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Vivo Kitchen modifies menu to offer dishes with fresher fixings

| Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 5:30 p.m.
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
DIners enjoy the atmosphere at Vivo Kitchen Restaurant in Sewickley.

When Vivo Kitchen opened in Sewickley, the name likely was familiar to local clientele.

Vivo spent 12 years in Bellevue before moving last summer. Owner Sam DiBattista says the change of address was an attempt to gain more foot traffic.

In addition to a new easily accessible location along Beaver Street, the move also meant a few changes for the eatery's offerings. While the former Vivo put the emphasis on traditional Italian food and service, its new incarnation offers small-plate starters perfect for sharing and generous portions of meat and fish entrees. The eatery also serves alcohol, whereas its former BYOB-only location in dry Bellevue could not.

The focus, however, remains on letting simple, flavorful ingredients shine in thoughtfully constructed dishes.

Atmosphere

A sense of relaxed sophistication begins as soon as diners reach the Vivo Kitchen door. Guests enter the restaurant through a cozy outdoor courtyard complete with fire pit. Outside seating is available here during warm weather, which was unfortunately not the case during our trip, as the idea of sitting alongside the rippling fire while sipping a glass of wine seemed idyllic.

Decor inside is sparse, with simple single bulbs dangling from cords overhead, a cluster of which hang above the tables closest to the front window. Art comes in the form of rows of adhered album cover installations DiBattista made himself.

Most of the wooden tables are two-tops with oversize silverware waiting atop white napkins. The floor is constructed from rows of cork circles, a trend DiBattista says is gaining popularity in commercial and home kitchens.

On a recent Friday, every seat was taken at the small bar, which offers a wide selection of cocktails and wines. A windowed wall that serves as the restaurant's storefront afforded a view of bustling Beaver Street.

Soft music played in the background, as an acoustic band set up in a corner. DiBattista says he plans to have bands occasionally, but not on weekends, when the dining room gets busy.

Menu

Vivo Kitchen's menu changes often to allow for use of the freshest ingredients. During our trip, grilled lobster and shrimp with a yuzu-hoisin dipping sauce ($34) was the highlight. While the dish's presentation was elaborate -- two tails propped upright atop a bed of shrimp, crunchy zucchini slices and robust purple potatoes -- the flavors remained deliciously simple. The meaty tails provided enough lobster to render me full, a rare occurrence when shellfish is involved.

A slice of tender prime ribeye with black truffle jus ($29) came prepared with cold bean salad, which provided a pleasing lightness to contrast the full flavor of the seasoned meat.

A light and creamy mushroom-rosemary bisque ($6) provided the perfect predecessor to the hearty meal. The house-smoked salmon starter ($9) was served with a generous mound of brutta, an Italian dish made from mozzarella and cream, and roasted red peppers.

Knowledgeable servers in long, white aprons made suggestions to diners without seeming pushy and never let more than a sip or two of wine leave a glass before appearing to refill it.

Perhaps, the highlight of the meal came at its close. A flourless chocolate decadence cake ($8) was impossible to resist with its rich, thick center, sweet layer of icing and tart mixed-berry topping. The peanut-butter-fudge crrme brulee ($7) was like dipping a spoon into a warm Reese's cup. All desserts are made in-house.

Other dessert options included Nuttella or Heath Bar gelato, which will be a delight to sample while seated in the outdoor patio just as soon as the weather warms.

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