It’s sort of strange to say, but walking into Vivace Ristorante was like getting a really big hug from someone’s nonna. Sure, the coldness of the night might have added to that feeling when we walked into the warm, softly-lit dining room, but when you have multiple servers turn around to greet you – smiling – all saying Welcome, you just can’t help but feel like you’ve come home!
And in saying that, this night was truly like coming home! Whenever we go to a Zomato Meetup (thanks Alicia!), rubbing elbows and talking ‘shop’ with some of Melbourne’s top foodies, bloggers, and Instagrammers (is that a term?), it never fails to bring out the warm fuzzies! That and perhaps a little bit of tech envy as we fumbled around taking photos on our Ancient iPhone amid the fancy-pants professional cameras in tow from our peers! ha!
As we walked into Vivace’s beautifully decorated function room for our meetup, we were greeted by a bulbous flute of La Gioiosa Prosecco ‘Extra Dry’ bubbly which travelled alllllll the way from Valdobbiadene, Italy just to land in a happy place: our tummies. Crisp and easy to drink, it was a perfect party starter sip!
This elegant – yet trendy – establishment, whose 12 years of existence can be largely credited to a strong and loyal local clientele, has been led by its highly experienced, passionate owner Chris along side Italian-native Head Chef David, who puts a little twist on Italian classic dishes. Speaking of dishes, to whet our appetites, a barrage of Antipasti plates soon hit the huge table. Like a flat Christmas tree, the table lit up with some of the ‘house faves’ such as olives and bread, thin-moist slivers of tasty prosciutto, fresh oysters, and delicious arancini balls filled with all good things vegetarian.
My selected entree was Pumpkin, Goat’s Cheese & Potato Croquettes, lovingly placed on a big white plate with crushed amaretti, beetroot, and a quenelle of caper & raisin. I must admit, I could only taste raisin in that mixture, but when Hubby Bear tried, he could taste the caper. My caper/raisin radar must have been a bit off that night! ha! Suffice to say, the mixture of crunch and salt from the croquettes melded seamlessly with the sharpness of the beetroot and the sweetness of the quenelle mixture.
At this point we’d like to introduce you to our sommelier for the evening. Like a knowledgeable wisp from the magical land of wine, Andrew from Oatley Fine Wines popped into our dining room as we began eating our entrees (which he then continued to do at the start of each succeeding course) to explain the perfectly matched wine for this course: the 2016 Hancock And Hancock Fiano (McLaren Vale, SA)
As he sipped his wine, Hubby was nearly dancing in his chair when the immaculately cooked Caramelised Scallops sitting on a cauliflower purée was placed in front of him. Lovingly balanced with bits of chorizo, chopped shallots, fennel & fresh coriander, this dish hit every good spot for him. A definite must try when you go!
The next course, a pasta dish, was paired up with the smooth Hancock And Hancock 2016 Grenache Rose (McLaren Vale, SA). The lighter wine was a good accompaniment to the Cappellaci di Porri e Patate…..
Yeah, there’s a whole lot more to that name, but I feel strange typing that much in a language I don’t know, so let’s just agree on this: basically, it was pasta parcel, nearly the size of the plate, filled with potato & leek, then topped with blue cheese sauce, truffle and roasted walnuts. Can you say taste explosion? Indeed full of flavour, this course was probably a bit too much cheese on cheese for our pallets. But if the thought of gorgonzola + blue cheese makes you smile, then go for this dish for sure!
Like Bobbsey Twins who just wanna always match, we both had the same mains of Porcini & Wild Mushroom Risotto. Incredibly generous in size and injected with all the right flavours with those mushies, leeks, spinach and bursts of Grana Padano, this was – as Hubby Bear has declared – the best dish of the night. There was also a side of delicious Garlic & Rosemary Potatoes floating about the table, too.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to another Andrew, the owner Chris’s cousin, who spearheaded the service with his graceful movements about the room. He had an intuition of knowing when to chime in and when to ‘let be’, as well as an uncanny ability to keep our glasses full and faces smiling. What an asset he must be to any evening here!
Now, we have something very serious to put forward. We’d like to challenge the person who coined “you can have too much of a good thing” because as we sipped our third Hancock And Hancock wine during our main course, a 2014 Shiraz Grenache (McLaren Vale, SA), we both declared that was the best wine of the evening! Too much of a good thing here? Not possible! Its beautiful aroma, bold yet not brash flavour, and smoothness as we swallowed was just enough good to be repeated throughout the rest of the evening! Ahhhhhhhh…..
The 2009 Craigmoor Botrytis (Mudgee, NSW) was matched up with our decadent desserts; and while the wine itself was refreshingly sweet, combining it with our final course was like powering up a 2-year old with a litre of cordial and a suitcase of pixie stix – it was just a little too much sweetness in one go for us.
In saying that, because of its richness, we shared the Dark Belgian Chocolate Fondant with fig. It was well contrasted with a couple of slivers of fresh citrus and a popcorn-tasting marscapone and honey gelato. You naughty dessert lovers must try this!
We also got stuck into the smooth and softly sweet Panna Cotta with white chocolate & vanilla – this was a more delicate dessert, and better suited for us. Mixing each globby spoonful with fresh strawberries, the balsamic reduction, and pistachio praline was a pleasant surprise, too. We both enjoyed the delicacy yet boldness of this dish!
So what’s the verdict? Clearly, 12 years and still going strong, the Vivace team know what they’re doing. From finding the right balance between established elegance and family warmth and friendliness; to hitting a home run with tradition meets progress in their cuisine – it’s no wonder locals pack this place out all the time: they don’t want to share it with with rest of us. Well, to those Brightonites we say: Too bad! The cat’s outta the bag! Melbourne, put Vivace on your radar! Be it for a casual meal or a special occasion, let these guys take care of you!
Value: N/A – we dined as guests for a Zomato Meetup; thanks Alicia!!
Address: 317 Bay Street, Brighton Victoria 3186, Australia
Tip! If you want to host a larger party than 18pax, they have a bigger function room upstairs that comfortably holds 40 people! Woot! Time to paaah-tay!