Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Vivace (Raleigh)


Zeb A
 Share

Recommended Posts

We have been on a roll, with two new restaurant visits in two weeks, both of which were very successful.

This past Friday, we went to Vivace, the new Italian restaurant in North Hills, brought to us by the Urban Food Group (ie, the folks responsible for Frazier's and Porter's).

The restaurant is just one week old, but the buzz is strong. Having heard numerous people at work rave about Vivace, we decided to give it a try and were very impressed. The place was jumping on Friday night. The restaurant space is pretty impressive. read about it here. Better yet, the food was great. Standout selections that we tried included, the Ribollita (less thick than the traditional version, but very tasty), caprese salad, a risotto, and fresh paparadelle. Our selections weren't very exotic, but we saw quite a few more options that we'd like to try on a return visit.

Prices were about $5-8 for appetizers and $12 (pasta) to $28 (steak) for entrees. (That''s from memory--I apologize for any inaccuracies, but I think that is about right.)

Definitely worth a visit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

I hit Vivace for lunch, and this place will be a big hit for a long time to come. First, it's a great space where all the pretty people will want to hang out. Second, the chef is very talented. Jeremy Sabo came out and talked to our table a couple of times, probably because we ordered so much for two people. We ordered their salumi and cheese plate, which had some great homemade fig mostardo (I think it was fig), honey still in the comb, and an amazing selection of olives and almonds (they had some citrus element added to them). Cheeses were intelligent, and served with some great bread, I was quite pleased. A simple bowl of mussels steamed with wine, garlic and tomatoes had a depth of flavor I haven't had in ages. This dish alone showed me the chef really knows his chops. I had a pasta dish with smoked chicken (dark meat, for once -- thank god at that!), very earthy mushrooms, and sun dried tomatoes. I rarely enjoy sun dried tomatoes, but they really helped cut through the richness of this dish. I wish he'd substitute half the cream with chicken stock, but that's a minor complaint. My friend had a chicken saltimbocca panino, and he raved about it.

This place is happening, and if you don't grab reservations for the weekend nights days in advance, you'll be out of luck. As the chef told me, it doesn't hurt that on the weekends, all the beautiful women show up, too!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Had a nice supper there on Friday night as well. I think the place is still ironing out a few kinks but nothing that wouldn't be expected of any restaurant just opening up.

From my understanding after talking to the hostess, the place only makes reservations for half of the dining room so it can still accomodate walk up traffic. This was good because we were walk up traffic.

I liked the wine selection which was reasonable and varied and ended up with a bottle of sangiovese/syrah that was not too overwhelming. The water being served in the glass bottles was another good touch.

Ordered the mussels, a pizza margharita, spring risotto and a ceaser salad. The mussels and salad really stood out. the bivalves and the sardines were very fresh and worked well with their respective dishes.

the pizza was the only (slight) let down and i think that is because our taste buds were overworked by the time it came out. The basil was fresh and the tomatoes were good, but it seemed like chopped up sun dried tomatoes were also added to the pizza which seemed to through the taste off a bit...anyway, no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater since i agree with Varmint and ZebA that this was a great addition to the North Hills North development.

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
Link to comment
Share on other sites

.....

This place is happening, and if you don't grab reservations for the weekend nights days in advance, you'll be out of luck.  As the chef told me, it doesn't hurt that on the weekends, all the beautiful women show up, too!

Thanks for this last bit of info.....nothing turns us off like going to a place which is the place-to-see/be-seen du jour, where most of the customers don't give a rat's a$$ about the quality of the food. I did in fact try to make Sat. reservations a couple weeks ago but they were booked solid. We'll be sure to try it on a week night.

CBHall

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was very excited about this place opening as we are big fans of Frazier's and Porter's, so we made reservations for last night (our 10 year anniversary). I must say I was a bit disappointed. The place is beautiful, no doubt. I loved the outside seating and bar area particuarly. The dining room is very nice, but I felt that the tables were WAY too close together. I felt very crowded in. Given the crowded feel and the fact that the noise bounced around the high ceilings so you could barely hear (the aging ear problem again) I found the dining room a bit uncomfortable, which I must say got the evening off to a rocky start. I ordered a bellini to make it better, which helped.

The food was good, but I guess I was expecting more. I got the gnocchi appetizer which was very good. It was nice to have gnocchi not smothered in sauce, but just pan fried with a little oil and mushrooms, etc. Very good. But the entree was not great. I got the chicken saltimbocca, which may have been a bad choice, but I was not in the mood for pasta or red meat, and, oddly, don't prefer swordfish or monkfish, which were the two fish choices. The chicken was well cooked and tender, but rather bland. Had proscuitto and fontina, but the flavor of neither came through. All I could taste was sage...at least I think it was sage. There was a line of ground spice in the middle that was a little too overwhelming for me and in some bites turned my stomach a bit.

Ben had the monkfish wrapped in pancetta, which he pronounced "pretty good".

Neither of us got dessert as nothing appealed to us (I just don't get how people can want to eat panna cotta anyway). We went to Baskin Robbins for dessert, since they have lemon custard now and lemon custard might possibly be the single most perfect ice cream ever, so the evening ended well.

I could definately see going back and sitting outside for drinks and snacks (I love mostarda, but did'nt want to get the meats and cheese that go with them last night). I would also like to try sitting at the kitchen bar and maybe ordering better by seeing what looks good. It is a beautiful place, so I hope it makes it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's my take on our first visit to Vivace this past Sunday evening:

There are indeed still some kinks.....altho I'd made reservations, hostess tried to seat us with "Hall party of six"---a group of strangers---and said she had no record of "Hall party of two" (as we were leaving, she informed us that she'd found our reservation). This was no problem since the place wasn't full but it could have been a big problem on a busier night. And altho the place wasn't full, it was very noisy; can't imagine how it sounds with a full house. Since the nasty weather was atypical of an early May evening, outdoor dining was out of the question. Next time we'd like to try sitting outside.

I was all set to order one of their limoncello cocktails when here came a server bearing two glasses of pinot grigio for us, compliments of another diner who's been our server many times at one of our favorite downtown restaurants. No way could I have handled both the wine and another drink...pitiful huh? :rolleyes: So I'll try the limoncello next time.

I'd reviewed the above posts before we went and advised hub about the mussels and the meat & cheese plate, but he went with the Caesar salad and was pleased with his choice. Good marks also for my salad with beets, fennel, gorgonzola and walnuts. We both thought the bread was a little lame--thinly sliced whole wheat...not what you'd expect in an Italian restaurant; a heartier bread would have been more to my liking. Bread hog that I am, even I didn't find it particularly tempting; it was saved by the accompanying bean spread. Although I told hub that VaNC wasn't bowled over with the chicken saltimbocca, he ordered it anyway....and later said he should have listened to me (ha, that's often the case!). Said it wasn't bad, just not quite what he was expecting, said it could have been "tastier". I played it safe and ordered the pappardelle with Bolognese sauce and had no complaints. No dessert for us; we didn't even see the menu. Hub ordered coffee, which arrived at a very lukewarm temp; he was pleased the replacement however.

Considering the Jennings' three restaurants, I think I prefer Frazier's....but the jury's still out on Vivace. We'll return....I'm already thinking maybe I'll make a meal out of 2-3 appetizers and skip the entree.

CBHall

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Kevin and Stacey Jennings are the Triangle's best restaurateurs. It's as simple as that. The Jennings, through their company Urban Food Group, run three Raleigh restaurants: Frazier's, Porter's City Tavern, and their newest establishment, Vivace. Located in the northern part of North Hills shopping district, Vivace is an ultra-hip and stylish Italian trattoria featuring creative foods, a great wine service and all at affordable prices. In fact, Vivace is yet another example that the Jennings are the masters of high value dining.

First, the buzz: Vivace opened nearly 6 months ago, and this place is as popular as ever. Whether it's lunch or dinner, the place will be packed. Now, the restaurant may not be as full with twenty-somethings, replaced by some of the Carolina Country Club gray-hair set, but that just means that the word about the place has reached the masses.

Second, the food: Jeremy Sabo and his sous chef Dave Zoller have put together a super menu of original and seasonal creations that focus on flavor and value. Starting with house baked bread served with a great white bean puree (rather than butter or olive oil), the restaurant makes a strong impression. Other appetizers include fantastic mussels, tuna carpaccio (more like seared tuna sashimi), and a salad of prosciutto, roasted peaches and gorgonzola. My personal favorite is the meat plate that is served with several types of salumi, Italian cheese, roasted olives, almonds, honeycomb, and Zoller's kick-ass mostarda. Of course, the slightly piquant red bell pepper gazpacho is another great dish, with just enough bite to counter the acidity of this variation of the traditional summer soup (yeah, so what if they serve a Spanish soup in an Italian restaurant).

Of course, when I refer to appetizers, I wasn't talking about the pastas and risotti. I've tried three: a wonderful agnolotti with smoked chicken thigh pieces (yes, dark meat rules) and sun-dried tomato, a flavorful summer risotto with crab, asparagus, corn and a bit too much truffle oil, and the killer pasta: short rib raviolini with tomatoes, arugula, horseradish cream and just an appropriate whiff of truffle oil. Damn, the short ribs in this pasta really rocked my world!

Entrees, which with one exception range in price from 16 to 20 dollars, are also top-notch. North Carolina tuna is grilled over wood, leaving a barely perceptible smokiness, and is served with fregola (referred to on the menu as Sardinian couscous) and summer vegetables, all with a peperonata vinaigrette. The combination of the flavors and textures is perfect making this the main course of the evening. A friend had a beef double header of wood-grilled strip steak and braised short rib – yes, short ribs in August. This dish worked, even though it was nearly 90 degrees outside, as the contrast in the flavors and textures between the beef was remarkable. Served with marscapone potatoes and pole beans, I'd gladly eat that for my red meat fix any day. But that's not what I ordered – I had the pancetta stuffed veal breast. Ho hum, just another dish that I often whip up for myself at home. Served with pan seared ricotta gnocchi, asparagus, and a marsala sauce, this is another plate of comfort food that takes care of what ails you.

For dessert, I had the best panna cotta I've ever eaten in my life. Now, I'm not a big fan of panna cotta, but the milky saffron version served at Vivace with a fig and peach compote forever changed the way I'll think of this glorified Italian Jello. Unfortunately, at that point I had so much wine that I can't recall what others had for dessert!

But let me talk about the wine! Vivace's new general manager and sommelier, Scott Luetgenau, has been on the job for about a month. I got to know Luetgenau when he served in a similar capacity at Enoteca Vin, and his knowledge of wine and passion to teach others made a wine ignoramus like me want to keep returning to learn more. One day, however, Luetgenau left Vin to take over the cellars at Il Palio in Chapel Hill's Siena Hotel. That was a sad day for me when I arrived at Vin and heard he had left. But Luetgenau wised up, returned to Raleigh, and has been given the task of completely overhauling the Vivace wine list. Folks, you're in for a treat. I can't recall the specifics of each wine, other than to recall that we had some varietals that are not commonplace. We had a Riesling blend from the Alto Adige, which was a perfect starter. We also had a fairly young Barbera d'Asti, that Luetgenau quickly decanted for us, opening it up tremendously. An Aglianico was a perfect complement to my veal breast – this ancient grape is one that should not be ignored. We also tried a stellar Greco. Frankly, the wines were superb, as was the wine service. If you want a special treat, just let Scott Luetgenau take care of you. You won't be disappointed.

Yes, the food is great, the wine is fantastic and the buzz remains strong. But what makes me want to come back to Vivace – or Frazier's or Porter's for that matter – is the value. I believe we were comped the bottle of Greco, simply because Luetgenau wanted to try it himself. Other than that, we paid full freight. Most of us had three courses. A couple had four (yes, I was one of those!). Our tab before tax and tip averaged out to 60 bucks a head. To eat and drink at this level for that price is astonishing to me, but that's exactly what Kevin and Stacy Jennings have successfully accomplished in this market.

Now we'll just have to wait until they find the right location for a French brasserie, their next dream project!!!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...