Man Food: Wings at Vito's Tavern
Welcome to Man Food, where burger pro Richard Chudy steps away from his usual beat to explore food challenges, street eats, and other gut-busting delights. Ladies are welcome, of course.
Along with nachos, sliders, pizza, and guacamole, chicken wings will always have a place in our Super Bowl hearts. Truthfully I’m normally indifferent to wings; I usually find them over-sauced and overly greasy. But in need of some inspiration for my own Super Bowl party, I ventured to Vito’s Tavern in the North End to sample some traditional (and not-so traditional) versions of chicken wings.
Vito’s Tavern is anything but the typical Italian joint that you’d expect to find in this neighborhood. True, you will find the classics (chicken parm, meatballs, and pasta a-plenty), but when was the last time you saw kimchi or burritos on Salem Street? The flavors of the wings are also all over the map, and being someone who has to try everything, I ordered a round of each: Buffalo, Gorgonzola, North End, Korean, Chipotle, and Atomic.
Coming in at about a dollar a wing, the wings are on the small side, but they pack a punch. With options spanning from sticky, sweet, and pungent to mouth-numbingly hot, there is easily a wing for everyone. Wings are a tricky thing, and it’s hard to say that there is one correct method to cooking them.
I believe that the perfect wings should have crisp skin and meat that has a slight chew; I like to fight with them just a little as I gnaw my way through every crevice. The wings at Vito’s Tavern are just that: slightly crispy, but with enough integrity to keep it interesting. The buffalo wings here are top-notch: they’re classically flavored, plump, messy, and have a nice mild heat. The smoky chipotle wings are even better. Due to their hefty spice quotient, it’s a good idea to veer towards the Gorgonzola wings as a chaser; a clever play on the usual blue cheese dip, a creamy cheese sauce is scantily applied to the wing itself, eliminating the need to double-dip.
The North End wings are intriguing. Reminiscent of roast chicken, they’re dominated by comforting flavors of garlic and butter. The Korean variety, meanwhile, too sweet with a soy and sesame sauce glaze, proved to be a mostly one-note letdown. If you’re adventurous (or, let’s be real, stupid), try and attempt a batch of the habenero dry-coated, Ghost Chile-sauced atomic wings. Deceptive at first and containing notes of chocolate, I thought I could be man enough to power through multiple atomic wings. But then the heat came, like a slap in the face, and my mouth burned as I quickly made a move for the aforementioned Gorgonzola wings to cool me down. I didn’t go for a second one.
No matter your preference for spicy, mild or sweet, the wings at Vito’s Tavern are a great option for the big game — just don’t forget about them the rest of the year.
All wings $9.99 for 10, $17.99 for 20, and $32.99 for 40 (takeout only).
(Vito’s Tavern, 54 Salem Street, Boston, 857-277-0229, vitostavern.com)