Eat Here: Vivo Taste, IslingtonBy Angelica Malin
Introducing: VIVO Taste, the latest opening to join a densely concentrated cluster of great restaurants in Islington. With Middle-Eastern Gallipoli, Ottolenghi, loud American burger joint Five Guys and the cosy Afghan Kitchen all within a 5 minute walk of each other, Upper Street in Islington is the perfect destination for the gastronomically curious.
Vivo Taste Review: The Lowdown
Amidst all the competition, VIVO Taste has sprung up – offering regional, Italian cuisine and its owners certainly aren’t daunted by the task at hand: “Competition is great for us,” says co-owner Ben, “it makes us better and stronger”. First-time restaurateurs, brothers Ben and Will are two Italophiles have been travelling across Italy since they were children and are hoping to bring some inspiration and a slice of La Dolce Vita to North London.
Vivo Taste Review: The Food
“In Italy, the quality of casual dining is great, whereas in the UK, it’s often overlooked,” says Will. Heavily influenced by the Aperitivo trend that’s taken off across Italy, VIVO maintains a focus on food but sets a very casual, and distinctly Milanese, atmosphere. Look around and you’ll see and plenty of glasses containing Spritzes, negronis and wines from their exclusively Italian list dotted around the chic rooftop and the long, communal table.
The head chef Alessandro De Sanctis is stubbornly true to Italian roots; he even frowns upon the use of curly parsley over the traditional Italian flat leaf variety. His take on Caesar salad uses in-season young asparagus tips and crisp Romaine lettuce, dressed lightly to celebrate the freshness of the vegetables. So strong is his dedication to the cause that the produce used in VIVO’s kitchen includes special varieties of Neapolitan broccoli, imported directly from Italy. Italian black rice (al dente, of course) is used in the lunchtime favourite, the Salmon and Venere black rice salad, which encapsulates the taste of spring – deliciously soft pink fish covers a bed of squid-ink black rice, with roasted tomatoes and fresh rocket finishing off a simple, winning dish, which is perfect for sharing.
Sharing seems to be the operative word at VIVO. The cosiness of the place encourages some friendly mingling, whether you’re tucking into slices of velvety-rich Buffalo mozzarella and juicy Sicilian tomatoes from the salad Caprese, or tackling a antipasti platter with generous layers of prosciutto and mortadella tucked inside a plethora of creamy Italian cheeses and hearty green olives. Whether it’s a slice of their traditional Roman pizzas – rectangular pizzas made with a slightly thicker base – or a few slices of the cakes that are made daily, the quality of the food here is unbelievably high.
Vivo Taste Review: The Vibe
Beating Wahaca (who now sulk from a few doors down) to the premise and building a whole new roof terrace, Will and Ben have injected the Italian eatery with its own air of flair and panache. Style often comes at premium in London (and a whiff of too much D&G on the waiters) but thankfully, that’s not the case here – no air, no graces, just great and simple food.
Vivo Taste Review: Our Verdict
Will and Ben successfully marry a laidback mix-and-match dining experience with some exceptionally well-cooked food. Add to that excellent service and a formidable group of baristas and mixologists, and the end result is a slick café-cum-restaurant-cum-bar which is altogether very difficult to leave.
Plenty have tried and failed to conquer the foodie mecca (including one Alan Yau), but only a few have succeeded. So I say salute and wish VIVO good health – here’s to hoping that it leaves a sweet taste with Islingtonites and stays on ‘Supper Street’ for years to come.