Although Vaso Volitoti, the Greek Mama, owner and chef of Vaso’s Kitchen (you know, the place with the landmarked Dixie Pig BAR-B-Q sign on the roof), was away on a much-needed vacation when I came to visit, I was lucky enough to spend some time talking to her son Johnny. This family run operation has been a neighborhood staple since 2006. Vaso’s cuisine meshes the northern Italian cooking she learned during her 26 years working as a waitress at Mike’s Italian and the authentic Greek she picked up from her mother while growing up in Cyprus.
This neighborhood joint is constantly crowded with the regulars who show up for multiple lunches each week and the local families and couples who fill the place at night. The restaurant produces a fairly extensive menu for being so small. Personally, I think if you’re going to go to this restaurant you should order the Greek dishes. The Italian is fine, but if you want pasta, just go to A La Lucia down the street. It’s the home style Greek cooking with a touch an Italian that makes this place unique.
As for food, the Zesty Feta Spread is a treat on pita! (I’m a sucker for dips.) Of course the Tzatziki is fantastic, especially on the gyro – a hearty sandwich if ever there was one. The artichoke appetizer is fun to eat if you’re in the mood for picking but its a little heavy on the garlic, so maybe opt for something less potent if you’re on a date. (Which I was while I was there. Whoops.) during an earlier visit, i tried the Spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese baked in filo dough), and I’m very thankful I did! I always take the recommendations of an owner, so when he recommended the veal special, I obviously took his suggestion. This massive piece of veal was stuffed with more veal, gooey, melty cheese and ham, lightly breaded, baked and served in some sort of lemony deliciousness. It was amazing and I probably ate more of it than I should have, but I just couldn’t stop!
As if we weren’t stuffed enough, Johnny brought out the Yalaktoboureko for dessert. Good thing too, because I would not have known how to pronounce it had I tried to order it myself. This traditional greek dessert is basically a warmed sugar and cinnamon pastry filled with liqueur-based orange custard wrapped in filo dough. A perfect way to end the dinner! Although it wasn’t quite the end since we had some after dinner drinks. (Apologies for the photos. I usually forget to take them until I’m about half way through my meal! I anxiously await my food and dive in immediately.)
What struck me the most about Vaso’s Kitchen was the sense of family you experience when you enter this tiny restaurant - not only because most of the people working here actually are part of Vaso’s family, but because they treat you as if you are as well. Growing up in a small town where you pretty much know everyone, the familiarity you find at Vaso’s, and rarely in other dining establishments today, has not been not lost on me. It’s places like this that make me love living in and experiencing Alexandria.
Vaso’s Kitchen – 1225 Powhatan Street - Alexandria, VA 22314 – (703) 548-2747