Monday, March 28, 2011

Via Vite Electrifies Fountain Square

It was Saturday night and I knew what that most likely meant.  Yep, I was right.  The guys made arrangements to take Lisa out for a second celebration of her birthday.  These two really like to make a celebration last!  I, on the other paw, was more than content to stay at home and relax.

      Is any restaurant closer to the geographical heart of Cincinnati than Via Vite?  It sits adjacent to the fountain in Fountain Square and, with two storey windows, it has the best view of city’s epicenter.  It is a sleek, elegant space and the architectural line is reflected in the china, bar area, open kitchen, and in many of the dishes themselves.  It can be cold in winter because of the windows, but it’s the kind of place where you can see all types of people (local celebrities, tourists, downtown regulars, the hoi polloi, and us) and its variety of menus encourages a prolonged vibrancy in the square.  The booths and the banquettes on the perimeter of the main floor give the best view of both the restaurant and its surroundings.

The Dining Room
The Bar and Open Stairwell

      We were there to celebrate Lisa’s birthday and, although it’s an appropriate place for a special meal, it’s also the type of space that is comfortable for a quick bite after a show or a drink at its gorgeous bar.  Lisa ordered the baby Arugula Salad with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, pine nuts, and citronette (an Italian version of oil and lemon juice, which is the basis for the classic French dressing).  It was light and vibrant.  Neil asked for the Yellow Pepper Soup, which is served at lunch, but not dinner, and our server kindly found two portions.  It’s a lovely soup with a bright saffron-ochre hue, a light texture, and a taste that reflects sweet, citrus, and smoky notes. 

Baby Arugula Salad
with Parmigiano reggiano
Yellow Pepper Soup

      For her entrée, Lisa had the Penne Bolognese and a veal meatball.  The penne and ravioli are not house-made, but it was tender.  It was a lightly spiced sauce.   Neil’s choice was the Gnocchi with Vodka sauce.  This is also a tomato based sauce and richer than the Bolognese.  The gnocchi were perfect.  They had the consistency and taste of a very tender chicken breast or veal, rather than potato.  Though the veal meatball was delicious, there was a noticeable difference in its size from Lisa’s.  I had the bright idea of ordering two appetizers instead of an entrée.  This wasn’t so intelligent because the portions are all large at Via Vite.  The Cioppino was terrific, filled with squid, various fish, and three generous slices of crostini.  (However, remember, this was the second bowl of soup I was eating).  It was complexly flavored with red pepper, the fruitiness of tomatoes, and a little salt. The straw that broke the camel’s proverbial back was the Eggplant Parmigiana.  It’s a good size with about three slices of eggplant, but they’re cooked to a point of softness where they don’t hold their shape.  That wasn’t a problem, but the intense tomato sauce was due to its acidity.  There wasn’t any cheese to neutralize it so the flavor was razor sharp to my palette and I paid for it later with a long evening of tremendous burps.  

Penne with Meat Sauce
alla Bolognese and Veal Meatball
Potato Gnocchi with Vodka Tomato Sauce
Cioppino and Eggplant Parmigiano

      All three desserts were excellent.  Lisa had the Vanilla Bean Risotto Pudding with local honey and pistachios.  It’s a cleanly flavored dish, served over a globe of ice water, and noticeably lighter than most other rice puddings I’ve tasted.  Neil’s choice was the Chocolate Millefoglie with dark chocolate mousse and espresso whipped cream.  It’s a big plate with two slabs of mousse that retain their shape and large, many layered wafers (the millefoglie, also known as mille feuille in French cooking).  Neil loved it.  I took our server’s advice and had the Bongo – profiteroles with a heavy whipped cream (almost a light ice-cream) and accompanied by a chocolate sauce poured by the server.  The choux pastry was sturdy, but tender beneath the crust.  

Lisa's Birthday Vanilla Bean Risotto Pudding
Chocolate Millefoglie
Bongo, the Evening's Featured Dessert

      Service was excellent and our server immediately handled a major spill by a young guest sitting at the next table after taking our dessert order.  We arrived for our 6:30 reservation to a warm greeting by the hostess and departed at 8:15. The restaurant was close to full the entire time, but the bar was packed beginning at 8:00.  This is a hopping destination with very good food.  One caveat for the imbiber: there are few wine choices by the glass and the bottle selections, while large, are also pricey.  An option would be Sunday and Monday evenings when some bottled wines are offered at 50% off the list price.


1 comment:

Jan's Funny Farm said...

Well, you managed to make us hungry. The food sounds delish. Happy belated birthday celebration.