Occasionally, I wonder if people like me spend countless evenings conjuring up vast, flamboyant dining establishments, brooding over jam-packed, multi-page menus, and glutting (or lamenting not to glut) on mercilessly comparable fluctuations of creamy, gaudy cheesecake, and habitually fantasize of stealing away to an exclusive, devoid of that same-ol’ same-ol’ kind of eatery.
Maybe this fictional restaurant is a sociable place, tucked on an easy-to-park street; and where the waitstaff aren’t extremely acquiescent and the prices aren’t extremely high. The dining digs are spacious enough not to be poky, but not so big that a megaphone is required to assure clear communication with the partner across the table. There is no chic, extra-long and circular lampshade dangling from the ceiling, no whimsical, over-grown ten-color flower assemblies prospering to the sky. A modest yet cozy bar exists and beckons patrons to belly-up and throw down. The food mirrors Mom’s food, prepared in a way that highlights the ingredients instead of the vaunted skills of an egotistical chef. It’s a restaurant… an Italian restaurant… where one is happy to dine on any given evening… on his or her own nickel… and when it isn’t his or her dubious professional duty to devour everything in sight.
Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar, is this kind of place.
A 22-year going concern, it is conveniently located next to the Mayo Clinic in the heart of downtown Rochester and satisfies a void in high-end Italian dining. Owner/Manager Natalie Victoria takes her cues from simple, traditional Italian dishes that allow the talent of the kitchen and the essence of the ingredients to shine through. An award-winning Italian restaurant with over 100 menu options from which to choose, Victoria’s sports many private dining rooms and a full bar with an extensive wine list. Making regular appearances on the food-starters list are the Mechi’s Chicken dinner, the Mediterranean Salad, and the very popular Blackened Salmon with Mango Salsa.
Recently, my wife and I visited the Ristorante for dinner. I ordered and thoroughly enjoyed the Mechi’s Chicken. It was an awesome flavor of marinara and Alfredo sauces in tandem, combined with real butter-cooked fresh chicken and accompanied with mushrooms and green peas. Finished off with melted mozzarella on top and al dente pasta on the bottom, it had my taste buds soaring. My wife’s choice was Fettuccine Alfredo, prepared in a creamy sauce with Parmesan cheese and a hint of garlic.
We shared the Mediterranean salad, and it was maybe our greatest decision of the evening; fresh Romaine & mixed lettuce, grilled chicken, Mandarin oranges, navel oranges, sun-dried cherries, apples, mangos, pecans, slivered almonds, red onions & honey-mustard dressing (and the kitchen sink!). Dessert beckoned and we responded, fully indulging in the Salted Caramel Almond Cheesecake. Looking nearly too good to eat, it was an elegant cheesecake featuring the delectable and always compatible salt and caramel. Baked on a salty almond crust and topped with a thick bed of buttery caramel, the glorious concoction was then topped with even more almonds. The entire dinner was superb and plentiful.
“Our dinner menu has a bit larger portions, and includes our homemade soup or side salad, and all meals are served with our famous rolls,” Victoria commented. Another dining experience offered that is very popular with the lunch working crowd, as well as clinic patients and guests, is the Express Area. Located down the hall from the restaurant entrance, the Express is open every weekday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and offers fresh-made salads, a variety of soups and homemade pizzas; as well as a generous choice of beverages. prendi e vai! (Grab and Go) If you’re in a hurry for scratch-made cuisine that fills you up, no worries . . . just prendi e vai!
There is a lot to like about Victoria’s. They offer great dining options for larger groups and have a number of side rooms available for private or large parties. And when Mother Nature finally decides to set the proper milieu, Victoria’s summer patio is truly a highlight. The staff has created a beautiful space with blooming hibiscus and fun umbrellas within a large space that accommodates guests seeking to enjoy their meals. Natalie’s competent employees take pride in offering great service, and they are more than willing to find answers for almost any question.
“Our kitchen is among the most flexible in Rochester, and this is important to us, because we understand that there are a lot of visitors that may be here related to special concerns with their health, and we do our best to accommodate special dietary needs,” said Victoria. The establishment’s professionals strive to serve only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients. “We have partnered with the Eau Galle Cheese Factory in Wisconsin, voted best in the country, to provide our Parmesan cheese. You can be very confident that eating at Victoria’s offers many healthy, delicious choices, for every taste,” Natalie added. Every week the bar features “Wine-Up” Wednesday – just $8.00 for a bottomless glass of wine. Victoria’s boasts an extensive award-winning wine list and scratch cocktails; and for the after-dinner treat, the chefs offer numerous, scrumptious house-made desserts.
I’ve eaten at Victoria’s several times and have never been disappointed. In fact, the bread basket alone is worth the visit but there’s so much more. The menu reads like a cumulative libretto of other eateries’ greatest hits, and is the size of a tabletop, but the gently and carefully prepared cuisine is delivered with old-school flair. Victoria’s offers comforting food that would have the approval of even the ‘pickiest’ Italian grandmother. The venue’s savory menu changes from time to time however, so while you shouldn’t become too fixated on just one dish, do expect everything you try to be magnifico. Buon Appetito! This was and always is a very enjoyable dining experience, and I give it five ‘Grande’ Stars. (7 First Ave. SW; Rochester, MN; 507-280-6232; Hours: Open 10:30 am to 10:00 pm – daily; Note: Italian wines can be overpriced and impenetrably complex, but the list here comes with informative bits like names-price per glass-and price per bottle-on reds, whites, and sparkling wines.
By Pat Garry
My experience spans 19-years, and I will apply my skills to help beef-up any lifeless copy within your website, brochure, press release, catalog, etc. – firstname.lastname@example.org