As temperatures start to rise in the city so does the need to be outside. Maybe it’s because some’ve been cooped up inside for the better part of six months. Or maybe it’s because Pittsburgh is even more beautiful in the warmer months.
But when the urge hits to get outside, it’s hard to ignore. That urge is especially hard to ignore around dinnertime. Dining al fresco as the sun slowly sets can be magical. Warm breezes combined with delicious food and drink often create unforgettable experiences with memories that last a lifetime.
One restaurant that has a perfect environment to create your very own unforgettable experiences is Vivo Kitchen in Sewickley.
Led by chef, owner and self-proclaimed dishwasher Sam DiBattista, Vivo Kitchen has one of the best outdoor spaces around. Step through the iron gates and be prepared to get lost in ambiance that creates great conversation and simple Italian food. The tranquil space is surrounded by tall, ornamental grass and a weathered wood-slatted fence and softly lit by large floating globes. It’s so relaxing that, if you replaced the tables with Buddhist statues, you’d have the beginnings of a meditation garden.
The inside of Vivo Kitchen is equally relaxing and minimal. The white walls only display a few pieces of art. Large, warehouse-style windows let natural light pour in. A small, marble bar is a focal point in the far corner. Tiny circular cork tiles glimmer like new pennies. And Edison bulbs dangle from the dark ceiling. The space as a whole is like that person in high school who was sexy without ever trying. Swoon.
Depending on where you’re seated, you might get to see DiBattista and team in action as a portion of the dining room looks directly into the kitchen. If not, DiBattista will most likely make an appearance tableside to say hello and to make sure you’re enjoying yourself, a touch that isn’t necessary, but certainly appreciated.
The menu at Vivo Kitchen is also minimal, filling only the front of one page. It is heavily dependent on what happens to be fresh and available — a quality I fully support. Vivo Kitchen purveys a lot of its produce like beets, red cabbage, ramps and more from farms belonging to the Penn’s Corner Alliance. So, while some of the menu items are staples, the toppings that finish the dish are what change.
Starters vary greatly from butter lettuce with walnuts, cheese and truffle vinaigrette to frog legs with roasted tomatoes, to garlicky escargot.
One starter recommended by our waitress was the burrata. Resembling a pizza in its presentation, the generous piece of salty burrata sat on top a bed of peppery arugula and fresh tomatoes and was picture-perfect. It tasted as good as it looked.
Another starter to consider is the pork and chèvre meatballs doused in a spicy red-pepper sauce. The two meatballs were delicate and easily broke apart with a fork. And the red-pepper sauce is hard to stop eating, despite having the kind of heat that hits every part of the tongue.
The main course selections vary greatly, including a wide variety of proteins like pork, beef, duck, elk, lamb and chicken. So, if you’re a vegetarian and seafood isn’t included in your diet, you’re limited to four choices from the starter menu. One surprising menu discovery: The lack of pasta. Cue the collective sigh from the carb lovers.
Some main course considerations include the Wagyu flat-iron steak and crispy whole chicken. The steak was intensely flavorful, juicy and a big enough portion for two. (Sharing will cost you $12 to split a plate with your dining companion.) The purple cabbage and spiced apple accompaniment� was less successful and seemed to better suit a fall preparation. The chicken was juicier than expected and the skin crackled with each bite. It was by far the standout dish of the night.
Unlike the food menu, the wine menu reads like a book. Eight pages of selections from champagne to cabernet sauvignon are available by the bottle. Various red and white wines are available by the glass. There’s a small beer and signature cocktail menu, too.
Keeping with the warm-weather spirit, I sampled a Moscow Mule and the Spring Sangria. Sadly, the classic mule fell flat, literally. The housemade ginger beer didn’t have the sharp, crisp snap associated with a mule, and the sangria was almost too sweet to enjoy.
The meal ended on a high note with dessert. As a peanut-butter fanatic, I couldn’t pass up the peanut butter fudge creme brulee. Once tapping through the caramelized-sugar topping, the smooth peanut butter and thin layer of fudge is a combo made in taste-bud heaven.
Other current choices include flourless chocolate decadent cake, salted caramel cheesecake and gelato, all made in-house.
So, as the temperatures start to rise and you’re on the hunt for a magical night outside under the stars, consider Vivo Kitchen, a little slice of tranquility in the heart of Sewickley.