Painter, scientist, sculptor and inventor. Leonardo da Vinci was a giant of the Italian Renaissance. Now the great polymath’s legacy is being kept alive in a recent addition to Hà Nội’s culinary scene.
Vinci, opened in 2019 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, is bringing the authentic Italian experience to gastronomes in the Vietnamese capital.
With a large glass frontage, exposed brick and steel highlights, Vinci’s aesthetic draws on modern industrial design and offers a clean and airy space for diners. The menu is equally minimalist, focusing on a few favourites to ensure quality, while having enough variety to satisfy most palates.
Claudio Dordi, one of the four founders behind the restaurant, sees Vinci as a stepping stone between the past and the future – between the Florence of the 15th century and modern day Italy. In contrast to the tired offerings of many Italian establishments in Việt Nam, with the regular staples of pizza and pasta, Vinci attempts to bring the concept into the 21st century.
At first glance, there may seem little in common between the two countries, but the distance hides a similar striking commonality in the approach to dining – seeing meals as occasions for celebration and sharing, using good food as a basis for fellowship.
Perhaps there is more to that bond, as Claudio told the story of the origin of cacciucco, an Italian fish stew from the coastal regions of Tuscany. Perhaps apocryphal, there is one version of the legend in which the dish originated in the early days of trading as routes between the Far East and Europe were plied in the 14th century, specifically in the port town of Livorno. As the legend has it, a nosy customs official found a Vietnamese chef in the galley, stirring away at a boiling red broth with a distinct fragrance of fish. The chef, explaining that the stew was seemingly a mix of cà chua (tomato) and cá (fish), garbled in dialect, inadvertently gifted the recipe of cacciucco, which now sits on Vinci’s menu (VNĐ210,000).
Although debatable, the origin allows one to think there is more that unites than divides us, and perhaps all it takes is an abundance of good food and wine.
In an attempt to advance local knowledge and appreciation of Italian cuisine, Vinci is launching a series of events focusing on the regions of Italy, and specifically their signature specialties.
“When you think about Italy, you think about a country. Italy is not a country. Italy is 200 countries at the same time, Italy is divided into 20 regions,” Claudio said.
In partnership with The Warehouse, Vinci’s first event of its kind was centred on Tuscany – not only the home of da Vinci, but also long considered the cradle of Italian language, culture, and most importantly food.
With the expertise of Jess Andrenelli from The Warehouse, Vinci’s evening events are a small trip abroad while travel remains a distant dream. Rather than a sit-down meal, Claudio and restaurant manager Amine Fawzi want to evoke a sense of conviviality and enjoyment in food.
“We’ve left the space open, to allow people to move around and talk, while enjoying the food,” Amine explained.
For me, it comes close to the rambunctious nature of an Italian ‘cena’ – of lively atmosphere and friends meeting over a meal. And where better to start this regional tour of Italian fare than in its Tuscan heart.
Claudio added: “Tuscany is the place where you speak perfect Italian language. So, this is the starting point. Perfect Italian language. Florence was the capital, had been a capital of Italy once. Leonardo, Dante, and the restaurant inspired by da Vinci. So, that’s the reason why we started with Tuscany.
“Showing Tuscany is showing a small example of Italy, because we have mountains, we have the sea, we have different kinds of wine, different kinds of food. The most important part is the raw materials. Italian food is good depending on the vegetables, the wheat to make the pasta, the meat to make prosciutto and all the other cold cuts are crucial.”
This focus on the quality of ingredients, and the farm-to-table nature of your common Tuscan ‘trattorias’ presents some issues. Considering the distance of nearly 10,000 kilometres between Italy and Việt Nam, there is a certain difficulty in sourcing anything but the basics.
However, the EU-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which came into effect in August last year, may prove a panacea, easing the import of those specialist ingredients and fine wines that Italian cuisine so depends on.
For the complete Tuscan experience, The Warehouse provided a selection of four from Santa Cristina’s family of wines, including two refreshing whites and deeper reds. All known for their simple and artisanal style, matching both the authentic atmosphere of a familiar get-together and the dishes laid on for a buffet-style meal. These included a beef tartare, crostone with chicken liver pate, focaccia with lardo from the Tuscan hamlet of Colonnata, and finally the succulent charcoal-grilled Fiorentina – all immediately reminiscent of those undulating hills, cypress trees and terracotta towns.
In terms of regular dining, Vinci offers a selection of pizzas expertly made in their imported state-of-the-art oven (VNĐ180,000 – 450,000), as well as meats on the grill (large mixed grill to share for VNĐ890,000), pasta dishes (from VNĐ130,000), soups and desserts.
With a number of choices on Hà Nội’s food map, Vinci stands out for the clear passion with which they approach their cooking and the overall concept of the restaurant. Take your friends and immerse yourself in the Italian ideal. Personally, I’m looking forward to the next stop on Vinci’s culinary trip around the country. VNS
Vinci Pizza & Grill
Address: 100 Linh Lang St, Ba Đình District, Hà Nội
Hotline: 096 975 6304
Time: 11.30am – 10pm
Prices from VNĐ110,000
Comment: Modern Italian dishes created with fresh ingredients, served in a contemporary atmosphere.