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Vendetta’s is more than pizza

Landmark restaurant has had a full-service dining room downstairs since 1983

Have you tried the cioppino at Vendetta’s, complete with sautéed calamari, mussels, shrimp, pan-seared scallops, two crab legs and lobster claws? How about the slowly braised veal shank osso buco? Or the famous pork chop with smoked Gouda sauce?

If you are wondering if I am talking about the wrong Vendetta’s or thinking, “Tricia, don’t you mean the Snow Pig or Willie’s White Room pizza slices at Vendetta’s? They don’t serve pork chops,” then you haven’t spent time in the original Vendetta’s, which has been around since 1983.

Many people don’t realize that just underneath the pizza bar there is a large dining room that people have been coming to for decades. “I grew up here and I can’t tell you how many times we get people who have said that they’ve lived here for years and didn’t know that Vendetta’s had a full-service restaurant downstairs,” said Jennifer Riddle, general manager and events coordinator of Vendetta’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza Bar.

But, once they find out about it, they keep coming back again and again.

“I see the same people every year, a couple of times a year, from all over the country and the world. They make sure they make Vendetta’s Restaurant a part of their vacation experience every time,” said general manager Shawn Meineke.

Not only do the patrons look familiar, but that staff does as well. Longtime local John “Popeye” Brennen started Vendetta’s.

“Many people don’t even know Popeye’s real name,” said Riddle, who is Popeye’s daughter. And how about the mayor of Vail, Dave Chapin (also known as “Bone” — they love nicknames at Vendetta’s), he’s a part-owner as well.

Good people and good food are what Vendetta’s is all about. Although the menu contains Italian fare, sous chef Joe Fellenz (simply known as Chef Joe) likes to get creative with the dishes. 

After traveling to Costa Rica, where Chef Joe tried a breakfast crepe with smoked Gouda on it, he tried figuring out ways to incorporate the cheese into the pork chop entree.

“I started adding whiskey, bacon and honey and the dry rub I use has about 15 ingredients. It meshes well with the sweetness and the savory side of the dish,” Fellenz said.

Add a deep-fried, roasted garlic mashed potato and a little salad on the side and you have what the wait staff and longtime patrons will tell you is the best dish on the menu.

“You can’t find pork chops like this in our valley,” Fellenz said.

Vendetta’s Restaurant recently renovated its downstairs. It still can hold the same number of people (you won’t believe how much space is downstairs: It’s great for hosting a big gathering like a rehearsal dinner or corporate event.) Look for new tables and chairs with a modern feel, new artwork on the walls and a new hue to brighten things up.

So, if you are looking for a slice of pizza, yes, Vendetta’s can handle that upstairs, but if you want to experience the fine dining side of this local landmark, head downstairs to the spacious and delicious restaurant below the bar. For more information, visit http://www.vendettasvail.com.


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