Whenever a new independent and locally-owned restaurant opens up, it is often staffed by “poaching” workers from wherever the chef or new owners were last working. Apparently, this is the case at Vivo Ristorante, where upon walking in, I recognized several cooks I worked with at The Keg several years ago. (One of Vivo’s owners was a manager at that location.) Bringing over a large group of stafff who already work well together will often lead to a successful opening. After my meal there, I can say that this theory holds true once again. (My condolences to the other restaurant that suddenly lost some of its best staff!)
The restaurant has a great concept and welcoming atmosphere, with an interior that could easily fit five more tables. I would guess the owners decided to set aside more space than usual for the open kitchen and “chef’s table” bar, to give the cooks a little more room to work and to smile for the audience. Perhaps the staff from The Keg suggested this after working on that restaurant’s cramped line for a few years. I am a big fan of open kitchens, even more so now that I work in one. They add a visual experience for the guests, and help ensure the kitchen stays clean and shiny during service.
The food is authentic (no corso 32, but still good!) Italian, and pseudo-family style, meaning each item is offered in a size for 2-3 or 4-5 (They say 2 and 4 respectively, but the portions are fairly large.) We opted to share two antipasti and 2 small pasta courses between the three of us, but were strongly encouraged to order an entree as well (one option being a 20 oz. rib steak!) and to get the large sized pastas. My companions and I are no strangers to the up-sell so we stuck with our original order.
Foccacia- Nice. I would have like it served warm. Olive oil and Balsamic seemed to be good quality.
Bruschetta- Tasty, three crostini with traditional tomato, white bean and pancetta, and artichoke-roasted pepper. $14
Caprese Salad- Pretty good, the cheese was fantastic, tomatoes still pretty nice for Edmonton in October, and what tasted like a bottled balsamic drizzle (I was a little disappointed that they don’t make their own reduction) $18
Fettucini- Delicious, although as the sauce was mainly cheese, it was very rich and filling. $17 small/ $26 large
Pappardelle- Also very good. The noodles seemed to be cut or broken into short pieces, but were cooked properly. The braised lamb was nice and the sauce worked with everything.$19 small/ $27 large
Tiramisu- Nice – although nothing compared to that of the Shaw Conference Center. Ammaretti cookies crumbled on top were my favourite part. Again, this portion was more than enough for the three of us.
I would love to go back and try a few entrees: rib steak ($39), tenderloin ($42), game hen ($42), swordfish ($35) and several others. There was an impressive list of vegetable sides that we were too full to touch as well. Next time.
Service was very knowledgeable and friendly. My only complaint is that we were brought the wrong pasta and it took probably 10-15 minutes to be replaced while our other food got cold. This is unacceptable to me because, only four feet in front of us, I could see that the kitchen staff were anything but busy.
For a brand new restaurant, I thought the prices were a little steep. The dining room was full but the kitchen looked overstaffed – lower your labour cost and cut your prices a little! However, the quality is there, it’s a great concept, and I would happily go back.
Until next time, Eet Smakelijk