Vito’s Italian

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Cathy pours martini.
More family photos.
Fish dish
Cathy's family.
Cathy visits with guests.
Cathy visits with more guests.

Vito’s Italian

By Tim Farley

Vito’s Ristorante owner Cathy Cummings is a special woman with a flair for hospitality, excellent service and great Italian food.

With those accolades, this review should probably be over, but there’s a lot more to Cummings and her love affair with her customers and Oklahoma City.

The facts are she’s been operating Vito’s for a dozen years, her family hails from Cosenzo, a city in southern Italy and all of her recipes were provided by her mother, grandmother and aunts. It comes as no surprise that family and food play key roles in Cummings’ life. Several members of her family own Italian restaurants in the Kansas City area.

In addition, Vito’s walls are filled with family photographs, including one with Cummings’ father and Harry Truman before he was elected president. The restaurant walls are family history and Cummings isn’t shy to share some of the stories behind the photographs. When a customer walks into Vito’s, they’ll quickly see Uncle Vito, Uncle Tony, Cummings’ parents and grandparents and Uncle Mike, who was called the banana king of Kansas City.

Having worked in the restaurant business since she was 12, Cummings doesn’t mind long hours. In fact, she enjoys it. She arrives early every morning to prepare Focaccia bread, which is absolutely delicious and prepares any customer for the entrees that will follow.

The house specialties include lasagna, which this reviewer consumed at a rather quick pace. It was scrumptious. Other specialties include the chicken spedini, eggplant parmesan and Ziti con broccoli. There’s a plethora of great dishes, whether pasta, fish or a good filet. The drinks, salads and desserts will rock your world. The menu is relatively small compared to some restaurants, but that allows more control and all entrees are made fresh.

As good as the food is, the service and hospitality, especially from the effervescent Cummings, will make a first-time customer want to return. The wait staff and Cummings are more than friendly. They become friends and it may only take one visit to Vito’s to believe you’re part of the family.

“I want people to feel like they’re coming to my home for dinner. I want them to have the best meal they’ve ever had with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra playing in the background. I’m paying tribute to my family every day I’m here,” she said.

Cummings’ mom and all but one aunt have passed away, but her 90-year-old dad still makes occasional trips to the restaurant, located at 7521 N. May Avenue.

“Their memory is still alive at Vito’s,” she said.

Actually, Cummings has a special place in her heart for a group of children known as her “garlic babies.” Learned from her childhood days in Kansas City, Cummings began serving pregnant women who were almost about to deliver a heavier dose of garlic with their entrée. Of course, they have to request it, but it certainly does the trick.

“So many of them have given birth in 48 hours of being served their food with the extra helping of garlic. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not scientific. It just happens,” Cummings said. “It’s not voodoo, it’s just raw garlic.”

When the babies are born, the parents often send Cummings photographs or call her.

“I’ve got pictures of a lot of the babies,” she said. “They’ll even come back if they get pregnant again and ask for the extra garlic. The ones who haven’t been here before say they’ve heard about me around town or their husband heard some other guy talk about it at the gym. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Word has gotten around that this works and some of these women are more than ready to deliver.”

On the night this reviewer was at Vito’s, a pregnant woman requested extra raw garlic on her chicken spedini. It’s unknown if she had her baby any sooner than expected, but the effort was made.

For more information about Vito’s, visit www.vitosokc.com.

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