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Promising addition to Edmonton's West End: VIVO

My wife and I had dinner this evening at a relative newcomer (3 weeks?) to Edmonton's West End, more specifically the Hawksworth Centre located at 18352 Lessard Road.

Vivo is Italian with a difference which sets it apart from other community restaurants like Tasty Tomato, Piccolino's, Sorrentino's in Wolf Willow, Il Forno and the like. No "red sauce" to speak of but I will try the "braised lamb chianti ragu with semi sundried cherry tomatoes" over pappardelle on another visit. [$18/27 1/2/full orders]. No pizza per se but several flatbreads ranging from a Margherita at $12 to a Gamberetto featuring shrimp, provolone, garlic and olive oil at $19.

Many of the courses are served "family style" meant to be shared and the portions, many of which feature grilled chops and surprise, surprise in landlocked Edmonton fish and seafood. From our vantage point perched up at the cooking bar we watched the kitchen brigade grill Bistecca Fiorentina [$39/74], Lamb [$39/75] and what I ultimately ordered, a Swordfish steak served with grilled leeks and 1/2 pink grapefruit [$35]. Also available were chicken [$32], beef filet [$42/74], Salmon [$32] along with 2 mixed platters which are clearly directed toward the dining groups at $100 and $120 respectively.

My wife does not like fish but indulged my affinity for swordfish. It was significant grilled steak that remained moist and the accompanying grilled grapefruit was meant to be squeezed over it instead of lemon.

Before the fish we chose 2 items from the 8 options in the Antipasti list. A delicious Caprese salad [$16] and pan steamed clams with fennel, grapes in a prosecco broth [$15]. Both were very good and the Caprese in particular was, as it should be, all about the ingredients. The yellow, red, orange and other colored heirloom tomatoes were crisp and tasty accompanied by some very good buffalo mozzarella rather than a more "pedestrian" variation or boccocinni.

From the Primi Piatti section of the lobster and mixed mushroom risotto [$19/29] and pastas, we were persuaded by our server Corey (who we knew from Wildflower, Packrat and originally The Pointe out in Tofino's Wickaninnish Inn) to try their "take" on fettucini Alfredo which is something I would usually avoid. This was very good. Made without cream but with lots of cheese.

We had no room for coffees nor desserts. Our total bill came to about $135 before tip including a bottle of Pellegrino and 2 glasses of an interesting, spicy, tart and refreshing blend of merlot, cab and syrah from Bolgheri.

The room itself currently seats about 70 [a private dining room has yet to be completed]when you include the cooking bar and I think as well, the spaces at the the "real" bar which takes up one end of the room. It is a classy stylish restaurant but one where you will be comfortable dressed up or as in my case, not....ie... Summer shorts and a T-shirt. Hey at least they were clean! [grin]

Given the prices I quoted above I can understand that one might have the impression that this is an expensive "special occasion" restaurant but I think it will fill a less expensive niche as well for those evenings when one is interested in good food. I know I will be back to try their Zuppa di Pesce [$18] or the lamb ragu.

clams with fennel, grapes and a prosecco b

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Sorrentinos
4208 Calgary Trail South, Edmonton, AB T6J 6Y8, CA

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  1. will give this one a try as it is in the area of west edmonton that is an easy sprint from home and sounds as if it creates from a non-additive ingredient palate. Thanks

    1. This sounds like a concept of Mercato's in Calgary

      1 Reply
      1. re: misterpeer

        That is probably "intentional" misterpeer as during a conversation I had with the managing partner, I mentioned that I was going down to Calgary on the week-end, to which he responded by stating that the head chef had spent some time at Mercato and that if I went, I would find the menus to be similar.

      2. Thanks for the review! Sounds like an interesting new spot. I'm not in the west end but will probably make the trip specifically to try this place.

        1. I think you mean Hawkstone Plaza. :)

          I'm guessing this is where the video store used to be?

          5 Replies
            1. re: Bob Mac

              Thanks Bob Mac
              How does it compare with Cibo and Corso 32?. Has anybody been to all three?

              1. re: felix the hound

                fexlx:

                I have been "out of the culinary world" of late and have not been downtown to eat at either Cibo or Corso 32 although both are spots I have intended to visit.

                I am going to try to get to Cibo this week for lunch.

                Both strike me as being more "authentic" [?] and rustic Italian, ie. arancini and the like, than VIVO which has as one its main attractions the grill. Mind you there is nothing wrong with beef or lamb on the grill or their grilled caesar salad. The last time I was there was lunch when they opened at that time prior to Christmas Eve.

                In speaking with the original chef at VIVO his eyes lit up when I suggested they should try grilled rabbit but my "impression" is that he has gone elsewhere.

                I made three big pots of spaghetti sauce and ragu bolgnese last week so I exepect my Italian will be chez nous for the next little while ....[smile]

                1. re: Bob Mac

                  We have been meaning to try Cibo and Corso 32 as well. We spent a week in Florence last October and both restaurants look like the best local options in terms of similar regional italian fare. Now that fork fest is over these might be our next two dinner outings

                  My wife was at Corso 32 for dinner after it first opened and found the music too loud, and they refused to turn it down ( "The chef likes it that way" was the response) .It must be his pub pedigree. But I have prepared and enjoyed some of his recipes posted on their website, without music.

                  Have you tried Marcella Hassan's recipe for bolognese? It is a staple chez nous,together with her veal ossobuco.

                  1. re: felix the hound

                    Did not make it downtown last week but am back at work on Monday, so perhaps I will make it to Cibo. By the time dinner comes around I am out of the city centre and back to suburbia so do not know when I will get to try out Corso.

                    I chuckled at the music comment. Chefs with attitude. Zambri's in Victoria is that way if some poor soul suggests variations.

                    Remember ordering lamb chops rare in a Greek spot [is there any other?] in Jasper and being told, "the Greeks do not eat their lamb rare" to which I responded, "I am not Greek, and I do".

                    Have not tried Hassan's B olognese recipe. I have one, well sort of [smile] that combines about three. Mine uses ground veal, pork and beef and the last time, chicken, just because it was around. I subscribe to the white v. red wine and add milk and cream school of thought. This pot did not turn out too bad from the one bowl I have tried....the rest is in the freezer.

          1. I had a great meal at Vivo on Friday night. I have been wanting to try it for some time and finally had the chance. I would definitely come back again. They also had many of their dishes available on a takeout menu and if I lived closer to Vivo, I would definitely be interested in that option.

            The next time I went, I would definitely like to dine with friends, as there were only two of us and I would have loved to try more.

            To start off, they bring some housemade foccacia, olives, and olive oil (with grated cheese in it) to every table.

            For antipasti, we had beef carpaccio and the grilled caesar salad. I especially liked the salad, as I love grilled romaine.

            For primi, we had gnocchi. It was very soft gnocchi, with a nice, subtle flavour to the overall dish.

            For secondi, we had braciola (stuffed pork chops with bread crumbs, butter, grilled apple, and grilled blood orange) and then a side of roasted beets and carrots.

            For dessert, we had tiramisu. This was the only element of the meal that wasn't a hit for us. There were a few chunks of solid mascarpone throughout in it and overall, it was just fine. There was nothing bad about it, but it just wasn't anything I would order again, as I have enjoyed it more elsewhere.

            1. Ate there over the holiday period with family. Really enjoyed all the dishes, would like to go back, but was a little surprised/disappointed by the prices.

              By doing the dishes "family style" with large portions meant to be shared, they are actually creating less work for themselves than if they had to prepare an individual plate for each diner at the table.

              We did ok and did not feel too gouged after splitting a series of smaller pasta and appetizer dishes, but it's hard for me to see good value in the main dishes...I think the grilled meat platter was $185 if I remember correctly.

              Wine choices felt a bit overpiced as well.