That's how I feel about Viro's Italian Bakery and Café. It's located on the corner of 22nd Street and Sarnoff Drive, and I've probably driven by it 100 times or so over the past half-decade. Yet I never visited the place--or even noticed it, really--until a Society of Professional Journalists meeting, of all things, brought me there several weeks ago. After that initial visit--during which I enjoyed a tasty turkey sandwich and a serviceable latte--I decided I wanted to check out Viro's a little more closely.
I stopped by on a recent weekday morning to do just that. I was hungry for a sandwich; they can be found in abundance on Viro's menu, along with pizzas, pastas, fresh-baked breads, pastries, coffees and daily special offerings--including a Sunday brunch (more on that later). I decided to order a two-ham-and-cheese half-sandwich ("deluxe" ham, maple ham and American cheese, $3.86; a whole costs $6.59) on multigrain. For Garrett--who was at home working--I picked up a half-panino Italiano (sweet sopressata, sweet capicola, Genoa salami and provolone, $4.39; whole $7.43). The sandwiches, which are offered hot and cold, came with a side (I chose pasta salad for me and potato salad for Garrett) and a cookie. I decided to get both sandwiches to go, so I could eat with Garrett.
As I waited for the sandwiches, I checked out the comfortable, well-lit room. Windows dominate much of the south side of the room; the ordering area and cases/shelves full of meats, pastries, loaves of breads, salads and desserts take up much of the north and east sides. The west side has shelves stocked with some Italian food offerings, as well as a self-serve drink station. Various knickknacks, framed posters, newspaper articles, maps and Italian-themed flags dot the walls. It's an open, comfortable space--and there's a nice outside patio, too (although the view, of the parking lot, is nothing special).
After getting my sandwiches and heading home, Garrett and I dug in. I liked my sandwich a lot; it was packed with ample amounts of meat and cheese. The bread was light and fluffy, though not as flavorful as other incarnations of multigrain I've enjoyed. Garrett, however, wasn't wild about his lunch; he thought the roll was dry, and felt that it took a backseat to other Italian sandwiches one can get around town. As for the sides ... while I ordered potato salad for Garrett and pasta salad for me, we both got pasta salad instead. This turned out to be a blessing, though, as the pasta salad was a delight, with Garrett calling the pesto-like sauce on the multicolored pasta "novel and yummy."
While at Viro's, I picked up a flier detailing the restaurant's daily specials. Every day (except for Monday, when Viro's is closed), there is something different going on, from a special Friday fish menu to a Thursday dinner-for-four deal. But it was their Sunday special that caught my eye: a breakfast buffet.
We decided to check it out--and, wow, what a deal. (It's still a fantastic deal even though Viro's recently increased the Sunday buffet prices by a buck.) For $9.99 (kids younger than 11 are charged $5.99), you can graze on breakfast standards (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.), cinnamon rolls, desserts (chocolate cake and lemon cake on this Sunday), crepes (a chocolate-chip variety on this day), deviled eggs, quiche (a spinach version and a ham-and-cheese version), made-to-order omelets, waffles, pancakes, french toast and bread pudding. It's quite a spread.
This is extremely casual dining; if you want cloth napkins, head to the Doubletree, the Arizona Inn or somewhere in the foothills. As a matter of fact, I'd say the Viro's breakfast buffet is a little too casual: paper plates, foam cups and plastic utensils fill the trash cans after every meal. (Is it that hard to wash dishes? Seriously.) Even the pepper comes in little paper packets. But the wide variety of food is undeniably fantastic and impressively inexpensive.
On that Sunday visit, we also got a sandwich to go for our handyman, Andy, who was at the house installing a new door. He said the roast-beef sandwich ($7.14, or $4.13 half) with Monterey jack was delicious, although he--as did Garrett a few days earlier--commented that the roll was a bit dry.
In any case, we were quite charmed by Viro's, and we look forward to returning to check out some of the hot sandwiches, the meat lasagna, maybe a pizza and perhaps a pastry or two. And we'll return for that Sunday breakfast buffet. Viro's has definitely made it onto our radar screen.