Now, that’s Italian
La Vecchia Italian Restaurant3501 S Virginia St.
Reno, NV 89502
There are many mediocre Italian restaurants in Reno, featuring frozen ravioli, frozen gnocchi and even frozen sauces. The simplistic art of Italian cuisine suffers when restaurateurs opt out on hard work and try to save on food costs. Pride in quality, authenticity and purity has become a thing of the past for many in the restaurant industry. But La Vecchia is a great Italian restaurant because they are still truly passionate about Italian food.
Original owner and chef Alberto Gazzola recently took over the business in its entirety. He’s in the kitchen every day, overseeing the production of the fresh food. There is a renewed sense of the presence of a passionate chef at La Vecchia. When I arrived, I could smell amazing scents of cucina Italiana wafting out of the restaurant as I walked through the parking lot. That’s a good sign.
I must disclose that I did a bit of part-time kitchen work for La Vecchia about five years ago. But I hadn’t gone back there for dinner until last week, when my sister Sandy and her husband, Matt, took me out for my birthday. La Vecchia has recently made a few subtle changes in its appearance and menu, but it is still the same great food and welcoming environment. Gazzola has personalized the restaurant (his collection of classic Ducati photography is up in the lounge), and it feels like an extension of his own home.
I’d describe the décor at La Vecchia as “modern-comfy,” with sleek interior architecture, contemporary track lighting with mellow halogen bulbs illuminating each table in the dining room and warm colors placed in all the right spots. Along with two private dining rooms for large parties, the lounge and the main dining room easily seat more than 100 people. This place is designed to do some serious business.
Speaking of serious business, let’s talk about Gazzola’s food. La Vecchia’s menu has everybody’s favorite Italian dishes. The pastas are made in-house, along with just about everything else. The chef’s talents shine in his daily menu additions, which change seasonally. I distinctly remember seeing large dishes of paella ($24)—a Spanish-Basque rice dish flavored with saffron and shellfish—leaving the kitchen and returning empty. Gazzola used to travel from Italy to Spain, and he was always inspired by this fascinating dish.
For my birthday dinner, I was craving paella, so I ordered it. The portion was enough for two, so I took the leftovers home for my lunch the next day. Before the main course, we started with the burrata cheese appetizer ($8)—similar to fresh mozzarella, but it has a soft, creamy center that melts as it hits your tongue. The burrata appetizer is plated with some traditional bruschetta, toasted slices of bread rubbed with fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, arugula and tomatoes. I loved it.
Sandy ordered the pumpkin ravioli ($16.50), and Matt ordered the meat ravioli Bolognese ($16). They both cleaned their plates, which is the best compliment any chef can receive. We ended our meal on a sweet note with banana cheesecake and pineapple torte ($6 each). The desserts were the perfect ending to a delightful evening. If you’ve never been to La Vecchia, you need to try it. If you like Italian restaurants where they are passionate about Italian food, you’ll like La Vecchia.