The Place is a new locally owned Italian restaurant on Vernon. They opened just over a month ago and the few times I’ve driven by at night they looked packed. All of my family was free on Friday night so we decided to check it out. I arrived with my parents at about 6:30. My brother and sister in-law were already seated at a table right up front against a window facing Vernon.
The first thing I noticed (as I have become hyper-aware of when entering a restaurant with my camera these days) was that it was brightly lit. This was one of the first brief topics of conversation, as well as later with the owner. I was pleased with how large The Place is, I was expecting a tiny hole in the wall with a cramped dining room, but it’s a pretty deep space, they even managed to fit a baby grand piano and a full bar.
I was facing the window at the head of our pushed-together tables. It took me a little while but I eventually figured out that the piano I was hearing was actually a live player. She was playing all kinds of good music including hits from the 80s and 90s. Our attention was grabbed early by such classic hits as “Video Killed the Radio Star”. One minor thing I would mention is, due to the arched ceiling and lots of hard surfaces for sound to reflect off of, the piano and crowd noise was a little on the loud side. Enough that you’d have to raise your voice a bit to talk to someone of the other end of the table. I’m no acoustic engineer, but that’s what it seems like is going on. Perhaps some acoustic absorbing decorations could remedy it a bit.
Our server was nice, though I think she was still getting settled into the position. I’m making this assumption based on a few tiny little things, like one time asking if there was a birthday at our table and saying it must have been someone else as she scanned the dining room and headed off. Also we ended up with an extra salad that was supposed to go to another table. None of these things were negative, just things I happened to notice. There was a dedicated server checking on our waters and refilling my soda. She stopped by quite frequently which was appreciated.
A couple appetizers and salads were ordered. The first appetizer to arrive was the bruschetta (warm artisan cheesed bread, marinated tomato, roasted garlic). This was good, the bread was crunchy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside, and the topping was good, the flavor not dominated by the tomatoes.
Next up was an order of caprese (fresh mozzarella, oven cured tomatoes, fresh plucked basil, sweet balsamic reduction). I love caprese, my mom makes it all the time in the summer. I’d never heard of oven cured tomatoes though, I was expecting them to be warm and was surprised when they were cold. They were delicious, and the balsamic reduction was crazy good.
The salads were pretty big. Easily enough to share between two or three people. My mom mentioned the next day that she wished they had some smaller and cheaper salads available. She thought $8 was a lot in addition to the $15 pasta dish. Also she thought bread should have been served with the pasta dishes, or for the table in general.
I decided to try out their pizza which is baked in a wood fired oven. I went with the Salsciccia (spicy italian sausage, hot chili oil, caramelized onions). It was a big pizza. Two people could probably share one of these with an appetizer and be very pleased. I was happy to eat the entire thing and take my desert to go ;). The chili oil really added a great heat that persisted throughout the entire meal. My sister in-law had just a bit of cheese that was hanging from her fork after she cut a small slice to try, she commented immediately that it must have chili oil on it (pretty sure she didn’t know what kind of pizza it was, just wanted to try it based on looks) and later that her lips were still burning a little. My dad also was surprised at the heat. I loved every minute of it. Once or twice I had to pause and take a drink, but that’s a great heat in my book. The sausage was spicy and flavorful, and who doesn’t love caramelized onions?? The thin crust was also very good, and everyone that tried a piece agreed on that.
The rest of my family ordered:
For desert I ordered tiramisu to go. This was great. It was served sitting in a very, VERY rich & sweet coffee. I would recommend eating this there rather than taking it to go. Not that it wasn’t good at home, it was amazing. It’s just that the coffee had more time to soak into the bottom of the tiramisu. Eating in the restaurant you’d have as much or as little of it as you’d like. Most of mine was soaked with it. The tiramisu was light and delicate, and the filling was rich and delicious. A touch on the pricy side at $8, but well made. My dad also ordered this to eat there and enjoyed it.
The owner (I think) was amazingly nice. Came by to say hello and see how everything went, and told me that my tiramisu was made with love. She wished us a happy new year and later came back to see us out the door, where my sister in-law talked with her about needing to dim the lights. She agreed but said her electrician was out of town. She remembered me from earlier in the day when I swung by to take a photo of the front in the daylight. I had actually forgotten that I had done that.
Overall this was a great experience. I think they are still working out some of the kinks as a new business in an old building, such as the lighting and noise, but they’re doing a good job so far. I think my pizza was priced fairly but I can agree with some my family’s opinions that some of the other dishes like the pastas and salads were just a bit higher than expected. I know I will probably return again for pizza in the future. I personally didn’t mind the noise or lighting all that much, I know others may, but I would give The Place a 4 out of 5.