Sunday, February 6, 2011

Double Feature Opinion & Recipe: There's What in That?!?

It's 9am and I'm craving fried food already…
Vinnie's Pasta Bar
5361 Inglis Street, Halifax, NS 425-4435

From Google Street View

Vinnie's is certainly one of Halifax's best kept secrets. This little trattoria near the transition of Inglis to Barrington is open weekdays after 5pm and on weekends.

It's located in the space formerly occupied by the Oriental Restaurant. The Oriental was famous, not for the taste of its egg rolls but for their "frequency". "Good evening, I'd like to order a pick-up please. Six egg rolls." "Certainly sir, would you like free egg rolls with that?." 

The interior space hasn't changed that much since that time, but the food quality certainly has. Everything I have had from Vinnie's has been wonderful. Their portions are large and tasty with lots of flavour. They also serve warm complimentary individual sourdough breads— a very nice touch.  The staff is extremely friendly and efficient. They do not hover, but are there when you need them. 

Call ahead for pickup if for whatever reason you don't want to enjoy the atmosphere. I would suggest you take the time to stay and relax. They also have a respectable wine list. On weekends you may want to call ahead and reserve, just to be safe.

Photo: roboppy (Flickr)

One of the star attractions is their fried calamari. It has a flaky, crisp coating and is done to perfection every single time. Once we commented to our waiter on the interesting taste of the dipping sauce. I have to admit we had closely "dissected" the sauce on many occasions in the restaurant and at home, but couldn't quite figure it out. 

The sauce is spicy and has a sweet aftertaste that's hard to describe, exotic yet familiar. Mango? Pineapple? Much to our surprise he told us the "secret": lychees. We never would have figured that one out. It makes their calamari sauce different than any other in the city. I would hazard a guess that once you taste it you could figure out many other uses for it.

This recipe below is my take on it. It's not exactly the same, but some recipes are closely guarded secrets, and this is one that should be. I guess you will just have to go there...

Hot & Sweet Tomato Dipping Sauce
Makes about 4 Cups

4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
28 oz crushed tomatoes, canned
1/2 cup canned lychees, finely chopped
1 tsp. oregano, dried
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Heat oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and onion. Sauté until golden. Stir in tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and red pepper. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. You can refrigerate any leftover sauce for several days.

To se a review of Vinnie's published in our independent "local culture" paper The Coast, go to

If you just can't get enough lychees, you can find many recipes at That's where I found the basis of my recipe.

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