Where to Eat: Dinner at Vivo Italian Kitchen at Universal Orlando
Published: June 17, 2014 at 7:53 PM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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],
and these Fontina-stuffed risotto balls from the Duo Fritto [$8.50]. (Eggplant is the other item on that selection.)
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.