Family owned for 25 years, the Café Vico now has two locations:
1125 N. Federal Hwy. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304 Sunday – Thursday 4pm – 10 pm
Friday & Saturday 4 pm – 11 pm
3496 N. Ocean Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
Sunday – Thursday 4pm – 10 pm
Friday & Saturday 4 pm – 11 pm
(954) 563 6441
I am really behind on my restaurant blog partly because we haven’t been out to eat in new restaurants but, also I have been busy in my studio creating new machine embroidery designs and bags and updating my website. Haven’t visited my website yet? Check it out- ArtGiftsEtc.Com
November 19 is my birthday and my mother-in-law wanted to take me out to dinner. On local public TV out of Ft. Lauderdale, Marcus and I had seen a restaurant review show that featured the Italian restaurant, Café Vico. We decided that we would try it out. The restaurant on Federal Highway, in the corner of a strip mall, and is at least about a half hour away from our home in Coconut Creek. But we decided it was worth the drive.
Since my birthday fell on a Saturday, Enid had made a reservation for us for 6pm. When we arrived the restaurant was not too full and we were seated right away in a section with a very attentive waiter. The restaurant is divided into several rooms that are separated by open woodwork windows so you can see into the rooms next to you but you feel like you are in a very intimate restaurant. The walls are covered with photographs of actors, actresses and musicians from all decades. I found that each waiter having their own dining room to be a very smart way to assign tables. Each partitioned space has (I believe) 6 tables and one waiter and his/her assistant were tending all the tables in their partitioned room. The acoustics weren’t great. It was quite loud even though it wasn’t crowded. Lots of wood and the quarry-tile floor amplified the noise but the seats were comfortable and the lighting was good. There is also outdoor seating on a patio and a big bar that boasts live music every night.
I’m not sure if it’s because our table was right across the hall from the kitchen or because our waiter was very good at his job or both, but, the service we experienced was top notch. There is a fine line between being a great waiter who anticipates your every need and one who shows up at the table too often and lingers too long. Ours was great. He had an assistant who took our drink orders and also helped deliver our food.
Each of us started with an appetizer. I chose a salad that was one of the specials that night ($15.95). The crispy greens were accompanied with orange, mango and strawberry slices as well as a generous handful of blueberries. The Gorgonzola cheese and toasted almonds and a light raspberry vinaigrette were the perfect finishing touches to this refreshing salad.
Enid ordered the Stuffed Artichoke with breadcrumbs, oregano and parmesan cheese ($19.95). I’m not a big fan so I didn’t sample any of her dish but she loved it. Enid ate her way down to the heart, mopping up the sauce as she went saying more than once that the sauce was delicious. She took the heart home “With the sauce!”. By the time she finished her appetizer, Enid said she was pretty full. But our dinner was just getting started.
Marcus had the Arugula Salad ($10.95). He told me it was one of the better salads he had had. The greens were fresh and the tomato tasted like a ‘real’ tomato. (alluding to years of being spoiled by me growing tomatoes every summer when we lived up north and abstaining from them in the fall and winter.)
I admit I am an Eggplant Parmesan snob. It’s my favorite Italian dinner and I have eaten it all over the world. I have had extremely good, maybe the best ever, sitting in an outdoor café in Fiesole which is the hillside town that looks down over the entire Old city of Florence, Italy. And I have had the the absolute worst-On A Royal Caribbean cruise we took in March, 2022. It was inedible. I have had lots that fall somewhere in between. So, when I saw Eggplant Parmesan offered on the menu ($25.95), I had to try it.
My mother-in-law cringes when I order the eggplant remembering the fiasco that followed on the March cruise when I asked my waiter what I was eating? The thick, tasteless hockey puck looking lumps of breadcrumbs (with no eggplant inside) topped with a dab of sauce (which was really good) resulted in the chef visiting the table that night and then returning the following night with a special order made just for me. I have to say I appreciated the efforts and in my cruise survey I commended my waiter and the chef’s attempts at making me happy. But, it was still the worst I had ever eaten and suggested that they consider changing their recipe? Anyway, I digress…
My impressive looking plate arrived very hot, the eggplant was covered in a thick slab of mozzarella over a skimpy covering of sauce. The Eggplant Parmesan came with an order of pasta that looked dried out like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for too long and it too was skimpy on the sauce side. Flipping the slab of cheese off of one slice of eggplant onto the other side of the gigantic potion, I took a bite.
Enid, with trepidation in her voice, asked me how it was. I told her it was OK. Honestly, though I wasn’t impressed. For nearly $26 I guess I was expecting it to be one of the better versions. I suppose the price reflected the huge portion and the half pound of cheese, not the recipe. The best versions of this dish have a light, eggy coating almost like a soufflé. And, the eggplant is fork tender. This was not that. Unfortunately the breading was so heavy handed that it made the entire dish dry and tough. I really thought I had been served the Chicken Parmesan and not the Eggplant. I can’t recommend it and would not order it again if we go back. The little dab of sweet potato on the plate was delicious though. Because I was really hungry having skipped lunch, I ate one of the two slices and took the other home. Marcus enjoyed it a couple of nights later admitting that maybe a lot less cheese and more sauce might have helped. I did not eat any of the pasta that was served with my eggplant and although I requested it be packed up to go, I never saw it again. Probably just as well. It would have needed more sauce to make it palatable.
Marcus chose the Lasagna Bolognaise with béchamel sauce. (Voted the best lasagna in Broward County) for $24.95. I had never seen this combination offered before in Italian food. I had only ever seen béchamel sauce used, thickened on my favorite Greek dishes-Patitsio and Moussaka. I was immediately regretful that I didn’t order this. It both looked and smelled yummy. Although not a big fan of milk products Marcus said he couldn’t say that it was the best in Broward County, but it was really top notch. He ate about half of the generous portion and took the rest home.
Enid chose Pesto over angel hair pasta. She added an order of meatballs with marinara sauce ($5.95) “On the side” with her dinner. Honestly, I don’t know how much the pesto-pasta was because it isn’t listed on the main menu. It might have been a special for the night. Enid enjoyed it although she admitted she was too full to eat much so she had a good portion of her dinner with the meatballs (barely touched) to have as left overs. “The bread too!”. Because of the generous portions, by the time we walked out, Enid had food for the week.
After dinner, to my embarrassment, Enid let our waiter know it was my birthday when he came with the dessert menu for us to look at. Marcus ordered the Apple Tart ($9.95), I decided to splurge and get the Tartufo ($8.95) although I was torn between this and the Profiteroles (small cream-filled pastries usually covered in chocolate sauce $9.95). I asked our waiter which he preferred and he didn’t hesitate when he said “The Tartufo is great!” Enid didn’t order any dessert and it’s a good thing too, my Tartufo (vanilla and chocolate gelato in a rich fudge coating was way more than I could eat on my own. Luckily the big ball of gelato was cut into 4 pieces making it easier to eat…and share!
Truth be told, if I had known our waiter was going to surprise me with a Tiramisu, I might have skipped the gelato. Maybe…I like Tiramisu but it isn’t something I usually order. I took one bite of the Tiramisu admitting it was one of the best I had ever had and then I let Marcus and Enid fight over it. I think part of it ended up in Enid’s doggy bag.
I didn’t taste Marcus’s apple tart. I was overwhelmed with the amount of sweet stuff in front of me already and he really loves any apple dessert above all others. So, I declined the offer to taste it, letting him dig in. He ate every bite of the apple tart without complaint sharing, the vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce with Enid and me.
I have to admit that I made a pig of myself with the desserts. I ate half of the Tartufo and gave half to Enid and I had a couple of bites of the vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce. Gelato doesn’t travel well so it was eat it or loose it. So, I ate it!
On the way out I noticed that most of the dining rooms were filling up and there was a full bar. Live music was playing and people were dancing on the small dance floor. It looked like a good crowd for an off-season Saturday night. I wondered if the bar was full of locals who came every weekend to enjoy the music and dance.
I stopped in the ladies room on the way out and was greeted by a stall full of photos of very good looking male actors and musicians. I might have lingered a bit looking back at the image of Matthew McConaughey…..
I forgot to get the total of the bill but I think it was over $200 by the time we added the tip. This restaurant is a bit pricy so it would likely be one we reserve for special occasions. The Café Vico website says they offer catering and live entertainment. My regret is that we live kind of far from it so it isn’t a place we would think of right away on the next birthday we celebrate. But, I would like to go back to try that lasagna!
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