A Table for How Many? at Vito's

May 14, 2009 at 1:50 pm
Stefani Pollack is the author of the food blogs Cupcake Project and Food Interviews. She is also a member of the St. Louis Dinner Club. She blogs about her large-group dining experiences twice a month for Gut Check.

3515 Lindell Boulevard

We could tell from Vito's packed outdoor patio that this wasn't going to be our typical Monday-night dining experience. As we entered the restaurant, we saw a full dining room as well as a full bar. No worries (or so we thought): We had a reservation and had even called to confirm. But on such a busy night, a reservation doesn't guarantee you a table the moment you show up. We ended up having to wait thirty minutes for ours.

We scanned the room, trying to determine why Vito's, unlike all the other Dinner Club restaurants, had such a Monday rush. Our first thought? There must be a show at the Fabulous Fox. On the other hand -- not that we Dinner Clubbers are prone to stereotyping or amything -- it sure seemed like a SLU crowd.

(I wondered if SLU students are drawn to the $5 Monday-night pizza specials the same way this underemployed freelance writer is.)

A Table for How Many? at Vito's
Nick Lucchesi
Midway through our meal, around 8:30, we looked around and realized that we were the only people left in the restaurant. It was eerie. (Or perhaps we are easily spooked.) We asked the server what had happened to the throng.

It turns out that the crowd was due to the Fox. The Killers were in town. They are a post-punk band from Vegas. In their song, "Human," they ask an important (yet grammatically incorrect) question: "Are we human, or are we dancer?" I don't profess to understand the lyric. Yet despite my age (well over that of a SLU student), I'm a fan of the song, and I fully understood the need of the crowd to dance out of the restaurant and over to the Fox.

Moral: If you're bringing a group to Vito's and want to avoid a crowd, check the Fox schedule first.

click to enlarge A Table for How Many? at Vito's
Once We Were Seated

Once we were seated, our experience at Vito's was a pleasure. The food was cheap and tasty, and it came out incredibly fast. The kitchen even got the timing right. All of our appetizers came out at the same time, followed by our entrées, all of which were also brought out at once.

One group member commented that our server reminded him of Rachel from Friends. I didn't quite see the physical resemblance, but she certainly had that you-have-to-like-her kind of personality. She was the type of server who comes and sits with your table for a while and chats, makes jokes with your group and just generally seems to be enjoying herself. Instead of asking whether we wanted dessert, she whetted our appetites by calling out, "Did someone order chocolate cake?" as she breezed by our table.

Because of her great service and personality, no one seemed to mind that she described the cassata cake as "white cake with a filling" or that she didn't know what the fruits were in the forest fruit gelato. (She did ask a fellow server about the gelato for us.) For the curious, cassata cake is like a cannoli in cake format. It's a Sicilian cake typically made with cannoli cream and sometimes rum. I can't say for sure what was in Vito's version, but those who ordered it really liked it. As for the forest fruits, they were a mixture of berries.

The Check

It seems like we're always facing some new bill-related challenge. Often, this is due to each restaurant using a different computer system. At Vito's, they automatically add a tip to the check for large groups. This is no big deal -- we're used to that. However, we gave the server cash plus several credit cards with instructions to run specific amounts on each card. The amount we told the server for the cards included tip. The system at Vito's was not set up for that, so it took each amount and added an additional gratuity. This wasn't a huge problem, but it would have been nice to know how the computer system worked ahead of time.

The next time a restaurant has gratuity added automatically, we'll be sure to ask how it works when we split up the bill.

St. Louis Originals

Vito's is a member of the St. Louis Originals, a free rewards program to which many St. Louis restaurants belong. For every $150 you spend, you get $10 back in the form of a discount at the next Originals restaurant you visit. If you're an Originals member, it pays to take your group to a restaurant in the program. If none of the others in your party are members, you can snag all the points. Three people in our group were Originals members, so we split the points among us.

Vito's Took Care of Us

We all left Vito's happy with both the food and the experience. Just watch your timing with respect to performances on Grand and your group should leave full and smiling.