February 8th, 2017
Ice District has not been kind to all businesses – the day that I attended a preview of a new restaurant in the neighbourhood was the same day that Transcend Coffee announced that they would be shuttering their Mercer Warehouse location. Still, optimism abounds in the area, with no less than new three restaurants now open, or poised to open, within two blocks of the arena this month. Baijiu and Bundok are the newest additions, soon to be joined by Vivo Ristorante’s Downtown outpost.
Located just west of Rogers Place, Vivo’s new two-story location will host three concepts under one roof. Two are new to the Vivo brand – Vivo Taverna will feature more casual small plates, while Vivo Pizzeria will offer sit-down and take-out pizza options. Upstairs, Vivo will be replicating the family-style Italian fine dining concept they’ve successfully operated on the city’s west end for more than five years.
Last week, Vivo still couldn’t confirm a firm opening date due to permitting challenges, but they hope to launch the second floor restaurant this month. The Taverna and Pizzeria will follow in the weeks to come.
I was a little embarrassed to admit that this was my first proper introduction to Vivo. I had seen the owners at the City Market picking up produce from a number of farmers on different occasions, so knew that they invested in our local food systems, and should have made an effort to support them in turn. Chef Michael Hassall highlighted many producers throughout the meal, including Pine Haven Farms, Doef’s Greenhouses, and Gull Valley Greenhouses.
We were fortunate to be able to sample many dishes from their menu, mirroring the family-style way diners are encouraged to embrace at Vivo. Most serving sizes were reduced to allow us to taste the breadth of the kitchen’s offerings.
No doubt my favourite dish of the evening was one of the simplest, but one that really let the ingredients shine. The caprese salad, a mix of Doef’s and Gull Valley tomatoes, sunflower seed-based pesto, and bufala mozzarella, was full of bright flavours and moves the idea of “seasonal vegetables” forward.
The Vivo signature pasta – a house-made fettuccine – was as rich and savoury as promised. Made up of a combination of four cheeses (bufala mozzarella, fior di latte, parmigiano reggiano, grana padano), butter and garlic, it was comforting and delicious.
The ricotta gnocchi was on the lighter side, pan-fried and served with walnut butter and sprinkled with pecorino, crispy sage and orange zest. The pillowy-soft gnocchi, paired with the orange, could have doubled as dessert for me.
The land, sea, and air platter was made for families who can’t decide between proteins, featuring chicken, beef tenderloin, and sea bass. Of the three, I enjoyed the sea bass, garnished with fennel, orange, and a fresh drizzle of grapefruit.
Vivo will be a welcome addition to Edmonton’s Downtown – not only are they adding several new dining options to the neighbourhood, but they’re choosing to highlight local producers in the process. Thanks again to the staff for hosting a wonderful evening!
10505 106 Street