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V&M Bistro Knows Italian Food

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Italian-American cuisine waved arrivederci to its “ethnic food” tag long, long ago. At least, it did in northern Delaware, where veal Parmesan with a side of spaghetti and red gravy is as familiar and ubiquitous as it’s ever been. For Delaware families who claim even a drop of Italian blood—and there are a lot of us—these foods are in the background of almost all of life’s major or mundane events. Crispy pizzas. Mountains of pasta. Sausage and peppers. Tomato sauce brimming with meatballs. For many, the warmth of family and waves of nostalgia are tied inextricably to these meals. This slice of suburban family life is also weaved into V&M Bistro, which opened in North Wilmington’s tiny Marsh Triangle last October. It’s owned by sisters Vincenza and Margherita Carrieri-Russo, and staffed by their parents and siblings. Under the expert hands of patriarch Vincenzo Carrieri-Russo and local Italian cooking legends Giuseppe Furio, formerly of Little Italy’s acclaimed Pomodoro, and Giovanni Cardillo, formerly of Frankie’s at Dover Downs, family favorites play a large role at V&M.


Photos by Steve Legato
 

Chefs (from left) Guiseppe Furio, Vincenzo Carrieri-Russo and Giovanni Cardillo.

Agnellotti al tartufo features ravioli filled with seasoned meat pâté.

The polpette—monstrous, Fontina-stuffed meatballs, studded with herbs and dripping with melty cheese and Sunday gravy—were as heavenly as one can imagine with the tender trio of beef, pork and veal soothing the soul with meaty, serotonin-producing goodness. The resplendent pile of gnocchi Bolognese, comprised of soft and fluffy nuggets, was as addictive and structurally sound as it should be. The Margherita pizzette was blanketed in oozy, homemade mozzarella and supported by a crispy crust solid enough to support blistered tomatoes and crumbled sausage, but also tender and flaky with a wonderfully yeasty twang. Mussels marinara exuded ample briny pop while the hulking veal chop that withstood breading, sautéing, sauce and cheese maintained its delicate flavor and texture. And the gravy itself (as any Italian grandmother can tell you), cooked with the meats and herbs of the day, was simply textbook.

Owners Margherita Carrieri-Russo (left) and Vincenza Carrieri-Russo.

When a kitchen is this stacked with veteran Italian chefs—as well as fresh homemade breads, cheeses and charcuterie—preparing meatballs and linguini with flavor and elegance seemed almost too easy. Marks were never missed on doneness or technical chops: Each strand of pasta was cooked a perfect al dente; each lemony grilled octopus tentacle that topped the delicious arugula and fennel salad was tender and gently flame-kissed. The old-school trattoria menu creates something of a generational dissonance inside V&M. The dining room’s flashy decor—punctuated by spacey iridescent walls, curvilinear lighting elements, stone tiles and chic fireplaces— screams modern and clubby, while the food often harkens to red-checkered tablecloths and candles burning in empty Chianti bottles. The fun, if occasionally garish, martini menu often showed more flashes of creative spark than the dinner menu. I found promise in V&M’s left-of-the-dial offerings, like the crispy arancini croquettes, whose creamy risotto filling was perfumed with wisps of saffron, or the veal principessa, which coaxed a rich smokiness from jumbo lump crabmeat and brandy cream sauce that topped veal medallions.

A limoncello ice martini. 

Meanwhile, moon-shaped agnolotti al tartufo rose above its overly thick cream sauce, thanks to tangy hits of slivered sundried tomatoes and a pleasingly tannic meat pâté filling. Even the familiar chicken rollantino was recast and refreshed via quality prosciutto, roasted peppers and withered arugula that comprised its inside. From dish to dish, a common trait emerged in the form of sneaky, subtle flavors that swam just beneath the surface and delivered an interesting twist to the familiar and relatively simple combination of ingredients—a testament to the kitchen’s technical proficiency. With V&M, the Carrieri-Russo family’s legacy—already loaded with local celebrities, pageant winners, athletes and community pillars—will only continue to grow. The restaurant is perfectly positioned in North Wilmington to capture the closeness and comfort that the community exudes, and reflect it back with panache and expertise. While Italian dining is a crowded field in the area, V&M already stands head and shoulders above most of its peers. Italian cuisine is defined by its simplicity and devotion to superior ingredients, and V&M certainly fits the bill. For the thousands of families around these suburbs who were raised on the classics, V&M probably feels a lot like home.

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