By | January 13, 2006

565 Lincoln Ave
Bellevue, PA 15202-3531
(412) 761-9500
Wed-Sat 5-9:30

Just wait until you eat here! This restaurant is so good, so careful about its preparation, so attuned to their ingredients – it is a special find indeed. It is very expensive, BYOB, and out in the middle of nowhere-land, but the food AND atmosphere are both so wonderful you’ll wish you were very very rich so that you could come here every night.

Hot date? Vivo.
Big client? Vivo.
Mother’s Day? Vivo.
Anniversary? Vivo.
Graduation? Vivo.

This place is THE place to celebrate big occasions or to impress anyone. You will not be disappointed (except possibly by the enormous tab you will receive at the end).

So first of all, the place is very comfortable to be in, with great big chairs and plenty of space to move around. The menu changes daily, and the wait staff delivers it to you orally. There is no written menu, you just listen to the tantalizing options and go from there. The slightly strange format of the meal is as follows: appetizer, pasta, entrée, salad, dessert. Notice that the salad comes after the entrée. It is meant as a refreshing end to the meal, but you can ask for it to be delivered before the entrée if you like. I think the story behind it has something to do with the owner’s childhood rather than some Italian tradition, which I think is kind of sweet.

Now, the food itself is superior to your everyday counterpart. For instance, I thought I knew all about scallops. No no – turns out I didn’t know squat about scallops. Seriously, I’ve never had such a good scallop in my life. Sure, there is only one on the plate, but it is giant and sooo good. If there is a scallop appetizer on your visit, I highly recommend that you get it, just to see what I mean. The oysters we’ve had here were also very good. The key thing is that they only use ingredients that are absolutely fresh. So, they don’t just have unnamed oysters all the time – they have oysters from a specific place when they get access to good oysters from that place and only then. They dressed the oysters on this particular occasion with a bit of fiery oil and other spices that perfectly suited the oyster’s flavor. You see, they are very thoughtful about all aspects of their dishes.

The pasta and salad courses are included in the entrée. The pasta course is simple – a pasta shape in an earthy tomato sauce. The entrée menu is all meat (though you may be able to request vegetarian – I have never tried), and focuses on fish, chicken, beef, veal, and lamb. The dishes are accompanied by some kind of simply prepared potatoes and a fresh vegetable medley, and even that is frackin’ delicious! The salad course is frilly greens with a light dressing – very fresh, simple, and peppery. The entire meal is just the right amount of food so I feel perfectly sated by the end, and it is also prepared healthfully so I never feel guilty for eating every last thing on my plates.

Now, this could be the end of the meal, but the desserts here are so very good that I can never pass up the chance to eat one. My absolute favorite is the Whipped Mascarpone dessert, which is both rich and creamy and usually topped with fresh berries of some kind. It is luscious and – it’s cheese! Who doesn’t love cheese! (Actually, I did once meet someone who didn’t like cheese, but he could never quite tell me why – must be some kind of childhood trauma). Reed got a yummy gelato once that came swimming in espresso – that was pretty good as well! I also hear tell that they have a good chocolate cake, the kind that comes warm with the gooey chocolate center, but don’t take my word for it.

And one last thing: the owner/chef guy comes out to your table to make sure you liked your meal. He’ll talk to you about how he’s trying a new thing with the monkfish, or about the neighborhood. He’s completely unpretentious, but also very knowledgeable. It is rare to find such an attentive owner and chef in the impersonal, chain-laden restaurant landscape of today. Even if you don’t particularly like being interrupted at your table, you will appreciate his friendly stop.

All in all, the food here is so wonderful and well thought out that I feel as lucky as a judge on Iron Chef. No longer do I have to envy their access to innovative, special, one-time-only concoctions expertly crafted into the ultimate taste experience. I can just drive out to the North Hills and get it myself.

The fishes in the dishes are delicious
Mascarpone dessert

Make reservations and don’t forget to bring wine!! Also, some Friday’s they have a live band playing (sign up for their newsletter to find out when the performances are). Vivo DOES take cards now (many of the reviews online list it as cash only).

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