Scoot To Vespa For Tuscan Brunch
96 Northern Blvd., Great Neck
Hours: Brunch Sat & Sun 11 am to 3 pm; Dinner Sat 4-11 pm; Dinner Sun 4-10 pm; Mon-Thu noon to 10 pm; Fri noon to 11 pm
Credit Cards: All Major
Vespa has been a quaint local favorite of mine for some time. I’ve been there for New Year’s Eve, romantic dinners and family outings, and I’ve never been disappointed. Decorative flair, excellent presentation and a creative menu have always set this Tuscan-style Italian restaurant a notch above many others in my mind.
So when I heard that they are now serving brunch on the weekends, I had to take the trek a few hundred feet across the border into Great Neck to see what Bice and her staff had been working on.
Word, clearly, has not traveled fast about the brunch, but we expect more people to follow. The brunch menu is a mix of grilled flatbreads, egg dishes, sandwiches, salads and a handful of traditional favorites. Any items from the “Uova” (egg) menu comes with coffee and your choice of Mimosa, Bellini, Prosecco, Bloody Mary or Juice for just $19.95.
We started our meal with a simple Panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad with cucumber, red pepper, olives, red onion and tomatoes in a snappy vinaigrette. The three of us shared it, but certainly the dish comes sized for one – we just didn’t want to ruin our appetites by ordering too many starters. I will admit, though, the salmon carpaccio with dill, pesto, lemon and arugula looked great, as did the roasted pears with gorgonzola and roasted nuts.
No, we chose to focus on our main dishes – and I think we made some excellent choices. My first guest got the Salmone e Capperi grilled flatbread, which was covered in grilled salmon with peppers, arugula and capers in a lemon sauce. It seemed the tender and flaky rich fish was an entire fillet, crumbled across the hand-stretched, grilled flatbread, layered with peppery greens and hiding a forest of deliciously sour capers in puddles of lemon sauce.
My second guest had the Grigliata Formaggio, a sandwich of mozzarella, fontina and pecorino romano with roasted peppers. It was perfect in its simplicity and served with a lightly dressed side salad and home fries.
For me, I’m an Eggs Benedict fan, so I went for the Vespa twist on the classic – Uova Medici; poached eggs served over spinach and prosciutto on Tuscan bread. Well-seasoned, perfectly poached and complex in its flavor combination, the dish hit on all levels and also came with the salad and home fries.
We shared a side dish of creamy polenta with mushroom and gorgonzola, a decadent delight – creamy, earthy and sharp, taking on the texture of savory grits.
We finished our meal splitting another grilled flatbread – this time with Nutella, bananas and walnuts.
A cautionary note for those of you who haven’t been here before – Vespa does not lock itself into its menu. If on the menu a dish says it has almonds, but you get walnuts instead, it’s simply because the chef made the choice to substitute that day based on the quality of the ingredients. Think of the menu as a guideline, more than a set of rules. After all, Vespa has never been about sticking to a formula – they just want to give you the best, brightest and freshest they have to offer.
The tradition continues now that they serve brunch. Enjoy!
—Brian M. Rafferty