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Reviews

Restaurant Spotlight

De Vega Brothers | Manteca
Story by Veronica McAlister

Warmth and aroma are the two major ingredients that make up any good Italian restaurant, and you'll quickly discover both at this popular Manteca dining spot. Owner and lead chef Alberto Vega hit the right combination of old world Italian charm and serving up mounds of pasta, just like mamma used to make.

Straddling the fence between fine dining and casual cuisine, a vibrant mural of a quaint Italian countryside covers one wall while the restaurant's while table linens add an elegant touch. Originally from Mexico, Vega trained as an apprentice chef at Angelina's in Stockton, where he learned everything he knows about cooking and running a restaurant. "When I first came to America, I worked in the fields, at a pizza place, and a car wash," Vega said. "Then I got a job as a cook at Angelina's, and it is there that I learned to create and prepare my own Italian dishes."

Vega prides himself on experimenting with different flavors; his house specialties--Veal and Chicken Piccata--are requested daily by regulars. His staff and customers also enjoy taste testing his experimental cuisine and provide him with valued feedback. "My customers will say, 'Oh, you need to put this on the menu, Alberto!' and I will answer, 'OK, OK, I will,'" Vega says with a smile.

- San Joaquin Magazine
March 2006


Vega cooks up success Italian-style

By Jason Campbell
Staff reporter of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

Alberto Vega only has to look as far as the seats inside of his restaurant to gauge how well his business is doing.

And if it's a Friday or Saturday you're likely to find him smiling.

Business is that good.

Ever since he took over what was a foundering Chinese food operation on Yosemite Avenue six years ago, Vega has transformed the relatively humble operation into something that Manteca residents simply can't get enough of--De Vega Brothers Italian Cuisine.

Things have gone so well in fact that next week the second family-owned Italian eatery will be open to the public in Stockton--marking the true culmination of his lifelong dream.

"For as long as I can remember I've always wanted to own my own restaurant," Vega said smiling widely. "And when I got the chance I knew that I could really make it something unique."

Despite the successes that Vega--who operates the business with his brother Rafael--has had since bringing his charming old-world flavor to Manteca, you're not likely to find him doing anything but what has made him successful.

Day in and day out he's doing everything from washing dishes to seating customers--taking a hands-on approach that you're not likely to find many places.

In his eyes, a restaurant owner can only determine how well he's doing by how his guests respond.

"If for example a customer has a complaint and I'm not here, I don't hear it right away and have the chance to make it right," he said matter-of-factly. "I need to take care of my customers."

Almost 15 years ago, he got his start in the restaurant business at the popular Stockton pasta house Angelina's--cooking up the Italian delicacies that have made the place an institution.

While paying close attention to the recipes and manner in which things are prepared his own ambitions began to foster.

And that didn't always garner the respect or admiration of his co-workers.

When out on location catering parties in some of Stockton's more exclusive neighborhoods like Brookside, Vega proclaimed one day to his boss that he would in 10 years not only in fact own his own restaurant but a house like the one they were serving in as well--something that drew sharp criticism and snickers from his co-workers.

But through nothing short hard-work and dedication, his dreams were realized nine years later when the first dish came out of the De Vega Brothers kitchen.

The house in Brookside came shortly thereafter.

"The restaurant business has to be your life," he says of his work ethic. "I learned a lot while I was working at Angelina's, and it helped prepare me for what was in my future.

"This is my dream and I'm living it everyday."

Being that he himself had humble roots, Vega knows what to look for when it comes to picking his staff--known for providing customer service regarded as second to none.

In 19-year-old Seth Borges--who now works hand-in-hand with Vega learning the tools of the trade in the kitchen--he saw a future gourmet chef in the making.

"This is a blessing for me--I'm so young and doing what it is that I've always wanted to do," said Borges--who traded in a fast-food get-up for a true chef's coat. "Just like with Alberto, this is my dream and in less than 10 years, I want to own my own restaurant.

"It's just always been that way."

During the busy dinner hours it isn't uncommon for Borges to be hammering away at as many as six tickets simultaneously--with each ticket translating into three or four individual dinners.

That pressure combined with the smiles of satisfied--and full--customers is all that he needs.

"There's nothing more rewarding that getting compliments back from somebody who just enjoyed what it is that you created," Borges said. "It really falls across the board for everybody who works here.

"The compliments are what makes it all worthwhile."

On Monday, Vega will officially branching out his successful venture to Stockton--opening a second location just around the corner from Brookside home.

He still doesn't know if further expansion will be part of the plan in the future.

"Right now we're going to put everything we have into the two restaurants," Vega said. "We're going to continue to provide the things that our customers want - whatever that may be."

De Vega Brothers is located at 515 N. Main Street. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. The second restaurant opens Monday at 2819 W. March Lane in Suite 1A--just West of I-5. For more information, call 823-0947 or 957-3839.

- Manteca Bulletin
March 21, 2006


50 of our favorite things

#22: Favorite Ode to Italy--De Vega Brothers Restaurant's Fabulous Menu
By Stephanie Simons

Where can you get a finger-lickin' plate full of authentic pasta in an intimate atmosphere that literally transports you to a faraway Italian city? De Vega Brother's menu, featuring a savory, yet subtle veal piccata, is not only a testament to the good taste of the Italian, but the wine list is also proof that they know how to live it up. This menu is the ultimate testament to good eats and timeless tradition.

- San Joaquin Magazine
July/August 2005


De Vega Brothers serves tantalizing Italian dishes

By Cindy Peterson

De Vega Brothers opened as a tiny Italian restaurant on Yosemite Boulevard near downtown Manteca about 4 years ago. Due to an expanding and hungry clientele, the family business soon moved to its current location at 515 N. Main St.

The restaurant seats 75 people, more than double the capacity of the original site. Nestled in a major wine-producing area, it's no surpise that De Vega Brothers features an extensive wine list with several local and imported choices. Even as part of the decor, a bottle of wine is on each table, with the winery selection rotated every few weeks. Among the pricier bottles are a $60 red Meritage Grand Reserve from Charles B. Mitchell and a $50 merlot from Delicato's San Bernabe Vineyard in Monterey.

One of the menu's delights is the array of calamari offerings--Calamari Parmesan, calamari strips, calamari Siciliano and calamari Caesar salad.

Other tantalizing dishes include Pasta del Mare, a spicy mix of salmon, prawns and scallops with pasta.

Good news for folks who create their Italian favoites at home: De Vega Brothers sells its homemade meat sauce to go. And owner Rafael Vega says the family is talking about opening another restaurant perhaps in Modesto or in its hometown of Stockton.

- Modesto Bee
July 25, 2003


Quality and quaintness

The Italian food's really good at De Vega's in Manteca
By Howard Lachtman
Record Staff Writer

There were lace curtains on the windows, Pacarotti on the sound system and appetizing, authentic pastas that made us forget it was winter outside.

Best of all, Manteca's De Vega Brothers is priced modestly, and within easy driving distance of Stockton.

We took Highway 99 south to Yosemite Avenue and stopped a block east of Main Street at De Vega, which brothers Alberto and Rafael opened two months ago. They've been attracting a loyal following of regulars ever since.

We were welcomed to this modest but quaintly decorated little restaurant by hostess and server Tina Vega (Rafael's wife) and took a table with the expectation of fine dining. We weren't disappointed.

We ordered out pasta and were presented with a hearty, well-balanced minestrone--served piping hot--and a basket of the house garlic bread, fresh from the oven.

This promising beginning was matched by a Mediterranean pasta of mildly spicy marinated prawn, with lemon zest, diced tomatoes, cracked black pepper, bell peppers, garlic and fresh herbs, tossed with rigatoni.

A half-order of this delicious dish was fully satisfying in its blend of elements, nicely textured noodles and judicious use of spice.

Equally appealing was a linguini and chicken dish with mushrooms, peppers, dried tomato puree, garlic, herbs, fresh cream and Parmesan cheese. It was wonderfully flavorful and subtly seasoned, with a coordination of elements that defines good cooking.

In addition to impressive pastas, De Vega is a good place for ravioli, tortellini and fettucine Alfredo, as lunch specials or dinners or with roast beef.

The brothers also elevate workaday sandwiches such as the French dip and cheese steak.

If you have dinner in mind, there's a short but select list of steaks, veal and chicken dinners (with soup or salad) from which to choose, as well as a calamari Parmesan with choice pasta.

The desserts include tiramisu or chocolate celebration cake.

The view out the window is asphalt and a Goodwill store, but the food on the table is worth the journey. The wine list is expanding with the additions of Chianti and pinot grigio.

With the Vega chefs investing their cooking with care and attention to detail--and Tina charming the folks out front--De Vega Brothers is a ray of culinary sunshine on Yosemite Street.

- The Record - TimeOut
January 21, 2000


De Vega Bros. offers great food with a warm setting

By Dennis Wyatt
Managing editor of the
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin

Lunch at De Vega Brothers is the perfect antidote for a dreary overcast Manteca afternoon.

And it is not just a bowl of their killer minestrone soup that will nourish and warm you.

De Vega Brothers has created a slice of the Italian Riviera right down to warm hues and a cozy feeling in the semi-formal atmosphere of the North Main Street restaurant just south of Manteca Ford Mercury.

And to someone who loves pasta and knows that a meal prepared in the classic style of Italian cuisine may fly in the face of the low carb mantra, it gives you enough energy to power you through the day: De Vega is a bit of culinary heaven.

You would also be wrong to believe that De Vega Brothers is exclusively Italian. There is a host of lunch options ranging from the teriyaki chicken sandwich to the De Vega Burger that have the distict De Vega taste but aren't traditional Italian.

On our latest lunch visit to De Vega Brothers, Cynthia ordered the French Dip sandwich and I ordered the tortelline off the lunch pasta menu.

Cynthia is wild about De Vega's French Dip that comes with very thin sliced baked roast beef on a flaky hot croissant with mayo and mozzarella cheese with a pile of golden curly fries.

The De Vega tortelline is among the best you'll find in the Northern San Joaquin Valley. It is never undercooked or overcooked. The pesto and alfredo sauces are excellent. This time, however, I tried the marinara sauce instead. It changed the taste somewhat but it was still satisfying.

So how good is the tortelline? The taste is good enough that you want to savor it. That is how you can generally tell whether I like pasta. Perfectly cooked pasta makes you want to savor every bite. Anything not close to perfection is run-of-the-mill and it becomes just carbo loading inhaling time.

De Vega has the most unique dinner salad in town served on a bed of spinach leaves and lettuce along with diced tomatoes, green and black olives, three beans, and plenty of mozzarella cheese.

And nothing beats De Vega Brothers' trademark basket of garlic bread. The fairly thin bread is prepared an order at a time. It virtually melts in your mouth.

The lunch menu also includes chicken, tri-tip, salads, veal and calamari parmesan.

Unlike some restaurants, the dinner menu is significantly different, offering more chicken and veal options, seafood -- including sauteed scallops that's to die for with soup or salad and your choice of pasta -- pasta dinner and charbroiled entrees including filet mignon.

my favorites are their vegetarian dishes ranging from full Roma pasta to eggplant parmesan.

De Vega Brothers, after all these years, still serves the best eggplant parmesan in these parts. It's fresh, cut thin for taste and prepared by someone who obviously knows eggplant is a treat, not a filler.

De Vega Brothers is open Monday throught Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and never on a Sunday.

- Manteca Bulletin