When it comes to dining out in Chicago there are – literally – thousands of choices. Since our city is also recognized as one of the top dining destinations in the world, for a restaurant to have any sort of longevity it’s got to have more than a couple of things going for it. Great service and food that makes you roll your eyes with pleasure are two.
Vivo is celebrating 20 years of providing both, and more.
They invited local media to see for themselves why they’ve been around for so long and I had the pleasure of dining there, and I do mean pleasure. My guest and I pulled back the heavy curtain at the entrance to see a room lit dramatically with spotlights focused on the tables to show the food in high relief. Along one exposed brick wall were rows and rows of wine bottles. Along the other, the bar led back to the open counter for the kitchen. The music, despite being techno, was at a low enough volume that you can actually hear your dining companions speak. Any louder and it would have been obnoxious. As it was, it served as background and wasn’t distracting.
My guest and I started off with cocktails. He had the Bellini and I The Sazerac. Then we had a sample of the Bruschetta di Funghi, which is grilled Italian bread topped with Italian mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and gorgonzola cream sauce. It was as voluptuous and flavorful as it sounds.
Next we had the Calamari Grigliati. This is calamari grilled over a wood fire and served on top of mixed greens that are drizzled with lemon and herb infused extra virgin olive oil. It was served with a spicy tomato sauce but it didn’t need it.
From this course on our server Andrew brought smaller tastings of wine to pair with each course. With the calamari we had Pico Maccario, a Chardonny from the Piemonte region. Excellent.
We both thought the Gnocchi Gratinati sounded amazing. Gnocchi with a parmesan cream and black truffle sauce? Yes, please! Andrew brought us a smaller serving so we could try it and oh, my. The gnocchi actually tasted like potatoes, which is rarer than it should be. The menu description calls the sauce “decadent” and it is oh, so right. He paired that with, surprisingly enough, the Ridge “East Bench” Zinfandel blend and it cut through the cream like a warm knife through butter.
For dinner we had the Risotto del Giorno, a saffron risotto with veal shank osso bucco, and the Filetto di Manzo alla Genovese (pictured above). This was an 8oz black angus filet served with horseradish mashed potatoes and bleu cheese cream sauce. Andrew’s wine recommendations were spot on, again: Bergadano Barolo with the risotto and Umani Ronchi Montepulciano with the filet. Both of the entrees were tender, rich, hearty, and delicious.
By this time, as you can imagine, we were so full we could only eat half of our entrees, but we had to get dessert. There was no way we could resist Chocolate Obsession: lava cake served with white chocolate gelato with a Gianduja Anise cream sauce.
The entire meal was wonderful, roll-your-eyes good. It was rich and absolutely filled with flavor and not your mama’s marinara (unless your mama is an amazing chef with access to the best ingredients, that is). I just had this meal three days ago, and the rest of the entrees two, and I’m already having cravings.
Andrew was spot on with his recommendations, his timing, and his interaction. I spent ten years in restaurants and one thing I learned while serving is that each table requires its own type of communication. Some want you to bring food and drink and that’s it. Some want to have a conversation with you. Others want a comedian and a few want flirtation. I watched Andrew at his other tables and I could see him change his style based on the guest. It was fascinating to watch and enjoyable to be a recipient of his expertise.
Dinner at Vivo was one of the best meals I’ve had in Chicago – and I’ve had a lot of fantastic dining experiences. I highly recommend visiting so you see why they’ve been around for 20 years for yourself!
From now through November 15 they’re making it easy for you to help them celebrate. You can enjoy a three-course meal at lunch or dinner for only $20. The bruschetta, the calamari, the gnocchi and the Chocolate Obsession are all included as options! In a tribute to owner Dan Krasny’s mother, a Holocaust survivor, a portion of the proceeds from that menu will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.