by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine
Located at the corner of 16th Ave & 25th St in a residential neighborhood, just a few blocks away from some of Vero’s busy downtown thoroughfares, is the Italian American Civic Association. I think most people associate a Civic Association as a “members only” place to gather, eat and have a good time, but they would be partially incorrect in this case. If it were not for the suggestion of my good friends Angelo and Brenda from The Angelo and Brenda LIVE weekend talk show, I would not have known this place IS open to the public on Wednesday and Friday nights for dinner. With the number of Italian restaurants in town, how will this place that serves Italian food on paper plates stack up against the rest? Keep reading to find out.
We were invited to come by for a tasting and arrived during their dinner service on a Wednesday night. We had a hard time finding parking in their moderately sized lot, so we parked on the street. The grounds are nicely landscaped and the building appears to be well taken care of. As we entered through the double red front doors we were greeted by the hostess. We were then shown to our table in the club lounge. The lounge is usually reserved for members, but opens to the public for the Wednesday and Friday night dinners. In the lounge, they have several tables and a bar for seating. On the other side of the building there is a large banquet room with plenty of tables, a dance floor, and a stage where they have entertainment during the Friday night dinners. Shortly after sitting down we were greeted by Anthony Andola, the President of the Association. He does a lot of the cooking in the kitchen along with the other volunteer members of the club. He said that he hoped we were hungry because he was going to bring us out a lot of food! There were three of us dining this evening and we were up for the challenge!
Lets dive right in and see what we had to eat and drink!
Yuengling Draft Beer – ($1.25) – A draft beer for less than most places charge for bottle of water, YES PLEASE! It was served ice cold in a pilsner glass, which I can only assume is approximately 8 oz in size.
Jack and Coke – ($4.00) – Since they have a full bar, you can get just about any kind of mixed drink you want. Prices range from $2.00 to $4.00 for each drink. One of the best bargains anywhere in Vero and a healthy pour at that!
To start your meal, on the counter in the lounge they have a large bowl of salad, garlic bread, and a few dressings that you can help yourself to while waiting for your meal. It’s unlimited, so feel free to go back as many times as you would like. The salad was fresh, crisp, and the garlic bread was crusty on the outside, and soft on the inside. They were both really good. On Friday nights they have garlic knots!
Eggplant Parmesan – ($8.00) – I should mention that this was a double portion that Tony brought us out to try. He wanted to make sure we had enough to sample between the three of us. While eggplant is not one of my favorite foods, this dish may just change my mind. The eggplant is dried, then fried and layered with cheese. The texture was soft and was easy to cut with just a fork. The tomato sauce is house made and some of the best I have tasted in Vero! This was one outstanding dish.
Pasta with Meatballs – ($7.00) – The pasta offerings change from week to week, so you may have a different option when you dine with them. Tonight we had large rigatoni with meat sauce, and two meatballs. The pasta was al dente, the sauce and the meatballs were all house made and were fantastic! As I’m writing this article I’m getting hungry for this again, it was unbelievably good!
Pasta with Sausage – ($7.00) – This dish is similar to the last one, except instead of meatballs, they’ve added sliced sausage on top of the pasta. This dish also had the optional peppers and onions added for no additional charge. The sliced sausage was very tender and flavorful, and the peppers and onions added a whole different flavor profile than the last pasta dish. It was amazing!
8 inch Hero – ($8.00) – This was made like a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich with shaved beef, peppers and onions, and mozzarella cheese melted over the top on a toasted bun. The meat was very tender and flavorful, the peppers and onions were nicely sautéed, but we all thought it could have used a bit more cheese and one that has more zing to it to take this sandwich over the top. All in all, it was still a very good sandwich.
Stromboli – ($9.00) – This thing was huge! It’s basically a rolled up pizza with your choice of toppings (additional toppings are $1.00 each), cheese, and marinara sauce on the side. The crust had just a slight crunch on the outside, and was soft and tender inside. They made ours with sausage, pepperoni, and cheese. Hands down, my favorite dish of the night!
Large 18″ Pizza – ($10.00) – This is easily one of the best bargains in Vero to feed your entire family. You start with a basic cheese pizza for $7.00, then add what toppings you want on it for $1.00 additional per topping. This “white” pizza had a garlic pesto sauce, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella on top. The aroma of the garlic when Tony brought the pizza to our table was intoxicating! The crust was perfectly baked, the garlic pesto sauce was herby and delicious, and the slices of mozzarella just melted in your mouth. Hands down this has to be one of the best pies I’ve had in Vero the 2 years I’ve lived here.
I went into this review with low expectations. I was thinking how good could the food actually be in a Civic Association anyway? It’s probably like the spaghetti dinner at my parents church with the sauce out of a jar. On the contrary, these folks are making their own amazing sauces from scratch, along with some incredible pizzas, pasta dishes and strombolis too! How does it stack up against the rest of the many great Italian restaurants in Vero? Excellent food + great value means I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be disappointed. You will just have to come give them a try and see for yourself, and you just might see me there!
Atmosphere – 4 Forks
Service – 5 Forks
Food – 4 Forks
Ratings Scale Legend:
1 to 5 Forks – 1 Bad to 5 Excellent
1600 25th St, Vero Beach, FL 32960