Bay View has become a popular part of town to eat and drink over the past few years. It’s also a place where one can find a pizzeria in the back of a small tavern with a completely different name and a completely different owner.
Such is the case with Vinchi’s Pizza, which has been located inside The Bubbler at 3158 S. Howell Ave. for the past three years. There are no business signs for Vinchi’s, at least none that I saw. You kind of just have to know.
What’s even more interesting to me is that Vinchi’s Pizza was previously located in another bar called the Sand Castle on 16th and Morgan for 15 years before owner Paul Meka moved the pizzeria to The Bubbler.
Meka started working in the restaurant industry at age 14, when he started to learn the craft of pizza making.
Meka uses his own recipes and seems to have found a successful combination of ingredients and business venue. The customers I spoke to raved about Vinchi’s sandwiches as much as the pizza.
I’d called the night before to confirm their hours for my visit. I read reviews and was warned that the hours vary a bit. The Bubbler was open at 11 a.m., but I was told Vinchi’s would open at 1 p.m., an hour later than the posted hours on Vinchi’s menu for a Sunday.
We arrived at 1 p.m. and learned that Meka had just called and would be in within the hour. I skipped breakfast, so I wasn’t happy to hear that lunch was going to be delayed as much as an hour. Another customer assured me my wait would be worthwhile. I had no other plans, and the NCAA tournament games were on, so my friend and I waited. A bag of chips, a glass of orange juice and a friendly bartender helped keep me calm. She brought me a menu, so I would be ready to order as soon as the man of the hour arrived.
Vinchi’s menu is modest, featuring three specialty pies, four versions of baked bread appetizers and seven sandwiches – including chicken parmesan, pork chop Calabrese and the Vinchi Burger, a half-pound Italian sausage patty topped with tomato sauce and cheese.
Sandwiches include chips and a pickle and range from $9 to $10, while the baked bread appetizers range from $2.50 for the standard garlic bread to $7.50 for the veggie bread.
Specialty pies include Vinchi’s special, which is topped with cheese, sausage, canned mushrooms and onions; Vinchi’s veggie with cheese, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives; and Vinchi’s supreme with cheese, sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, onions and green peppers.
Diners can certainly build their own pizzas using the toppings mentioned above, as well as red bell peppers, jalapenos, spinach, green olives, pepperoncini, fresh garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, bacon and pineapple.
Vinchi’s pizzas are served with a thin, crispy crust available in 12, 14, or 16 inches. Cheese pizzas start at $13, with toppings ranging from $1 to $3 each. For $2.50, diners can convert their pie to a thick crust.
We decided to start with an order of Vinchi’s favorite – the garlic bread with melted cheese on top – and it was delicious! The bread was perfectly crispy and crunchy throughout, and the cheese was generously layered. Usually the cheese on cheese bread hides the flavor of the garlic, but that was not the case here. All of the flavors of cheese, butter and garlic were present.
Since the options for pizzas were pretty slim – and I’m not a fan of canned mushrooms – we decided to stick with the tried and true cheese, sausage and pepperoni pizza, which I refer to as my "control."
We ordered the 16-inch, and it took about 30 minutes for it to arrive. When it came out, I had mixed emotions. First, I was excited because I’d been hearing lots of great things about this pizza for over a year. Next, I was a little concerned because the cheese was dark, and some of the pepperoni looked dried out. This pie was overdone a bit. Finally I was excited again because the toppings were just piled on, and I was going to eat this pizza anyway!
The pizza was on the higher end of the price spectrum, but it seemed we would not be cheated.
The crust edge was crunchy as expected based on appearance. The center slices were also slightly crisp and held up well despite the weight of the heavy toppings. Perhaps baking the pie a bit longer than usual was his way to help prevent the center slices from flopping. If that was the intention, then he succeeded.
After I bit into the first slice, I was pleased to feel sauce on the side of my mouth. I love that feeling. That’s how I know if the pizza has enough sauce on it. I will admit I did not get the experience on every bite, but it happened enough that I felt guilty about the number of napkins I used (my apologies to trees everywhere).
Describing the sauce is tricky. I didn’t think it was sweet nor was it spicy. There were no specific flavors that jumped out at me, yet I liked the sauce. Let’s chalk it up to being balanced and call it a day. Meka adds his seasoning blend to a canned tomato sauce base, which is very common, but the texture was slightly thicker than most sauces, which I enjoyed.
The large chunks of Italian sausage and crispy pepperoni slices are locally procured from Prize Meats, and both were slightly spicy and flavorful.
Overall, I was a fan of the pizza. I would have preferred it was removed from the oven three or five minutes sooner, and I would just take my chances with a potentially softer crust. If I make it back again, I will make that request.
When you go, remember to call ahead on the day you plan to visit, so you’ll have the best chance at knowing when Vinchi’s is open. Also, Vinchi's only accepts cash for payment, so hit the ATM before you get there. Finally, if you prefer to see some white coloring on your cheese, ask that the pie be baked for that appropriate amount of time.
Customers can dine in, carry out their pizzas or ask for delivery. Check availability, delivery area and delivery charge when you call. I’d include it here, but it might change.
I liked the pizza enough to go back, but I only get pizza once a month – for this blog. Therefore getting back to the pizzerias I enjoyed becomes challenging. Don’t worry; I’m keeping track. One day, I will make it back to them. How’s your list coming along?
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