Pizza has returned to Coeur d'Alene's Riverstone complex in an unintended pandemic expansion.
Vicino, which means "nearby" in Italian, is the sister restaurant to Vine & Olive, also in Riverstone. Vine & Olive's dining room was closed due to Idaho's stay-home order, says owner Naomi Boutz, who opened the restaurant in January 2018.
"I was beyond mentally drained," says Boutz, who adds she had been open to someday starting a second restaurant, yet not during a pandemic. She blanched when Vine & Olive executive chef Josh Pebbles suggested she look into the former Bullman's Pizza location.
But the seed, once planted, took root as Boutz researched the idea. Pizza has fared better than most restaurant concepts during the pandemic as takeout continues to gain market share, she realized. Riverstone gets good foot traffic, she posited, and Vicino's could echo Vine & Olive's soulful approach, including a stellar wine list.
"When I found myself getting up at 6 am to research potential names for the new restaurant, I knew it would be a go," says Boutz.
Her ace-in-the-hole: Vine & Olive's chef Pebbles, who once worked in Italy, as well as in a bona fide Italian kitchen stateside, where he learned "the importance of the protein, hydration, ash levels and fermenting time to come up with a truly perfect dough for Neapolita-style pizza," he says.
The dough is the blank canvas for Pebbles' creations, from the Margherita ($15) with San Marzano tomatoes to the Bianco ($16) with white sauce, Castelvetrano olives, potato and two cheeses to the Parma ($17) with prosciutto, mascarpone crème, arugula, balsamic reduction and pecorino. The Speck and Peach ($18) features house-made pork belly, popular in northeastern Italy, where Pebbles apprenticed at the Michelin-starred, 300-year-old restaurant Hosteria Giusti.
Pebbles added a few appetizers, from his house-made meatballs ($9) and fried calamari ($11) to several salads, like the radicchio with shaved celery, pears and candied nuts ($7/$12) and the Caesar made piquant with the addition of capers ($7/$11).
Sommelier Krista French built Vicino's wine collection to pair well with the food, of course, but also to introduce diners to new producers and grapes, she says. French focused on southern Italian wines, eventually representing all of Italy, from Sicily to Tuscany and Piedmont. She recently added the rustic Aquila del Torre Refosco ($32/bottle), for example, from an ancient grape variety indigenous to Friuli, Italy.
"My hope is that our guests will find wines that are intriguing and at the same time won't break the bank," says French, who plans to add Northwest wines featuring Italian grapes.
Stylistically, Vicino is yin to Vine & Olive's yang, with a bright farmhouse feel — white walls and ceilings accented by an older wood floor and flat black seating — compared with Vine & Olive's gray and earth tones. On the walls are assorted pizza peels, the oversized wooden spatulas that allow the pizza to be slid into and, more importantly, retrieved from a scorching hot oven, as well as photos from Boutz's travels in Italy. ♦
Vicino Neapolitan Style Pizza • 2385 N. Old Mill Loop, Coeur d'Alene • Open Sun-Thu 11 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-10 pm • vicinopizza.com • 208-758-7997