The lofty, barn-like structure, which formerly housed an art studio, was transformed into Trattoria II Vesuvio in 1995, after eighteen months of extensive renovations. Inside, the cathedral ceilings and exposed beams make for an airy informal atmosphere that Arace says is a casual family-oriented restaurant. While Arace's kitchen isn't exposed, it's as meticulously cleaned a workspace, as you're likely to find.
Arace herself has been known to scrub the carbon from the bottoms of her gleaming pots and sauté pans. "This business is a lot of work, but I enjoy working," says Arace, dressed in her customary red coat buttoned over a smock. Campania's penchant for seafood dishes comes through in Arace's Frutti di Mare entree, a mix of large shrimp, scallops, baby clams, mussels, and salmon baked in a tomato sauce with pinot grigio and garlic. Another house favorite is the Campania inspired salmone and gamberi alforno, shrimp and salmon baked with sun-dried tomatoes in a basil butter sauce. The Frutti di Mare and the Arrosto di Vitello, a roasted veal breast stuffed with prosciutto and spinach, have developed such a loyal customer following that Arace has kept them on the menu for fifteen years. Served with a rich, red wine sauce, the veal dish makes for delectable winter comfort food. True to her culinary heritage, Arace emphasizes fresh, simply prepared ingredients. Yet she doesn't limit herself to the dishes of Campania.
Mama Mia: (left) Anna Arace, owner with her mother, Liberata Manzo, and her sister, Maria Manzo.
Her Osso Buco and risotto reflect northern Italian influences, as do dishes accented with spinach, such as her Lasagna Verdura, featuring homemade pasta. Among Trattoria II Vesuvio's more popular appetizers are Fried Calamari, lightly breaded and served with a marinara dipping sauce, and Melenzane Alla Griglia, a grilled eggplant dish which truly deserves the attention of a first-time visitor. Arace slices the eggplant paper-thin and marinates it for up to three days in garlic, mint, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. The assertive flavoring comes through fully, even as the dish is served cold. Arace goes to great lengths to use fresh, local ingredients. When a winter dish such as Vitello Alla Mancini calls for roasted red peppers, for instance, she's already got it covered. In the summer, she travels to Hoosic Falls Farm in New York and buys twenty bushels of red peppers, which she then roasts, cleans, and jars for use throughout the cold months. "I always say, if you're going to do something, do it right, or not at all.
© Copyright 1995-2017 by Trattoria Il Vesuvio.