Lunch Review: Viva La Vespa!

Westport has really good restaurants, in fact, a few of them are some of my favorites in the area, and I thought I had tried them all but I couldn’t seem to make it to one.

Vespa has been on my radar for some time now. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why it took so long, it just did, and that’s why we’re here now. When they reached out and asked me to stop in for lunch, I couldn’t pass it up and I didn’t 😉 
That’s a view.
There’s a lot to like about Vespa at first glance. It looks great; it’s somewhere between classy and casual but even for Westport it didn’t feel stuffy. For lunch, I chose to eat outside since it was a beautiful late summer day with barely an ounce of humidity, and Vespa’s patio provides scenic views of Downtown and it’s located right on the Saugatuck River. In short, yeah, it’s real chill out there.
The food is described as “rustic Italian” and finding something you like will not be an issue; fresh seafood, a handful of pasta dishes, small plates and snacks, round out the menu that sticks to an Italian theme but uses a seasonal and local approach to its menu. The man in Vespa’s kitchen is Executive Chef David White, who has a background in European cuisine and is also a Jean-Georges alum from his time at The Inn at Pound Ridge.
Because I went for lunch, I did not try any cocktails (I do know Jamie Johel mixes up some good libations though), nor did I have of the desserts made by Pastry Chef Susanne Berne that I’ve heard folks rave about, so for that, Jamie and Susanne, I’ll be back. I did, however, dive into lunch that included a few apps, a few pasta dishes, and two really big (and good) sandwiches. 
Perfectly grilled bread, all set for the spreading of chicken liver.

Chicken liver close up! Fried onions top off the liver and the red onion mostarda.

I can’t say “No” to a good carpaccio.
I started with something I normally don’t order because I’m just not that into it, chicken liver. Out came this jar of pâté and initially it freaked me out but I ended up liking it enough to have a little more. What helped the liver was the addition of red onion mostarda. The candied red onion provided enough sweetness to the usually overpowering liver. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to try, try again. I did and was pleasantly surprised. On the table alongside the chicken liver was one of the better preps of beef carpaccio I’ve had around here; the horseradish aioli added a touch of spice and some creaminess when paired with plenty of Parm. The tender and delicate beef was sliced so super thin I could have seen sunlight through it. 
I’m not a fan of lettuce or tomato on a burger, not anywhere, but they mostly got it right.

The Short Rib Sandwich is something I’m still thinking about. It’s the type of sandwich worthy of eating alone, in your room with a beer or a Big Gulp and going to sleep afterwards.
After the apps, it was onto sandwiches. The House Blend Burger (Fontina, Little Gem Lettuce, pancetta, garlic aioli, red onion, tomato) was mostly a solid burger. It was slightly overdone from the requested medium rare but the beef was juicy, tender, and didn’t lack for seasoning. I liked the choice of bun (brioche) and the crispy pancetta was a welcomed alternative to bacon. The star of the handheld foods was the Short Rib Sandwich. The short rib was “fall apart” tender and topped with creamy coleslaw. This was also served on brioche and that was a wise choice. A sandwich of this magnitude needs a sturdy bun. It’s a messy sandwich but in this case messy = good. Use both hands and fashion that napkin bib-style. 

The Spicy Lumache is something I will order again. Good heat, made for great leftovers, one of the better pasta dishes that I’ve had in recent memory.
By this time I devoured 1 ½ sandwiches and then the pasta came out. Of the two pasta dishes, only one needed a little work. The Cacio e Pepe lacked for seasoning, both salt and pepper. In a classic Cacio, you should REALLY taste the pepper, so much so that it should be almost spicy. Creaminess, however, was not an issue. The second plate of pasta was a total home run. The Spicy Lumache (broccoli rabe, spicy sausage, charred fennel, sourdough breadcrumbs) was just that, spicy, but in a good way, a pleasant heat with plenty of sausage chunks. I couldn’t finish it after the sandwiches but I took it home and it warmed up well too. I am absolutely ordering this again.
In all, Vespa left a good first impression. Lunch was a hit but I’ll reserve my full judgement after visiting for dinner, cocktail, and more than one dessert.
To be continued…
2 Post Road W
Westport, CT 06880
(203) 557-9057
Instagram: @vespa_westport

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