Benvenuto, VIVO Italian Kitchen! This restaurant of delicious Italian cuisine opened on August 21, 2018 in CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood. VIVO plans to have a grand opening sometime in October. This modern-meets-Tuscan kitchen will have guests wanting to come back for more! Their Expo Kitchen allows guests to see chefs preparing pizzas and taking out piping hot ones from their stone oven.
As soon as guests walk in they will feel like they walked into a modern-style kitchen, with attributes that pay homage to Italian culture and cooking items that you would find in your Italian grandmother’s house, or what Italians would call “la casa di nonna.” Whisk chandeliers, steam basket lamps, and even the beautiful Tuscan pottery are what makes this place interesting to even want to walk in. The bar seating is a great place for digital lovers to plug in, grab a drink, have dinner, and get back out to the park. Under the bar top guests can find a place to hang their bags and outlets with USB ports to recharge their electronics while they enjoy their meal. This really stood out for me, being a purse carrier — it is at times bothersome to find a place to put your bags without worrying if it is going to be stolen.
We felt like we were being welcomed into the family right as we walked in! The hostess was warm and courteous, and even wait staff smiled as we walked to our table. Our server was helpful when we asked her about the menu and what items I could have because of my gluten allergy. She was honest and said that she would bring out the chef, since food items were still being changed around and she didn’t want to tell me something wrong. I appreciated the honesty. The executive chef came out and was very helpful explaining which items were gluten-free. He let me know that there was pizza dough and pasta that will be offered, but for the time being (when we ate there) there would not be pasta available. He let me know that he was not pleased with the gluten-free pasta the managers chose and will be ordering Barilla pasta instead. He advised that they would be getting the new pasta in by the 27th of August.
Food and Drinks
The restaurant has a full service bar and a fair variety of wines. We decided to try a couple drinks from the Italian-inspired signature cocktails menu. I tried the Margarita Fresca, which is Casa Mexico Silver Tequila, agave, blood orange puree, fresh lime, and basil. Our server was right, it was amazing and not sweet like I thought it would be. It had a pleasant taste of tequila with hints of basil and tartness from the blood orange. Unfortunately, be prepared for the elimination of cocktail straws at this location. This plan will be rolling throughout the Universal Studios property in the near future. Our server mentioned that they might be getting paper straws, which will be request only.
Tyler tried the Old Fashioned Classico which has Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Angostura Bitters, and a sugar cube, with muddled brandied cherries. How is this Italian? Not sure. The different take on the classic Old Fashioned made this drink a little sweeter with the muddled cherries but left a rich bourbon taste on the palate as it was sipped.
Let’s bring on the food! A fresh loaf of warm country white bread graced our table and was accompanied by an old Italian staple, olive oil. The bread was crunchy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. Just add a little salt to the olive-oil-soaked bread and you have the perfect bite!
Calamari– with sweet peppers, lemon garlic aioli and marinara.
Tender pieces of squid coated in well-seasoned flour are deep fried to delicate crunchy perfection and topped with a drizzle of lemon garlic aioli. This plate was full of this delectable tender calamari, and just calamari. Some places like to add fried vegetables to make the dish look fuller, but this place, you get what you paid for. A grilled lemon with sweet caramelized juice is off to the side ready to be used, which you most certainly should. There was nothing negative that could be said about this dish. It was amazing. The only critique we could really say was they should have left the aioli on the side so the calamari could remain crispy.
Tuscan Kale & White Bean Soup– with sweet fennel sausage, cannellini beans, lacinato kale, and Grana Padano. (Naturally gluten-free)
This soup was everything I thought it would be and more! The portion alone was astonishing. For only $6, this hearty soup portion is a great deal. Every bite was full of flavor, with the end notes of the Grana Padano cheese and a hint of red pepper from the sausage. Cannellini beans are not the only bean that can be found in this steaming bowl of delightful goodness; red beans and garbanzo beans can be found in there too!
Pizza e Pasta
Fennel & Sausage– with cream, mozzarella, ricotta, sweet fennel sausage, red onions, scallions. (Made with gluten-free crust)
When they served the pizza, I thought they served it with a steak knife because it was tucked under the pizza crust. When I removed it, it was a pair of scissors! I have never been to a place where they gave me scissors to cut my pizza. I thought it was the neatest idea! If I was a kid, I would want to eat this pizza all the time and cut it in different shapes. The pizza crust was not my favorite and tasted underdone in the middle. The sausage topping was very minimal — when the name of the pizza is Fennel & Sausage, I expect it to have more sausage with the taste of fennel. Sadly, the pizza was bland, but we quickly fixed that with some salt and red chili peppers. The pizza was covered in ricotta cheese that overshadowed the key ingredient, which was the sausage.
Lasagna– Bolognese, mozzarella, Parmesan, bechamel sauce.
Layered evenly throughout, the lasagna was a knockout! The portion alone was huge! The rich meaty Bolognese was evenly layered with sheets of pasta, topped with bechamel sauce, and to finish off the dish was a perfect golden brown crust of Parmesan cheese.
Chef Becky’s Lemon Vasi– lemon mousse, fresh cream, strawberry compote, Italian cookie crumble. (Modification for gluten allergy: no cookie crumble)
The Executive Chef actually brought out my dessert to let me know what they modified for me. I was grateful that he did. The chef also brought a plate of rosemary-pine nut cookies that were supposed to be crumbled on top so Tyler could try them. The lemon mousse was velvety and smooth, with just enough lemon flavor to coat the palate but not too much to overwhelm it. The strawberry compote added just enough sweetness to counteract the tart lemon. When eaten with the cookie it will add much more depth, by adding a crunch factor with buttery notes from the shortbread.
Tiramisu– espresso soaked ladyfingers, marinated berries, mascarpone mousse, rosemary-pine nut cookies.
A perfect ending to a perfect meal was the tiramisu — espresso-bathed ladyfingers accompanied with a creamy rich decadent mascarpone mousse dusted with cocoa. Simple and delicious. The plate was not accompanied with the berries or the cookie as described in the menu. The chef let us know the plating would be different than what was in the menu. The rich strong taste of the espresso counterbalances the sweetness from the ladyfingers and creaminess from the mascarpone mousse. The mousse was white and fluffy and seemed to be made without egg yolks like the traditional tiramisu. It seemed like it was made simply with whipped cream and mascarpone.
What a perfect addition to the restaurants in CityWalk. This area was in desperate need of a new eating location. The prices are shockingly inexpensive for being next to a theme park and right next door to Hollywood. We would have expected the menu prices to be higher and we are ecstatic to have another restaurant from the CityWalk at Universal Studios Orlando!