When we are developing an itinerary for a new destination, picking our dining locations is especially important. I got my blogging start by hosting a local restaurant site for five years. When we expanded to our travel blog, it was important that we maintained our roots. Fortunately, locating interesting restaurants is usually easy. When I started researching downtown Dubuque, I found that there were way too many eateries for us to visit. This meant that we had to select a handful that would offer a broad example of what can be found in Iowa’s oldest city. When we learned about Vinny Vanucchi’s Little Italy, it was clear that it needed to be explored. Little did we know, that we would find loads of family tradition at this welcoming dining destination.

We want to thank Travel Dubuque and Vinny Vanucchi’s for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own. 

There are plenty of seating options at Vinny Vanucchi's in downtown Dubuque, Iowa.

Seating Choices

Downtown Dubuque is easily navigated on foot. With everything in close proximity, we were never more than a few blocks away from our hotel. (You can read about Hotel Julien here.) Our dinner at Vinny Vanucchi’s ended up being less than a block down the street. Inside, we found that they have a few seating areas to choose from. A counter-service deli offers a quick lunch area that transforms into extra dining space in the evening. There is also a bar area for those just wanting to enjoy a Happy Hour. We chose to be seated in the main dining room. No matter where you sit, you’ll have views of plenty of family photos.

The drinks are decorative and delicious at Vinny Vanucchi's.

Drink Up!

Once we were seated, the restaurant manager, Sunny Moore, came by to visit. Like most visits, we had pre-scheduled a time when the staff wouldn’t be overloaded. This is an approach we find works best for all involved. It’s also a great way to have top-notch service since the wait staff isn’t slammed with customer requests. Sunny suggested we start with a drink, and when we struggled to pick the best one, she decided to bring out a trio to sample. The White Sangria had a mellow, fruity taste that makes for a refreshing summer cocktail. The Dirty Frank packed a good punch, and along with the Raspberry Cosmo, made us look very upscale.

Crystal fawned over her dinner choice at Vinny Vanucchi's in downtown Dubuque.

Time for some Italian Classics

We sipped our cocktails, while we ate our salad and breadsticks. We weren’t worried about the effects since we were doing the pedestrian thing that evening. Before long our dinner dishes arrived. Crystal had selected the Chicken Vinito, which features a delectable mix of tomato, artichoke, and basil. These are tossed with fresh Linguine and a charbroiled chicken breast. The flavor reminded her of one of her favorite Italian dishes, so I could tell she was completely satisfied.

A dish filled with rich and creamy baked Penne pasta really hit the spot.

Getting Stuffed

Since Crystal was going old school with one of her favorites, I felt I should as well. Uncle Paulie’s Baked Penne combines the three flavors I enjoy the most from Italian cuisine. Vinny Vanucchi’s hits it out of the ballpark with this dish. Baked Penne noodles are doused in a delicious tomato sauce. Then they add Ricotta and Mozzarella cheese to the bake for gooey richness. A healthy sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top adds that extra zest. We were going to be full for a week.

We couldn't pass up the decadent desserts at Vinny Vanucchi's.

Any Room Left?

Sometimes, I think we do ourselves an injustice by leaving dessert for last. Sure, we were full, but the dishes they brought to the table looked too tasty to pass up. Cream filled Cannoli, decadent Tiramisu, and an airy piece of Italian Lemon Wedding Cake all begged to be tasted. It was looking like we were going to need to do a lot of walking after dinner.

Special seating can be found at Vinny Vanucchi's, like this table housed in an old jail cell.

Family Tradition at Vinny Vanucchi’s

After we pushed ourselves away from the table, we had one more surprise. Sunny wanted to show us a little more of the space. We had already noted that Vinny Vanucchi’s is filled with many old photographs, and she explained that most are actually family shots. She led us upstairs to a seating area that can be reserved for special occasions. There is even space, with the head table, that puts the guests of honor in an old jail cell. Can you imagine having your wedding reception here? Everywhere we looked, there were mementos and artifacts of the family. Our visit to Vinny Vanucchi’s was more than just a meal, it was like being invited into the family.

the authors signatures.

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