Formerly Don and Vinny's, after 30 years, Vinny has left the building and Sal has taken over as the restaurant's head chef. The name of the place is changing accordingly.
Don and Vinny's is a small storefront in the same Publix shopping center as Pancho's Backyard. A recent glowing review in the Sun Sentinel prompted me to check it out. My assertion that you simply can't trust newspaper reviews would seem to be substantiated once again.
It was a beautiful early afternoon and the heat hadn't yet arrived, so I opted to sit outside. Outdoor tables have mesh-backed padded chairs and faux marble (resin) table. There's not a lot of foot traffic over here, so even though you're in the sidewalk of a shopping center its not to bad.
I had checked the menu on their web site so I knew what I was having; their lunch chicken parmesan special, which comes with either a salad or spaghetti. i wasn't going to eat an entire serving so I opted for the spaghetti so I could take half of it home. I ordered a club soda; and was informed that they don't have club soda. A trick I figured, so I accepted the offered Perrier. A few moments later my server popped out and asked if Pelligrino was Ok. Same difference, as she assured me it wasn't a large bottle as I didn't want to pay $7 for it. A few minutes later she came with a glass of sparkling water; they only had large ones so she poured me a glass. Ok, fine. She mentioned that bread would be forthcoming; that it was "in the oven".
Fifteen minutes go by. I see people leaving with take out orders, including bread. Finally she brings out the entree. Again, no bread. She promises that its coming soon.
I've had a lot of Italian food in my day, and this just didn't look impressive. The cheese was too consistent, as if it were sliced with a machine. The spaghetti certainly wasn't the fresh kind. No freshly grated cheese was offered; only the sawdust on the table was available. I dig in, and its very average. The sauce is deep red without any particular flavors; no basil or garlic is obvious. The chicken doesn't appear to be freshly breaded. In fact I'm quite sure its one of those pre-breaded patties. While I'm trying to figure it all out, the bread arrives. I almost have to bite my tongue. The bread is burned. I guess they forgot about it. Why not just bring out some regular Italian bread instead? I don't bother to ask.
As I was finishing up the half I was planning to eat, the server came outside with her phone and for the next five minutes I got to listen to her yelling into her cell. It seems to me the reason they make people go outside is so they don't disturb the customers, so maybe out back would be a better place to have a scream-a-thon? When the call was done, I asked her to box up the leftovers. She dropped a box on the table for me; apparently Don and Vinny's is a self-boxing establishment.
The only saving grace was that she didn't charge me for the Pelligrino.
I know a lot of good Italian restaurants and a number of owners of such places, and I'll tell you that none of them would serve this to their customers. They'd be embarrassed. I suppose in a part of town where there are no good restaurants you can get away with it. But I really have to wonder what the Sun-Sentinel reviewer was thinking.