Fresh and Local Ingredients are Chef Richard Langston's Key to Success at Boise's Café Vicino
Just across the parking lot from the Boise Coop, tucked away in a small series of storefronts, is perhaps the Treasure Valley's most understated, yet consistently impressive restaurant. Cafe Vicino is the brainchild of chef/owner and longtime Boise restaurateur, Richard Langston and it seldom fails to please.
"What kind of food is it?" Langston ponders. "For lack of a better term it's Italian, but I think of it as more than that. It's Mediterranean, French Provencal, Spanish and Italian-type cuisines."
Café Vicino (pronounced vee CHEE no and meaning "nearby" or "neighbor" in Italian) is the latest course in Langston's 21-year restaurant career in Boise. You may remember him from his popular self-titled restaurant, Richard's, in Hyde Park. It started as a bakery on one side of 13th Street and then expanded to a popular restaurant on the other side of the street (where the 13th Street Pub & Grill is now located).
Six years ago, Langston donned his apron once again and opened Cafe Vicino.
The interior design was inspired by a French restaurant where Langston and his wife once dined. It's an intimate, white-linened space he considers "homey, yet elegant." It has a wide selection of wines and a wait staff that can knowledgeably pair that wine with any order. But, for Langston, it's really all about the food, more specifically, the ingredients.
"I try not to mess with things too much. I let the flavors speak for themselves," he says. "I'm very proud of what I do with simplicity."
Simplicity, maybe, but Langston's dishes are anything but "simple." They range from the complex and rich (handmade lamb ravioli with fava beans and braised chard) to delicate and light (chilled melon soup with fresh crab or a clever porcini mushroom carpaccio) – all imbued with beautifully balanced flavors. His sauces, for example, are happy to share the spotlight with other ingredients, without stealing center stage.
Langston was raised in a food-loving Louisiana family, which later inspired his journey to culinary school in San Francisco. While much credit for his creative menu goes to his experience and nuanced style, Langston modestly points to fresh and local ingredients as his true key to success.
"The food I choose to use and the people I chose to buy from are creating really good products and I'm happy to serve them. I think my customer base is happy to have them."
Langston's commitment to buying what is seasonal and local means his relatively small menu changes frequently. So frequently, in fact, he doesn't always know what's going to be on it.
"There are afternoons I walk in the kitchen and don't know what the special of the night will be. Occasionally I may bomb, but not very often," he laughs. "What motivates me to be a chef is not just the food. It's a matter of giving people the experience that they don't or won't create for themselves. Giving them a perspective on what food can be. And creating something good for the diner that they don't often get in their everyday lives."