore Mio Sub ($7.50) has ham, pepperoni, onion, mushrooms, pineapple, green olives, Jalapenos, and cheese. For vegetarians, the Veggie Milano ($6.95) has mushrooms, green peppers, onions, black & green olives, and tomatoes. The King ($6.95) has pepperoni, ham, mushroom, and sausage. You have your choice of mayo, pizza sauce, or oil & vinegar on a sandwich that can be served cold or hot. Once you see Vitale's subs and eat one, you may have a hard time going back to those other sub shops and getting equal satisfaction. [Editor's Note: The ham and pineapple sub is fabulous!]
Aside from those marvelous Italian dishes, Vitale's has a few steaks on their menu as well as some of the more popular surf and turf combinations. The 16 oz. T-Bone Porterhouse is $21.95, and if you add a lobster tail to this, it'll cost you $34.95. A 10 oz New York Steak and 6 oz Lobster will set you back $32.95. Not bad! Each entree includes salad, vegetables, rice, lemon, and butter.
Joseph Vitale takes great pride in his food preparation, and it's really evident when you taste the ingredients in each entree. This man has been cooking for decades and he has never lost his passion for the food. This is the food he remembers and is genetically embedded from his birthplace in Palermo. It just so happens that this lively Italian has taken up residence on his other home, Guam, where he makes "genuino" food that's "amore!" Vitale's is open from 10am-4pm for lunch and 6-10pm for dinner daily. You can call 646-7692 for take-out, but you're better off eating in so you can soak up the ambiance and listen to Italian songs in the background.