If you’re in the Arundel Mills area, whether for gambling, business, or shopping, take a detour to the Arundel Hotel. On the SouthEast corner, bottom floor, sits Vivo Italian Kitchen.
Listen, this isn't your local Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill.
Let me tell you what not to expect:
If that's what you want, drive two minutes down the road and you can find it. What you’ll get at Vivo is a mid-range restaurant, not too upscale, not sweat pants-casual but comfortable. Comfortable like what you'd wear at a nontraditional non-denomination church that promotes "come as you are" (within reason).
On a Thursday night at 7pm, the bar and kitchen are buzzing. It's busy and lively inside with the competing sounds of dishes, chatter, and overhead televisions. However, it’s not crazy.
A glass of any of the 22 wine varietals will take your mind off of things, just in case.
Vivo, Italian for “I live”, feels almost like an oddity in the cookie-cutter restaurant culture that you'll find in the Arundel Mills area. Business-wise, it's hard to say if that's a good or bad thing. It can go either way.
If local residents aren’t open-minded and prefer to patronize run of the mill spots with below average dishes, it could be tough for the restaurant. However, if Vivo manages to pull in enough of the surrounding government crowd, hotel guests, and a healthy percent of local neighbors, it should do just fine.
House-made pastas and appetizers like their A-grade spinach arancini balls with its’ crispy crust and moist rice, a dish that's easy to get wrong, should be enough to earn Vivo a healthy dose of repeat customers.
But the vibe is nothing like what New York-born restaurateur George Korten is used to. "In Long Island you get a sense of the customers. Here everyone is from everywhere. I'm not used to that...we're still trying to find our way."
The challenge is that the Arundel Mills area is a young neighborhood. The mall is barely 20 years old and the surrounding housing even younger. In addition, it’s a transient area. People come and go. The community aspect that so many of us New Yorkers are accustomed to, neighborhoods where people have lived 50+ years, just doesn't exist here.
But I’m confident Vivo will find its' way. The food is definitely not the problem.
Cheeses like the taleggio, provolone and gorgonzola are rich and matched well with my blend of Syrah, Ganache, and Merlot. My entree, the lobster and shrimp bucatini that I gifted to my husband, was rich and deliciously dense. Although I ordered an individual serving, having had the appetizers, wine, and bread, it was enough for two.
The bucatini was weighty and substantial - the perfect soaking agent for a decadent cream sauce. Don't expect five pieces of lobster and shrimp - the portion was generous.
Vivo Italian’s open kitchen setting adds to the restaurant’s lively atmosphere.
Take a peak inside and you’ll see the brick-oven stove fired up to make its’ next crispy crust pizza. The fresh mozzarella on our margherita complemented the other ingredients well. Thankfully, not salty and the perfect elasticity.
All of Vivo’s house-made pastas, except for the hand-made gnocchi, are created on an imported, super-charged machine. Their paper thin prosciutto slides gracefully down the razor sharp blades of the resident slicing machine. And the industrial mixer stands authoritatively on the floor, waiting to whip up its’ next batch of batter for moist pastry items like the olive oil cake.
Vivo has a lot to offer for the crowd that gets it - the one that is loyal, plants roots, and gets a great neighborhood spot in return.