Where: Va Bene, Phoenix, AZ
When: Friday May 15, 2009
Who: Leannada, Malcolm, Mo and Jimmy
Cost: Entrees from $15-$30
What: Restaurant/Lounge/Nightclub/Cougar’s Paradise
Rating: Food – 4 stars / Service – 4.5 stars / Entertainment Value – Priceless!!
It doesn’t happen often, when our group is at a complete loss for words, but it happened last night. We have all been to Va Bene a number of times and it definitely has something that keeps us coming back for more. We call it “Cougar’s Paradise” since the majority of the clientelle at the bar is older divorced women looking to hook up. But Va Bene is also a really nice restaurant; it’s kind of bi-polar!
When you walk into Va Bene, you can either choose to go to the restaurant section or to the bar area. The restaurant is really nice, intimate and romantic. I’ve eaten here a couple of times and the food and service is always spectacular. It’s an Italian restaurant and has been around for at least 5 years but I couldn’t find out exactly how long it’s been in business. The menu is your standard Italian flare, lots of pasta, veal, chicken, etc. They also have a very good wine list, a must for this wine-o!
If you want to get the true flavor of Va Bene, you have to spend some time in the bar area. They have a massive rectangular shaped bar that sits about 50 people and the perimeter of the bar is lined with high top tables. We haven’t yet figured out where are the best seats, but then again, there is never a bad seat in this place – entertainment is around every corner!
Last night we didn’t plan on going out but as it usually happens with us, plans arise from nowhere. Malcolm suggested we meet at Va Bene for a drink, and I couldn’t resist. He got there first and grabbed a couple of seats at the back of the bar, by the stage. We got there around 7:00pm and the place was emptying out because their happy hour had ended. I sat down and scoured the place. Va Bene is not only a Cougar’s Paradise, but it always has interesting characters. I was reading a review of Va Bene this morning and someone said, “This is the place to see and be seen”. I don’t necessarily agree with that comment, unless you are talking about within Ahwatukee, but that isn’t saying much since there isn’t really much happening in Ahwatukee.
As we were sitting at the bar, enjoying our cocktails, I noticed an attractive guy down the bar. I checked out his left hand and noticed he was wearing a wedding ring, bummer! After 30 minutes or so, the crowd began to pick up again. Malcolm and I were getting hungry so we ordered dinner. He had the Pollo all Asparaghi; chicken breast in a light lemon sauce with fresh asparagus. I had the Stuffed Pork; roasted port tenderloin stuffed with prosciutto, grana padano parmesan over cranberry port reduction. Both meals were fabulous!
After we ate, Leannada and Jimmy showed up and the band started setting up. The crowd at this point wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, although it’s definitely an older crowd, which is fine with us since we are all in our late 30′s and early 40′s. It’s not a place where friends go to hang out, it is without a doubt a place to pick up people or to get picked up. There actually were quite a few couple there, probably waiting for the band to start so they could get their groove on out on the dance floor. I took a quick glance down at the bar to the Married guy, and noticed that he no longer had on his wedding band. What a tool, taking off his wedding ring!
The band, Rhythm Edition, were all on stage getting ready to start their session. As soon as the woman lead singer started to sing, we all grimaced while closing one eye. She was off tune, off beat and she was reading the lyrics from song sheets. I have never in my life seen a band who has to read lyrics – isn’t that what practice is for? The band itself was okay, a little cheesy, but then again they do primarily play at weddings so what would you expect?
As soon as the band started playing, the dance floor was inundated. The people who were dancing didn’t care what the band sounded like, they would have danced to anything! From this moment forward, the night was a little bit of a train wreck. People were trashed, people were hooking up but everyone was having a great time. We were all trying to figure out how we would describe this place and Jimmy said, “It’s like a wedding” and that could have been because of the cheesy wedding band, but it was a pretty accurate description. We felt like we were that lone table at a wedding where everyone knew everyone but us – althought that could be because none of us were as drunk as the rest of the bar and we felt out of place.
Va Bene is a blast, for just about anyone, and we recommend you check it out. It’s not a place that we would go on a regular basis, only because it’s such a pick-up joint, but there is something for everyone here. There were guys that were in their early 20′s – Cougar magnets! There were also guys in their 50′s. There was every size and shape of woman and all in all it is somewhat of an attractive crowd. People tend to get a little more dressed up to go there, lots of sequens, a bedazzler’s dream!!