Tony's Vineyard

My first introduction to Tony's Vineyard was during one of their recentMurder Mystery Musical Nights

Tony's Vineyard

2828 Rio Grande, 476-5600

Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm

Dinner: Monday-Saturday, 5-10pm

www.tonysvineyard.com

My first introduction to Tony's Italian Vineyard was during one of their recentÊMurder Mystery Musical Nights. On the first Sunday of every month, the restaurant hosts dinner theatre. For $39.99, the bill of fare includes a four-course dinner and a campy whodunnit musical, both dripping with drama and cheese. As the players strolled among the tables belting out torch tunes and spinning a web of theatrical intrigue, my husband and I gobbled bruschetta, fettuccine Alfredo, eggplant parmesan, and cheesecake. And while neither the cuisine nor the performance was legendary, I enjoyed myself amid the earnest attempt to revive a once beloved and now almost defunct art form.

Tony's Italian Vineyard is the latest embodiment of the little Italian joint that used to be just off the drag. Last year, Tony Allevato bought the space once occupied by Piccolo on Rio Grande and set up shop there as Tony's Italian Vineyard. After eight months, both the sign and menu are finally ready to reflect the new ownership this weekend.

Tony describes his food as "Italian cooking in the southern style," which means plenty of garlic, tomato, and cream, though in this case, not always in the appropriate place. At Tony's, even the Penne all'Arabiatta ($10.95) swims in cream, not to mention the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara ($10.25), and the Tortellini con Prosciutto ($11.95). This is not necessarily a bad thing, it's just important to realize that the very classic-sounding dishes on the restaurant's menu are not necessarily made the classic way. We sampled cheese ravioli bathed in cream and topped with a pile of prosciutto that was tasty, but that bludgeoned the palate with lactic bravado.

The same boldness applies to Tony's tomato sauce, though with better results. Just about anything smothered in marinara sauce at Tony's is good. Made with 12 different herbs and spices, spiked with garlic, and enriched with olive oil, the sauce is as toothsome over plain linguine as it is smothering fish or eggplant parmesan. Veal dishes are also successful. Our Veal Picatta ($14.75) was tender and lemony, lightly bejeweled by capers and artichokes.

Less appealing was a Mixed Greens and Seared Tuna appetizer ($10.50). Though the portion was large enough for a main course, the rare fresh tuna I ordered came to the table looking more like something out of a can. Not only overcooked, but also overpeppered, I suspect it may actually have been a tactical maneuver by the kitchen, since the fish was also a just a shade on the downside of fresh.

Look for new dishes such as a Gorgonzola rib eye, calzones, and Stromboli to appear on the new menu later this month. And do make a reservation for one of the restaurant's entertaining dinner theatre productions. You won't regret it.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Tony's Vineyard, Tony Allevato

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