Vincenzo’s Convenient Elegance brings the Italian restaurant to your home
A longtime source of ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat Italian food continues to offer high-quality fare
If you can turn an oven on, Vincenzo’s Convenient Elegance will enable you to cook food that outshines what’s available at many local Italian restaurants.
An accurately self-described “prepared fine foods shop” and well-named business, Vincenzo’s Convenient Elegance conjures a long-running, upscale Italian eatery (founded in 1987) tucked into an overachieving little wine store.
I’d been a longtime fan of Vincenzo’s, if an intermittent visitor to its Dublin shopping plaza digs. But the operation popped up brightly again on my radar around Christmas, when the omicron variant started rocking its best Grinch impression. That’s when I remembered what a great source Vincenzo’s was for grab-and-go Italian food that’s well-suited for a festive occasion, even if the occasion is dinner at home.
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Walking into the place once more elicited kid-in-a-candy-store enthusiasm, plus confusion over wafts of smoke. Turns out the perfumed fumes were due to Vincenzo’s daily breads and baked goods, such as a killer meat-and-cheese calzone ($11.99 a pound) and the crusty-yet-soft, warm round loaves draped in baked-on cheese and garlic butter undersold as “dinner rolls” ($4).
The endearingly cramped space was overflowing with other ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat delights along its perimeter (a nice wine selection occupies the room’s midsection), such as bold and briny antipasti, salamis and cheeses, plus entrees like you’d find in a good Italian restaurant.
The fare can vary daily and is cased at multiple stations without posted prices. I suggest grabbing a leaflet-style catering menu — it’ll have price-per-pound costs for most items — and making a preliminary stroll around the offerings.
When you're ready to start shopping, engage one of the helpful servers. This person will be prepared to answer questions (I had many) and will become your dedicated food-gathering assistant as you pick out dishes throughout the room.
The all-important first station you’ll encounter is loaded with sides, appetizers and entrees whose balanced and focused flavors are emblematic of classic Italian cuisine. Go-tos that don’t need heating include artichokes ($6.25 bought four) — hefty hearts in a tangy marinade enhanced, as many items are, with cracked black pepper, garlic, olive oil and herbs; roasted red peppers ($13.99 a pound) — a versatile dish with capers, olive oil and red onion; pickled spicy cherry peppers (about $1 apiece) — an old-school favorite stuffed with provolone and prosciutto; and addictive roasted red potatoes fragrant with rosemary and garlic ($13.99 per pound).
Most entrees benefit from the remedial oven skills I alluded to earlier (I had good results reheating things for 15 to 30 minutes at low temperatures of 225 to 250 degrees).
Meat-centric entrees included: spicy Italian sausages ($7.99 a pound) — smoky, earthy, juicy, grill-seared, not run-of-the-mill; meatballs ($10 bought three) — tender and terrific pork-and-beef spheres in a light but lively tomato sauce; braciole ($19.99 per pound) — a weekend special worth a specially timed trip and consisting of beef pinwheels enlivened by a drinkable wine sauce, herbs (like sage), plus a little cheese and prosciutto.
Chicken-pickers aren’t neglected. I enjoyed a roasted breast ($5.78) with herb-crusted, crinkly skin and not-dry meat; chicken Parmigiano ($5.18 for my piece) — while super-comforting, it would’ve been better had the thick breast been pounded thin; and chicken salad Genovese ($13.99 a pound) — boneless breast chunks coated in excellent pesto, and maybe my favorite chicken dish here.
On weekends, pricey but enormous slabs of smoky grilled salmon are offered ($21.99 apiece). The clean-tasting, serve-two filets are medium-rare beneath their exterior sear, so they won’t dry out during reheating.
Like manicotti? You won’t find many local versions better than the ricotta-packed one here ($12.99 a pound). Ditto for Vincenzo’s lasagna ($12.99 a pound), whose sheets of lovely house-made pasta, tender meat, zippy tomato sauce and creamy but restrained dairy elements appropriately qualified it as conveniently elegant.
Vincenzo's Convenient Elegance
6393 Sawmill Rd., Dublin