Home | Register | Log In

Venue Review: Vivace Italian Restaurant

First Bite: Italian goes modern at Vivace
(no rating)
Vivace Italian Restaurant
By "Helen Schwab, Restaurant Writer"
The Charlotte Observer

First Bite is a look at a restaurant that has opened recently, based on one visit, not a full-fledged review. (Want to get notes like this as soon as they're posted? Follow me on Twitter: @helenschwab.)

The food: This restaurant in the Metropolitan complex at Charlottetowne Avenue and I-277 near uptown is a second incarnation of a popular modern Italian trattoria that the Urban Food Group opened in Raleigh in 2006. It offers contemporary takes and the classics of regional Italian cooking.

We tried a hearty tagliatelle (ribbon pasta) with braised oxtail, cavallo nero (think Italian kale), caramelized cauliflower and a few slabs of ricotta salata. Salmon, pan-roasted and served amid cauliflower puree and a tapenade of piquillo peppers, proved perfect: small, but $17 - just right for the price.

Four-cheese ravioli didn't impress and arrived coolish, but arancini (fried rice balls, essentially) with goat cheese were lovely, as was a simple Caesar.

Ten-inch pizzas run $10 (look for salty egg with capicola) and pastas $9-$17; five of eight entrees are under $20. Antipasti abound and you can get meat-and-cheese platters for $11-$16.

The look: An airy, two-story open floor plan spiked with huge, orangely translucent light fixtures on the first floor and a wall of wine storage, velvety booths and rustic horizontal woods used as paneling, plus lounging space, two bars and outdoor seating. It's a luxe space for midtown.

The service: Black-clad folks move with alacrity, work together well and find out answers if they don't know them.

Details: Lunch ($7-$13) and dinner ($10-$29) Monday-Saturday; Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and dinner 5-9 p.m., with an intermezzo menu served daily 2:30-5 p.m. 1100 Metropolitan Ave., Building E; 704-370-7755; www.vivacecharlotte.com.

Reviews & Comments
CRITICS REVIEWS
Edit this review Delete this review
Jun 04, 2010 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab, Restaurant Writer

The exterior has an urbane airiness and sparkle perfect for uptown, but the flavor doesn't always extend to the food.

(Full review)
Edit this review Delete this review
(no rating) Dec. 18, 2009 - The Charlotte Observer - Helen Schwab, Restaurant Writer

First Bite is a look at a restaurant that has opened recently, based on one visit, not a full-fledged review.

(Full review)
USER REVIEWS
Jun 11, 2010 - shalomcharlotte
Not for me

I have eaten there 3 times. It's hit or miss at best.
The food is delicious but it has to be a whole package for me.
I booked my small wedding party at Vivace and they could not have cared one bit about me. They wrote nothing down and didn't remember even one detail correctly.
I grew so nervous I cancelled and rebooked at Carpe Diem.
I'm not saying I wouldn't go there again (although I probably won't) but don't trust them with your important occasions.

Jun 11, 2010 - gal1960
Wanted: A new food critic for The Observer

I was perplexed by the review from Helen Schwab. Maybe she went to the Olive Garden instead? It certainly was not Vivace. The food is imaginative and well executed. The service is first-class and the decor is dazzling. It is a restaurant I recommend frequently. I know they will not disappoint. If there is something that needs attention the staff attends to it immediately. They truly want to give the guest a complete dining experience. I do hope the Observer decides to send a different reviewer to the restaurant since this review seems to be the antithesis of not only my experiences but many others also.

Jun 09, 2010 - nyjbr
Helen, you obviously are used to Mama Ricotta's

It is truly sad when the Observer trashes yet another of the greatest new ventures in Charlotte.

My wife is from Italy and we spend alot of time there. Vivace is one of few restaurants that captures the true essence of Italian cooking. Ingredients fresh from the earth and cooked to maximize flavor. I have been there many times, and never have experienced in all my visits what Helen claims to have tasted in one evening.

I hereby offer my services as a reviewer for the Observer. It is clear they need one.

Jun 09, 2010 - carolrothrock
I love Vivace

I just wanted to send a quick note to the restaurant and let them know how much I love the food and service. I have always had great experiences, and tell others to go all the time. The pasta is made in house, which has an amazing freshness. The flavors have always been on the spot.

I actually went to the restaurant on Friday when the review came out. I told managment how upset we were about the review, and they were very humble. I have been to Vivace over 10 times, and plan on going very soon.
You are missing out if you do not try Vivace! You will be hooked too.

Jun 06, 2010 - jessmaggie
You MUST try Vivace.

I'm sad to see such a negative review of a restaurant that I love. Everytime I've dined at vivace, it has been a great experience. The seasonal menu and the excellent wine list are only the beginning. The hostesses, servers and managers are at your beck and call, and it truly seems they would do anything to make your visit to Vivace special. The food has always been delicious, and I love that they have a gluten-free and vegetarian menu in addition to the regular one. This place could easily have a 'too cool for school' impersonal kind of atmosphere (what, with its impressive/swanky decore) but I assure you, it is extremely welcoming. I know that I have many more trips to Vivace in my future, and so do all of the people I recommend to go there!

Jun 06, 2010 - citychic_1981
*highly recommended - delicious food & cool ambiance

Vivace - one of my very favorite places in Charlotte – the menu is not the typical, predictable Italian type…it’s approachably sophisticated, creative & fairly priced. I actually felt compelled to write my own review after reading the critic's puzzling comments about the food... The food there is awesome & homemade cello cocktails are stiff & delicious. As far as apps go…the mussels were garlicy, buttery and perfect for bread-dipping. I could make a meal out of the ricotta and lemon marmalade appetizer with grilled bread - yum. The crispy calamari is also a stand out – it’s topped with fried shreds of lemon & red pepper and is served with a deliciously spicy, creamy sauce (and I’ve also had a Caesar salad topped with calamari at lunch). Brunch there is awesome – they have crab frittatas, a delicious and interesting “salty egg” pizza & their take on eggs Benedict includes tomato hollandaise & Italian cured meat instead of typical Canadian bacon – this, being my favorite brunch dish there…so good. I have my mimosas made with prosecco and also looove the blackberry cello and basil cocktail. I have lunch at Vivace about twice a week and usually order the “seasonal” salad, which is topped with generous piece of well-seasoned, grilled salmon & is tossed with strawberries, hunks of goat cheese and a fabulous lemon dressing. I’ve also had the gorgonzola & short rib Panini, with caramelized onions, and it’s savory and very satisfying. One Friday night, I was offered an amuse bouche tasting of creamy, cheesy polenta with tender shortrib that was quite delicious. The caprese salad there is made with super fresh pesto, balsamic drizzle and mozzarella that’s made there, in their own kitchen. Their pastas are actually quite delicious and aren’t laden with super heavy sauces that would smother their delicate, house-made fresh texture – I actually love the 4 cheese ravioli. The restaurant itself is modern and cool - the nighttime view of the Charlotte skyline from their outdoor patio is amazing. They do get crowded on the weekends so plan accordingly, service will be a slower than usual, so don't be in a rush. Great for: lunch, brunch, special occasion & cocktails with friends. Highly recommended!

(no rating) Jun 05, 2010 - skinniefoodie
Great Experience(s)!

Preamble: I'm a bit of a foodie. There, I've said it. I'm not a snob about it, however. I value the simplicity of a grilled cheese sandwich at home equally as much as I enjoy analyzing the subtleties of flavors in well-aged Champagnes. I worked in the restaurant business for a number of years. Perhaps that makes me more critical, perhaps more sympathetic. I'm sure I've been guilty of both. For that reason, I rarely read, and almost never write restaurant reviews. But this time I felt compelled to offer my perspective. With that being said:
I have dined at Midtown's Vivace a number of times since its opening late last year. I have had experiences there that range from above average to excellent and a recent dinner experience that was better than any other I've had in Charlotte. My first visit there set the tone.
Yes, Vivace means lively. Even if I hadn't known that going in, I would have used that exact word to describe this unique and welcome addition to the Charlotte dining scene.
Even on my first visit to Vivace, I felt like I had found a restaurant that was designed just for me (and perhaps a few friends). After all, this is not the smallest room in town. The hostess, and perhaps a manager, was there to greet me at the door. I bypassed a table in the dining room and decided on a seat at the bar. While they were understandably slow on this Wednesday evening, which is when I've found restaurants to be at their worst, the service was on-point. The bartender was attentive, but didn’t smother me despite the sparse crowd. Per his recommendation, I settled into a fantastic craft beer of some sort from Italy and gave myself the grand tour of the place.
This place is stunning. I recall thinking that this was the most thought out restaurant I'd ever been to. Amazing giant red light fixtures in the dining room are impossible to miss, and yet draw your attention to the wood paneled walls on the opposite side of the room that soften what could otherwise be an overly modern design. In a room like this I expected to hear a collection of Sinatra songs playing faintly in the distance, but was thrilled to hear what I'm certain was a Beck tune followed by Thievery Corporation. The open kitchen was bright and shiny and there was an energy that spilled out of it into the dining room in the same way that fresh baked bread will fill your whole house. I made my way to the upstairs lounge to find a smaller bar and a decent crowd. I noticed a few people walking out onto a terrace of some sort and followed along. I now understood the price point of the condos located in the Metropolitan. There isn’t a better view in or around town. What are you doing here Vivace? You should be in Vegas, or Miami. It's that impressive.
I tried a different beer from the bar upstairs, and was asked if they could add it to the tab I had started downstairs. Wait a minute, I thought. Bartenders are selfish, aren’t they? I guess they’re not here. I took the leather and mirrored elevator back down, took a seat at the bar and picked up a menu and a wine list. I’d been to other restaurants that offered only Italian wines, but this list was more than impressive. I admittedly know less about Italian wines than others, so I engaged the bartender in a little conversation to see what he might be able to suggest. He was of some help, but had a manager come over to answer a few more of my questions. I’m great with that. If you don’t know, find me someone who does. He did without being asked to. I tried a few of the offerings by the glass and settled on a nice red.
Dinner was a simple pizza that night. Perfect size, well cooked, and more than I expected for $10. I sat for a while and watched group after group go on the owner or manager guided tour I had just taken myself. I could see the same oohs and aahs on the faces of other patrons. After the bill was paid, the bartender took my valet ticket outside so my car would be waiting. Details. I would be back for date-night about 2 weeks later.
I will admit that not every dish I’ve had at Vivace has been life changing (though I think the mussels and gnocchi might have been, oh and the gelato shouldn’t be missed). What’s more impressive to me is that this restaurant does whatever it can to right any wrongs. That’s all I can ask for. It never ceases to amaze me how people will stick with their cell phone provider and cable service through years of abuse, but have an absolute fit if a steak comes out medium instead of medium rare. Relax, it’s dinner. There is no such thing as perfection in a restaurant, or any kitchen for that matter. I’ve had dinners at Craft and Alinea that weren’t perfect, and these are regarded as some of the best restaurants in the world. I have been to Vivace about four times since its opening. The manager there knows my name, and the service staff knows what I like. All this after FOUR VISITS! I doubt my physician knows me this well after ten years.
This restaurant is an important addition to a Charlotte dining community that is begging for places that offer something different. I hope that there are more places like this in the future. But if not, that’s ok too.

May 24, 2010 - dar456
well worth

a visit. my wife and i had dinner here a few weeks ago and its definitely on our favorites list now. great food and service and the upstairs lounge is a nice place to have a drink. anyone who doesnt think vivace is the kind of restaurant charlotte needed must own another italian restaurant in town.

Mar 08, 2010 - Sharryn
decor is great, food is sub par

Had a Good Eats meetup here and several people agreed with this write-up. "Great conversation and a awesome group of people! The food, however, was lacking a bit in quality. When the best thing I tasted at an Italian Restaurant was the honey off the meat and cheese platter I will not return. I had the chance to try several different dishes and was not impressed at all. Chef Boyardee comes to mind. Not bad, but not what you expect for the price or venue. The service was also slow, which was surprising due to the lack of other customers.A few of us had to remind the server about a few items ordered as she forgot. I will not dine at Vivace again. There are too many other great( non- chain) Italian Restaurants in Charlotte to settle for sub par. ”

Jan 07, 2010 - ajnsunflowers
Fabulous food, very cool decor

After reading other reviews my family and I wanted to try something new after the multiple Christmas dinners we had all attended. My parents were in from out of town so we ventured to Vivace. It was absolutely fabulous. Everyone's dishes were to die for. We started with the bruschetta, not traditional but with a creamy mascarpone cheese, peppers and tomato topping as well as the calamari - crispy and perfectly done. I had the scallops which were seared to perfection while others enjoyed the smoked chicken and artichoke pizza, bolognese, 4-cheese ravioli and the hangar steak/braised short rib which literally melted in your mouth. Everyone raved about their dishes as well as each dessert we tried. Topped off evening upstairs in bar/lounge and ventured onto the patio with heaters to see the beautiful Charlotte skyline. Waitress/service was excellent. She was extremely helpful navigating my dad on the wine menu as well as all of us around the dinner menu. Prices were extremely reasonable for such great food and portions. I would highly recommend this. Great place for pizza and salads or a full meal.

Dec 18, 2009 - brookside007
Very Cool Vibe - Great Food

First the place is stunning - very open, beautiful woodwork. The upstairs bar/lounge with couches and an open wall to the skyline is a cool place to hang out. The food is great. The pizza is my favorite. The salads are great. I would bet this place becomes a hot spot in town.

Dec 13, 2009 - dkcharl01
New but already one of the best

Add this place to the list of top tier restaurants in the Queen City. Vivace fills the previously unoccupied upscale-modern Italian niche nicely. The restuarant is part of a restaurant group that’s new to Charlotte: The Urban Food Group, from Raleigh.
The restaurant is gorgeous: spacious, modern with clean lines but very comfortable.

We ordered several items…all were excellent. Fresh, well prepared, nicely presented, and Yummy! Smoked chicken and artichoke pizza: very flat, crispy crust, with bechamel and wild mushrooms. Ricotta and Lemon Marmellatta: served with grilled garlic crostini. Smoked chicken and spinach agnollotti: with garlic cream sauce, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Pan seared tirgger fish with crab-potato ravioli. Desert: Black and white Tiramisu…not traditional but excellent!

The place seems well managed with excellent service. The prices were very reasonable…clearly they thought about their price points as they opened in the middle of this Great Recession.

In short, I have not been this excited about a Charlotte restuarant for a while. Highly recommended!

Nov 21, 2009 - Peter312
Awesome Italian food.........

If you like real Italian food, then Vivace is the perfect spot to go. I went with a group of four this past weekend. Friendly staff, great atmosphere and perfect service. The Italian food was made from local ingredients, which only makes it more delicious. We ordered a variety of dishes and could not decide which was the best; all were delicious! The restaurant decor was unlike anything I've seen in Charlotte, including the outdoor dining and bar areas.
Pricing is very reasonable, which makes the experience even more enjoyable. This place is my new favorite Italian restaurant, and I highly recommend.


Zvents - Discover things to do