Discover Delicious Dining at Vinnie’s South - TribPapers

Discover Delicious Dining at Vinnie’s South

The classic Italian dessert tiramisu surrounded by lightly sweetened whipped cream and a rich mascarpone.

Asheville – The newest location of Vinnie’s Italian restaurant at 1981 Hendersonville Road in South Asheville opened on September 27 with the parking lot full, and customers lining up to ask for a table. With a menu quite similar to the Vinnie’s on Merrimon Avenue,  the neighbors have anticipated Vinnie’s opening  ever since Iannucci’s Pizza closed their doors after 40 years of business. Eric Scheffer, well-known restauranteur, again developed a family-friendly atmosphere that allows friends and family to dine comfortably together. The decor, music and lighting have all been chosen and executed by Scheffer himself and his wife Heidi. It is reminiscent of what was found In New York  Italian neighborhood restaurants—-comfortable, not too elaborate or intimidating, with dark wood, small tables and snug chairs, framed pictures of familiar celebrities on the walls, and easy seating at the bar for those waiting for a table. This new space certainly allows diners feel to feel at home as they enjoy familiar old-school Italian cuisine and visit with their neighbors.

A guest clearly stated, “This is the best spaghetti carbonara I have ever had.  I often order carbonara at my favorite Italian restaurant in South Carolina, but this one is even better—the pasta was cooked al dente with just the right combination of fresh ingredients and cheeses.”  Another diner suggested choosing the garlic knots, a delicious favorite appetizer, with its tomato sauce. Then a nearby guest decided to point and rave over her serving of Italian White cake, heaped with icing, vanilla cream and toasted almonds. “Be sure to take some home with you” was her recommendation.  

The service at this location was excellent.  As one waits for one’s table, the bartender made sure to offer the daily special cocktail, which on a Saturday was a $6 vodka or gin martini. Many businesses today have hiring shortages and staffing problems.  In asking what was Scheffer’s employer secret, apparently, he is known for making sure those on his staff will advance within his organization and team. This keeps his staff with him and happy to help. The executive chef, of Vinnie’s South, Connor Flaherty, grew up in the restaurant scene in Wilmington, NC and attended NC State where he studied food science. After college, he moved to Asheville and worked in the kitchens of Gan Shan Station, Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, and other local restaurants.

The eggplant parmigiana is a fan-favorite. Photo courtesy of Vinnie’s.

Having been voted the Best Italian Restaurant 11 years in a row by Mountain Xpress, there were few worries that this new location would not attract customers and be popular.  Scheffer now has three restaurants in Asheville: the two Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian  and Jettie Raes Oyster House on Charlotte Street. All are only open for dinner with no reservations. In 2000, Scheffer took over the helm of the Savoy Restaurant on Merrimon Avenue. Then in 2010 he closed it and turned it into a more neighborhood-friendly place with lower prices: Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian Restaurant. So where did the name Vinnie come from? According to Scheffer, Vinnie’s was named after one of his father’s closest friends, Vinnie Cappola. Cappola owned several pizzerias and small Italian restaurants in and around Manhattan and on Long Island, where Schaffer worked several summers in the kitchen.

A Catering and Event Company

After so many events being postponed due to the pandemic, longtime Asheville chef and restaurateur Eric Scheffer announced the newest addition under his hospitality umbrella, The Scheffer Group: Cielo, a catering and events company that aims to create highly unique and upscale experiences. 

“Asheville has a need for curated, elevated catering, and that’s what Cielo is here to solve,” says Scheffer.  

He enlisted the help of his fellow culinarians, Melanie Blonshine, Chef Dean Boskovich and Chef Owen Lane to create a catering company that is thoughtful in its approach to weddings, large family celebrations and corporate events. 

“We want to bring things to Asheville that the city hasn’t seen before,” says Blonshine, Director of Catering. “The types of venues here — vineyards, farms, outdoor locations on the river—really lend themselves to Cielo’s style of catering.”  

In addition to traditional plated dinners and buffets, Cielo serves large-format, curated events like Argentinian Asados, New England Clam Bakes, Spanish Paella & Pintxos gatherings, Italian Family Feasts, and more. 

The relaxed and cozy atmosphere at the new Vinne’s South allow all ages to enjoy themselves at dinner. Photo courtesy of Dasha Morgan.

The Scheffer Group Helps Restaurants Survive

2021 is predicted to be a year of transition and rebuilding for restaurant owners, after a catastrophic decline in the industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data analysts, 2020 ended with sales $240 billion below forecasted levels, and 110,000 establishments closed their doors permanently.  

“We want to help owners position themselves for resilience and success in the years to come,” says Scheffer. “We’ve successfully walked the walk.”

As a restaurant owner, how do you know when it’s time to expand or downsize? How do you handle a sudden gap in qualified job candidates or market a new concept to be successful from day one? Longtime Asheville restaurateur Eric Scheffer announced he has launched a new hospitality company, The Scheffer Group LTD, to help new and established restaurateurs navigate these challenges, future growth opportunities and more.

Based in Asheville, The Scheffer Group is the culmination of 20+ years of hospitality experience. Scheffer’s mission is to leverage the vast, collective knowledge of his team to manage his concepts, Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, Jettie Rae’s Oyster House, and Cielo Catering & Events under one roof. His group will offer their expertise and consulting services in areas such as hospitality economics, restaurant branding & culture development, operations and systems, human resources, management, recruiting, owner development, growth strategies and real estate lease negotiation and consulting. 

“Your history will tell your future,” says Scheffer, “and we have a clear vision of where the hospitality industry is heading.” For restaurateurs interested in learning more about The Scheffer Group’s services, inquiries may be sent to

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