Tucked on a small lot along Route 18, Vin & Eddie’s Ristorante and Wine Bar sports an unpretentious exterior. The modest, salmon-colored awning at the entry gives no hint of an interior spacious enough to accommodate three booth-lined dining rooms, a bar, and a function area.
On a recent late Sunday afternoon - the restaurant opens at 3 p.m. on that day - we were ushered to a comfortable corner booth in a quaint room with dark wood trim framing sepia-toned murals.
Drinks and a basket of fragrant focaccia and crispy bread sticks arrived quickly, followed by a tasty and artfully arranged appetizer of Bibb lettuce with sweet Anjou pears, tangy blue cheese, pignoli nuts, and a light drizzle of 20-year-old balsamico ($9). The combination of tastes was wonderful and three of us made short work of it. The fourth member of our dining party devoured a hefty serving of hot and spicy fried calamari, quite tender, accompanied by garlic anchovy dipping sauce and salsa ($9).
The pace our server set was leisurely, allowing us just enough time to savor our choices before she whisked empty dishes away for the next course. We were entertained by a varied mix of music, from the expected Italian serenades to jazz and some contemporary tunes, at a volume set to enhance rather than overwhelm.
My entrée selection, baby rack of lamb in a rich merlot sauce ($25), circled creamy mashed potatoes and was framed by fresh, flavorful green beans. It did not disappoint. More than a half-dozen tiny pink chops were, in the end, more than I could finish.
A side of linguine in meat sauce - ordered to test what proved to be the restaurant’s well-deserved reputation for northern Italian cuisine - was perfectly cooked and seasoned ($4).
The chicken piccata with roasted red pepper and melted mozzarella over angel hair ($17) was equally good. Just enough cheese served to enhance the light lemon flavor, with its garlic undertone, rather than dominate it.
The fish selection, a broiled filet of salmon, was sizeable and flaky, served over a tasty vegetable risotto. The meal was topped with a light lemon caper sauce ($20). The colorful combination of vegetables and spices made it a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Our fourth diner - the one who handily knocked off the calamari - decided to sample one of the evening’s specials: a sirloin steak served with a hefty helping of cheese ravioli ($28). The steak was slightly pinker than the “medium’’ requested, but tender and flavorful. The best part of the meal, however, was the ravioli, which “made the dinner memorable.’’
Vin & Eddie’s offers a full range of desserts, from light custards to more robust cheesecakes and chewy brownies topped with homemade ice cream, all priced from $6 to $8.
We finished off a wonderful caramel custard with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of berries ($7) and a brownie sundae with ice cream ($7). The cannoli, stuffed with creamy chocolate-chip cheese and crowned with rich fudge sauce, was tasty and just too big to finish, although it was a tough one to leave behind ($6).
The menu offers cappuccino, espresso, and café latte, decaffeinated or regular, all served with delicate homemade biscotti.
Those with heartier appetites than ours can fit a pasta or risotto course, which includes small orders as well as entrée-sized servings, between their appetizers, soups and salads, and main course.
Vin & Eddie’s Ristorante was opened in 1955 by Vincent Travi Sr. The next generation has since taken over, with the restaurant being run for the last 30 years or so by Vincent Jr. and his wife, Marcia.
South of Boston, restaurants with solid reputations for tasty Italian fare are frequently large, open, and noisy. Vin & Eddie’s has ample and comfortable seating in a refreshingly quiet setting. Wonderful food from the broad menu is served at an enjoyable pace by a gracious wait staff. The result is a pleasant dining experience that I look forward to repeating soon.