September 29, 2023

Cousin Vinnie’s New Owner Shares His Favorite Tailgating Recipes

4 min read| Published On: September 29th, 2023|

By Cindy Peterson

Cousin Vinnie’s New Owner Shares His Favorite Tailgating Recipes

4 min read| Published On: September 29th, 2023|

Cousin Vinnie’s new owner shares his favorite tailgating recipes.

Football season signals the return of a beloved tradition: tailgating. With every kickoff comes the thrill of sharing and discovering mouthwatering tailgate recipes. Whether you’re a seasoned tailgate chef or just diving into the game-day scene, there’s always a new dish waiting to score a touchdown with friends and family.

And who better to usher in tailgate festivities than Sam Dapena, the new owner of Leesburg’s famous wing joint, Cousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant. 

“Life is about family, friends and fun, and what better way to bring them all together than football and your favorite tailgating foods?” Sam says. “Wings, dips and chips is the way to go. As the owner of Cousin Vinnie’s, creating new, delicious tasting food is my favorite thing to do, along with football season of course. Cold beer, great food and great friends is what tailgating is all about.”  

About the restaurant

Sam took over Cousin Vinnie’s in 2021 after a 14-year run by original owner Vinnie Vittoria. The two were actually shooting the breeze one day when Sam jokingly offered to run the restaurant. Vinnie decided it wasn’t a half-bad idea and decided to retire, but not before passing on the family secrets that make this restaurant so popular.  

Originally a cruise ship remodeler, Sam had to pivot careers due to the Covid pandemic. 

“My family worked on remodeling cruise ships, and naturally, I joined in,” Sam says. “We’d work almost around the clock, every day. With the business taking a hit due to Covid, I’d been on the lookout for other work.” 

Cousin Vinnie’s was the perfect fit.

Sam had never run a restaurant before, so Vinnie took him under his wings — no pun intended — before throwing Sam in headfirst.

“Pretty much everything is the same,” Sam says. “All the same recipes and great flavors that we are known for.” 

That’s not to say there haven’t been any tweaks. Sam introduced a few new items and also brought a personal touch with his favorite jalapeño ranch dipping sauce, among other specialties. His philosophy is clear: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Did we mention that Cousin Vinnie’s was voted Best of the Best (in the annual Style Magazine poll) for wings and sports bar?

The restaurant is a paradise for sports enthusiasts, showcasing multiple televisions broadcasting various sports, from college football to The Masters. 

On the menu

The menu teems with mouthwatering offerings like chicken wings, sausage and cheese fire balls, beer battered onion rings, fried green beans, Cousin Vinnie’s Secret Shrimp, and widely popular garlic parmesan fries. Add in subs, burgers and salads, and there’s something for everyone. 

Aside from their famous wings, the Killer Hamburgers are, well . . . killer. All burgers are freshly made with 80/20 blended patties. Popular options include the Alpine Burger, loaded with sautéed mushrooms and onions, and the ever-popular BBQ Burger. 

For a twist, try deep-fried hot dogs, a flavor burst that has been showcased on the Food Channel.

The menu also offers sandwiches like the chicken salad sandwich, a three-generation family recipe, the hearty Ribeye Philly Cheese Steak, and its chicken counterpart. There’s also the spicy buffalo chicken sub and the chickenparmesan sandwich.

No meal is complete without dessert, and Cousin Vinnie’s doesn’t disappoint. Options range from fairground-inspired funnel cake fries to rich delights like the Peanut Butter Explosion, Pineapple Coconut Surprise and classic red velvet cake. 

Tailgating Recipes

Homemade Spinach Dip (Cold)

  • 1 Hidden Valley Ranch dip seasoning packet
  • 1 frozen chopped spinach block
  • 1 qt. of your choice of sour cream
  1. Microwave spinach in a bowl as directed.
  2. Once spinach is done, drain all of the juice and use paper towel to squeeze the remaining juice from the spinach.
  3. Allow spinach to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  5. Refrigerate for one hour.
  6. Serve with your favorite game day chips!

Crock Pot Cheese Burger Dip (Hot)

  • 1/2 lb.  ground beef (or ground turkey
    for healthier option)
  • 8 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 10 oz. can of Rotel undrained
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  1. Combine all ingredients in crock pot.
  2. Mix well.
  3. Cook on low for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve with your favorite game day chips

    Tip: Use Velveeta cheese for a creamier dip

Uncle Sammie’s Style Wings

  • 4 Ibs. chicken wings
  • Wild Mustard Sauce (found only at Cousin Vinnie’s)
  • 1 “Kinder’s” Red Garlic Seasoning
  • 3 oz. Frankenstein Dust (found only at Cousin Vinnie’s)
  • onion powder
  • • Homemade Ranch (found only at Cousin Vinnie’s)
  • • Homemade Bleu Cheese (found only at Cousin Vinnie’s)
  • • Homemade Jalapeno Ranch (found only at Cousin Vinnie’s)
  1. Preheat grill to 350 F.
  2. Remove wings from packaging, rinse, and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Once wings are dried, combine wings and Wild Mustard Sauce in a bowl and toss until lightly coated.
  4. Place wings on baking sheet or tray.
  5. Lightly and evenly dust with onion powder and Kinder’s Red Garlic seasonings, ensuring that the seasoning is sticking to the wings well.
  6. Once well coated and grill brought up to temperature, place wings on grill for roughly 20 minutes, turning often to reduce charring. (Keep an eye on your flame as you do not want the skin to burn but become very crispy. Cooking time may vary depending on the size, temperature, and thickness of the wings. Always temperature check your wings before removing from grill and serving).
  7. 10-15 minutes into to cooking on the grill, lightly dust with Cousin Vinnie’s Frankenstein Dust before wings become crispy.
  8. This will allow the seasoning to stick but not be cooked off during the process.
  9. Once grilling is complete, plate wings nicely with serving sides of Cousin Vinnie’s Ranch and Bleu Cheese and celery sticks!
  10. Enjoy the best tailgate snack Uncle Sammie’s way!

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About the Author: Cindy Peterson

Originally from the small town of Berryville, Arkansas, Cindy has become a multimedia specialist in journalism, photography, videography and video editing.

She has a B.S. in Communications from the University of Central Arkansas and is a correspondent for The Daily Commercial, LakeFront TV and Beacon College’s PBS talk show, “A World of Difference,” where she received an Anthem Award and Telly Award.

When she isn’t working, Cindy spends time with her husband, Ryan, and son, David, traveling and taking photos of landscapes and wildlife.

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