When it comes to restaurants, there are hidden gems and there are badly kept secrets, with the latter being dining spots that are mentioned as being under the radar by so many people that they are no longer under the radar. Take Vinny’s at Night in Somerville, for instance—this terrific little Italian restaurant is literally hidden behind an old-fashioned convenience store, making it almost a novelty in some ways (even though it is anything but a novelty to regulars who know the goodness of this place), and because it is seen as such a unique spot, many media outlets and many more diners talk about it so much that it is no longer a hidden gem. But what about the store that hides it? No one seems to talk about that place, but they should, as Vinny’s Superette is a much different—but equally good—spot to get food, and if you want under the radar, you’ve certainly got it with this humble little shop.
Vinny’s Superette is located in the heart of East Somerville, which remains a bit of a close-knit “old Somerville” neighborhood, but which is starting to see some of the same changes that have come to so many other parts of the city. The shop is a throwback to an earlier time, and the name “superette” is mostly a regional term and represents the type of shop that you see less and less of each year, as many of them are forced to compete with the 7-Elevens and Store 24s of the world along with gas station convenience stores. But some superettes continue to operate in part because of their personal touch and neighborhood-friendly feel, and Vinny’s Superette certainly reflect this, as locals come to this Broadway shop on a regular basis for cheap takeout meals (or dine-in, as the shop has a few tables set up), prepared foods, chips, soda, and other items. Sitting at Vinny’s Superette can be an odd feeling during the day, as the Vinny’s at Night space can be seen from the tables within the shop, but since the restaurant isn’t open until dinner, it’s dark and quiet.
Like other superettes in the Boston area, Vinny’s focuses mainly on sandwiches, but unlike some of the others which focus on American classics, this superette has more of an Italian and Sicilian focus (the restaurant itself is actually considered to be a Sicilian spot). Some of the options here include excellent Italian and super Italian subs, a spicy capicola (dry-cured pork shoulder), an overstuffed chicken parm with Vinny’s tremendous red sauce, a messy but delicious house-made meatball sub, a prosciutto sub that just begs for added provolone cheese, and a sandwich with sweet Italian sausage. Solid versions of a garden salad and an antipasto are also available, as are a number of Italian classics such as a traditional pasta fagioli, shrimp fra diavlo, arancini, calzones, lasagna, and stuffed shells, and the specials of the day include an old-world potato and egg sandwich. Prices are relatively inexpensive, with sandwiches being under $10 and most meals straddling the $10 line by a few bucks.
Vinny’s at Night may no longer be a hidden gem, but ironically, you do have to pass through one in order to get to it. If you like sandwiches and stick-to-your-ribs Italian comfort food, Vinny’s Superette is one that should be on your short list of places to try whether you dine in or do takeout, and you can confuse your friends (if you’re so inclined) by saying you went to the Vinny’s that no one knows about while staring over at the Vinny’s that everyone knows about because it’s a place that no one knows about. Or you could just order a meatball sub and a soda and try not to overthink it all.
VINNY’S SUPERETTE. 76 BROADWAY, SOMERVILLE.