Authentic Italian Cusinie At Vitello's
By Ivetta Babadjanian
Jul 3, 2012 - 12:29:17 PM

STUDIO CITY—It is common knowledge that in order to avoid failure, one must steer clear of fixing what isn't broken. Yet, Vitello's Restaurant has proven itself to be the exception to the rule.
Photo courtesy of Vitello's Twitter

Vitello's first opened as a subway sandwich shop in the 1960s by New York baker Sal Vitello. The restaurant wasn’t popular for its Italian cuisine until the Sicillian-born Restivo brothers bought the eatery in 1977. A variety of celebrities frequently visited the Restivo brother's restaurant such as members of the Rat Pack, and actors such as Erik Estrada, Ruta Lee, Debbie Reynolds, Phyllis Diller and Barbara Stuart.

Vitello’s became linked to headlines in 2001 when Bonnie Bakley, wife of actor Robert Blake, was found dead in their car shortly after their meal in the restaurant. It wasn't until 2005 that current owner Matt Epstein bought the restaurant for $3.1 million. He had been a customer at Vitello’s numerous times and wanted to preserve it for future generations.

Epstein kept the decor and menu the same for quite some time and Vitello's continued to flourish with its incredible food and popular live music shows. Despite its popularity and signature dishes that kept customers coming in for more, the decision was made to completely reinvent Vitello's.
Owner Matt Epstein and General Manager Brad Roen

The popular mural of Italy was taken down and a wall was completely demolished in order to bring some sunshine into the former darkly lit room. Next came the menu. "We brought in chef Tonino Cardia, who is from Sardinia," said general manager Brad Roen. "When he came in and saw our menu, he said it was either him or the menu because nothing we offered were true Italian dishes."

Although some were apprehensive toward the reinvention, customers were pleasantly surprised when they attended Vitello's grand re-opening on Saturday, June 30. Customers were served pizza slices, Italian sausage, soda, mac n' cheese and Italian ice each for under $1.
Photo courtesy of Vitello's Twitter

Even as a live musician played the keyboard and sang hit songs from Radiohead and The Rolling Stones, murmurs of approval could be heard from all around. Customers could have gone home after a delicious meal for under $5 but many couldn’t help but look at the lunch menu and see what else the new Vitello’s menu had to offer. 

“Today for the first time, we have live music down in the dining room,” said Roen. “We’re going to play a little with the volume and make sure that it’s suitable for dining. Six or seven nights a week upstairs there’ll be live music, and more towards the weekend we’ll have music in the dining room.” 

Roen is hoping that although Vitello’s is a neighborhood restaurant, customers will become accustomed to late nights as they enjoy authentic Italian food, amazing new drinks and live performances from well-known singers. Some of those who are scheduled to perform are Billy Vera, Emmy award-winning Panco Sanchez and Frank Stallone, brother of actor Sylvester Stallone. “This is the home for a few of the performers so every thirty days or so they’ll play here,” Roen said.
Al Caprino Pizetta

According to Roen, the restaurant’s new-found popular dish is the Eggplant Parmigiana which is described on the menu as an eggplant parmigiana with a twist: grilled instead of fried and very light and rich in flavor. My personal recommendation would be the Al Caprino Pizza, which has an extra thin crust, tomato sauce, goat cheese, parma prosciutto and topped with fresh arugula. It is has a very distinct and sophisticated taste that is unlike any pizza I’ve ever had. 

Not convinced? Consider the fact that Vitello’s is now one of only two restaurants in the Valley that has certified mixologists who use fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables to make some amazing alcoholic beverages at their bar. There's a friendly environment in Vitello's that makes the food and scenery all the more enjoyable. So the next time you're looking for great food and entertainment, head on over to Vitello's and see what all the buzz is about.

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