Sometimes it is best to keep things simple. Sometimes you just want good food without the fuss and that is exactly what Vivo are doing over in Islington.
So The Handbook headed to the all-day café and bakery to try out the Italian food. We wanted to sit on the roof terrace, a hidden space at the back which would have been beautiful had the sun been shining but the strong winds and chill in the air meant that we settled for downstairs; the upside being that we didn’t have to grapple with our trays of food up the stairs, the downside being that we were constantly tempted to order more and more as the food called at us from the display.
Downstairs things are kept simple in neutral colours of stone and tan, there are walls of exposed white stones and dark wood too. A small bar stands at one end and down the middle runs a long communal table and there a few high tables built into the wall if you are looking for something a little more intimate. Running the length of the restaurant is a canteen/deli style bar with all the food on display which is divided into hot dishes, salads, meats and cheeses, puddings, the bakery and pizza. It’s simple you choose what you want, they dish it up, hand it to you on a tray and you take it back to the table. What isn’t so simple is choosing what you want to eat because we were tempted by everything so what did we do? Tried as much as possible of course.
We started with a selection of salads, our favourite being a salmon and black venere rice salad with oven roast tomatoes and rocket; salted almonds added an interesting texture to the potato salad and pomegranates went well with stracciatella (a milder version of a mozzarella). Alongside this we also tried the Pizza Boscaiola, a simple pizza of mushrooms and a smoky Tuscan sausage, on a thick soft crust.
Moving onto the main course we had Pollo alla Romana, a chicken breast with Parma ham and sage in a white wine sauce, we were told that the sauce had liquorice flavours which we were a little dubious about, however if there was liquorice in the sauce then we could not taste it, which honestly I was a little relieved by. We also tried the beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce and whilst the sauce was full of flavour, the meatballs despite looking as if they had been seasoned with herbs did not stand out quite so well, it was more texture than taste.
What really won us over was their lasagna, what can only be described as a hunk of pasta and tomato was served up onto our plate and to begin with we were wondering where the white cheese sauce was that we are so accustomed to, it looked a little dry. How wrong we were. The tomato was so rich, the pasta perfectly cooked and the mince was leagues ahead of the meat balls. We fought for the last mouthful. All we can say is that if you visit Vivo you must it order it. Promise?
To finish we kept things traditional with a Cannolo alla Siciliana. The simple Sicilian dessert is made of crisp pastry tubes lined with chocolate and filled with a sweet cream and crystallized fruit. Although the pastry was a little tough to break the cream was sinfuly light so that we could eat the whole thing without feeling any guilt in indulging at all.
With its authentic, home-style approach to Italian cooking and a menu full of simple but well cooked dishes, Vivo is one not to be missed. Work in the area? Then they do takeaway options too, so office lunches need never be dull again. Just remember one thing, get the lasagna.