If you’ve recently pulled into a parking lot of a house that has a giant pig on its roof with a sign that says ” A Dixie Pig Bar-B-Q,” then you’ve reached the Greek restaurant Vaso’s Kitchen on the outskirts of Old Town, Alexandria. When the Greek owner of Vaso’s kitchen opened up the restaurant back in 2005, she was unaware that the giant pig sign, from it’s former glory days as a BBQ joint, was a historical one. Because of this, Vasiliki Volioti had to keep the giant pig on the roof. Today, the pig sign has become notoriously associated with this Greek neighborhood hot spot.
We went to Vaso’s on a Saturday night at 7:30 with no reservations. The place was completely booked, but the Greek-looking host told us to take a seat at the tiny L-shaped bar and have a drink. We found seats at the bar, even though that was crowded too, and ordered our drinks. I asked for a glass of the house white, and the bartender listed two wines I do not recall. The one that I do recall and ordered was a “Greek white.” Nothing sweet or dry about this wine. It was purely refreshing — I could just picture burly Greek men hauling columns around Athens, building the Parthenon in between sipping on this wine during respites. We waited about 10 minutes and were warmly greeted at our table by our teenage waiter.
He recited the specials for the night, all from memory, and left us to ponder over the menu. The menu is a melting pot of American, Greek, and Italian fare. For the appetizers, there’s everything from chicken wings, to spanakopita, to fried calamari. The same goes for the entrees: BBQ ribs, basked moussaka, eggplant parmigiana, etc… Vaso’s also has a list of “specials” on their menu. Ask your waiter which specials are being offered that night. I opted for the seafood marinara while my husband chose the shrimp stuffed with crabmeat. Not really Greek food, but the descriptions sounded satisfying nonetheless.
The waiter brought us a basket of bread with olive oil to dip it in. The dark green color and strong flavor of the olives instantly told my taste buds that this was indeed Greek olive oil. Shortly later, we were brought a crisp house salad with an Italian vinaigrette dressing. We finished that just in time to be greeted by our generous-sized entrees. The seafood marinara consisted of a heaping pile of mussels, claims, calamari, scallops, and shrimp – – All dolloped on top of linguine with a red sauce of white wine, garlic, olive oil, Italian herbs, and tomatoes. My husband’s jumbo shrimp had been stuffed with lump crabmeat and then baked in the oven with a lemon, butter, and white wine sauce. I was ever so happy digging through my pile of fresh seafood, but my marinara was rather disappointing – – a bit lacking in flavor and a little too runny for my taste. But the fact that I couldn’t finish my entree and needed a doggy bag still made me elated to think that this would be my next day’s lunch. The jumbo shrimp stuffed with crabmeat were succulent and had the perfect symmetry of butter and lemon. There was not a whole lot of talking going on while we were eating as a result of the wonderful meal. However, it gave me time to look around and see all the other guests enjoying their meal just as much as I was. Like the perfect marketing ploy, a foursome across from us was just getting their dessert while I was still digging my clams out of their shell. Seeing their oohs and ahhs made me instantly excited that I too would be ordering baklava for dessert – – thanks to them.
The baklava was average compared to our entrees. It was a perfect presentation of how baklava should look; layers of phyllo dough with pistachio nuts and honey oozing out. However, it was rather bland and a bit dry.
Overall, if you want a cozy, neighborhood feel with solid entrees and friendly service, Vaso’s Kitchen is the perfect spot. A moderately priced place – – good on a Saturday night when you want to eat away last week’s worries and look forward to tomorrow’s leftover lunch.
1225 Powhatan Street,
Alexandria, VA 22314