The seventh of 11 children, Mark Viggiano grew up surrounded by family and food. “Mom cooked for us, put everything in the middle of the table and we passed it,” he said.
Add servers, seating for 100, and chef Viggiano in the kitchen today, and you have Viggiano’s on Sunset, West Cape May’s hottest new restaurant, and Viggiano’s second location (the other is in Conshohocken, PA). Word-of-mouth has quickly vaulted this inviting Italian family restaurant to go-to status for many locals and visitors. Given that the BYO eatery just opened last month, and is still waiting for basics like printed menus, its popularity is proof that it’s the real deal.
Since eating is believing, my husband and I had dinner there with friends last week. We were greeted warmly—kind of like family—and seated at a tableclothed banquette in an open, airy dining space that, until last fall, was two adjacent properties amid the rainbow-hued storefronts at 109 Sunset Boulevard. The restaurant’s décor is rustic-modern with high ceilings; wooden floors, tables and chairs; and natural light beaming in from wall-to-wall windows.
Our exuberant server walked us through the southern Italian menu, explaining that entrées come in two sizes: “piccolo,” a serving for one, or “grande,” a plateful for up to four. A large chicken parm and large pasta, for example, easily feeds a family of four—or two people coming off a fast.
Our party mixed and matched an appetizer and several piccolo-sized dishes. We started by splitting the crab-stuffed portobello mushroom for $12.95. A creamy crab cake served on a grilled mushroom that marinated for days in a vinaigrette provided four great tastings and promised more good things to come.
I ordered the small veal parmesan for $21.95 as my entrée. This classic dish is a litmus test for me on whether I become a regular at an Italian restaurant. I’ve already booked a return visit.
Chef Mark doesn’t bread or fry his veal or chicken dishes. He flours, seasons and sautes them instead. My serving included three pieces of veal pounded thin that were covered in a delicious marinara sauce topped with parmesan cheese, and shredded and fresh mozzarella. I also ordered the broccoli rabe for $6.95 to share. Sauteed with garlic, white wine and olive oil, the side was a good complement to the veal.
My spouse got the individual chicken piccata for $18.95. Sautéed in lemon sauce, white wine, butter and capers, his chicken was moist and tender but the sauce could have been zestier and heavier on capers. When asked, our server promptly brought him more capers.
A tablemate ordered the smaller-sized veal and shrimp for $23.95, which he thoroughly enjoyed. A pomodoro sauce of sun-dried and crushed whole tomatoes, garlic and butter nicely accented his surf-and-turf combo.
We could easily have made a meal of the crusty bread brought to the table. We ate two loaves over dinner, dipping pieces in either the house olive oil or the restaurant’s addictive slow-cooked marinara sauce.
“We’re all about the whole experience at Viggiano’s,” said chef/owner Viggiano. “While the food is important, it’s also about the warmth, service, lighting, employees and family.”
Viggiano’s has definitely come up with a winning recipe. It also has plenty of free parking, is handicapped accessible, and is BYO, with a liquor store conveniently located right across the street.
Viggiano’s on Sunset, 109 Sunset Boulevard, West Cape May; BYOClick here to leave a comment