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Where to Eat: Dinner at Vivo Italian Kitchen at Universal Orlando

Written by
Published: June 17, 2014 at 7:53 PM

ORLANDO — Monday night, Vivo Italian Kitchen opened its doors to the public at Universal Orlando's CityWalk.

Vivo Italian Kitchen

Vivo is aimed at theme park foodies, with a open kitchen featuring a chef preparing fresh pasta from scratch, as well as hand-pulled mozzarella. There's even a mirror above prep station, to allow diners that "cooking show" overhead shot of your chef at work.

Vivo's kitchen

It's not often one gets the chance to visit a restaurant on its opening night. At least there's no chance that the waiter will ask, "So, have you dined with us before?" We saw no opening jitters, though, as the waitstaff handled our meal flawlessly throughout.

For our dinner, Brian opted for the Margherita pizza [$11.95], with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil.

Margherita pizza

Vivo nailed the top of the pizza, with the bright tomatoes and fragrant basil contrasting with the rich mozzarella. But I found the crust a bit thick underneath, though, too much like an American pizza parlor pie than the crisp, blistered Neapolitan crust that makes for a perfect Margherita. It's nice to have a bit of a chew on the edges of a Margherita pizza, but the bottom shouldn't distract from the top. Those edges were fine here — it just seemed a bit thick on the bottom of the crust. A little more attention to that crust here could have made this a killer pizza, so let's hope that this is an element that improves after the opening night.

For my dinner, I chose the Squid Ink Seafood pasta [$16.95] with sauteed shrimp, clams and squid over black squid-ink pasta in a white wine and butter sauce.

Squid Ink Seafood

The pasta takes the spotlight here, with the seafood playing a supporting role, which is appropriate at this price point. When seafood pastas approach $30, I expect more of a seafood mixed grill served over noodles, but at $17, I'm happy with the pasta taking the lead. Especially as tasty a selection as this squid-ink pasta. Freshly made, with a garlicky kick, the noodles paired nicely with the briny clams and shrimp. I finished the whole thing, thoroughly satisfied.

Universal Orlando scheduled a media event at CityWalk for Tuesday night, so I held off on posting this review until tonight, figuring that we might get a chance to sample some other offerings from Vivo during the media event. And, sure enough, we did. I put together a sample plate with a taste of Vivo's Gnocchi with sauteed rapini tomato and fennel creme sauce [upper left, $12.95 for an entree portion on the regular menu], Fiochetti stuffed with gorgonzola and pear, in a brown butter sage sauce [lower left, $12.95 for the entree], Risotto with braised short rib, mushrooms and asparagus [on the right, $26.95 for the entree], In the middle was the Razor clam in garlic, white wine and butter, which I did not find on Vivo's regular menu.

Vivo entrees sampler

Brian and I both like the short rib, and I also liked the Fiochetti, though I didn't prefer it to my squid ink pasta from the night before. The long Razor clam's a challenge to eat gracefully (understatement, there), but it offers a delightful, briny taste, accented by the white wine and butter.

Vivo also set out a variety of appetizers, including here the Salami, Mozzarella, Calabrese and Prosciutto from the Antipasto plate [$11.95],

Antipasto

and these Fontina-stuffed risotto balls from the Duo Fritto [$8.50]. (Eggplant is the other item on that selection.)

Fontina-stuffed risotto balls

The accompanying roasted red pepper aioli helped add some welcomed spice to what is otherwise, let's face it, a fried cheese ball. But a darned tasty one, nevertheless.

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on June 18, 2014 at 3:53 AM
The portion size looks a bit light, but the food seems tasty... except for that Squid Ink pasta and Razor clam. I know you said they were both good, but those ink noodles just do not look right, and that razor clam.... ewwww.... I like seafood, but that slug just looks a bit too...um...chewy and squishy (and ornate) for my palate.

Gotta love me some good gnocchi, and with a fennel creme (or cream?) sauce even! Nice!

For the pizza, how big was it? (Even though I hate to compare anything to Pizza Hut I will do it for perspective) Was it Personal Pan size, or larger?

The cold cuts.... that's probably where it is at. Do they sell a hoagie style sandwich or just offer the appetizer pictured? And does it come with bread? If so, how was the bread?

Where's dessert? You did send one picture of a dessert platter in your Twitter feed, so don't hold out on us! ;)

From Robert Niles on June 18, 2014 at 4:06 AM
I'd say the pizza was about 12". Let's put it this way: the 13-year-old boy at my table did not finish it. ;^) Certainly enough for two.
From Brian Emery on June 18, 2014 at 8:30 AM
Looks awesome, Thanks for posting.

By the Way, Your son has the best name...

"You have chosen wisely" - Line From a movie....

From Tim Hillman on June 18, 2014 at 8:04 AM
I'm sitting here eating a PB&J and potato chips for lunch and just drooling over the food in the article. It looks awesome! And yes, James, I would love to try the razor clam and the squid ink noodles.

As soon as the summer crowds die down, I've got to schedule a trip to Universal Orlando and Citywalk!

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