Italian Delight at Vivo Chicago

My wife & I were overdue for a date night so dinner and a few drinks on the town seemed like a great idea. We met up at Sweetwater Tavern & Grill for a cocktail and then it was off to Vivo for some fun with Italian.

It was my first visit to the restaurant and it is visually appealing. The outside has a small patio covered by a black awning and the dark wood and colors continue indoors giving the place a very romantic atmosphere- perfect for a date! We were greeted immediately at the host stand and sat on a nice table for two.

Our waiter, Erik, was the type which is best- knowledgeable about theCalamari Grigliati menu and wine list, timely and friendly, plus he knew the best times to approach. We started off with some drinks, heard the specials and ordered the Calamari Grigliati- woodoven grilled calamari served with mixed greens and tomato. The squid was very fresh and flavorful and instead of having grill char like most places, had a wood-smoked flavor. It was also served with a slightly spicy tomato sauce which added to the experience.

Il Bagatto SuperTuscanThe wine list is a decent size and half is comprised of Italian wines from up and down the boot. I knew more tomatoes were in my future, so I decided to go with a Toscana wine, as they have bright acidity, good weight, fruit and tannins to pair with. I selected Fattoria Scopone's Il Bagatto from Montalcino, a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Sangiovese and 10% Petit Verdot. It was everything I'd hoped for plus dark fruit, oak spice, vanilla and a great length. I'd do that again.

Next I was trying a special appetizer, Burrata with fresh fruits and speck, salt cured and cold smoked Italian ham. The Burrata was very creamy and delicious, and the fruit paired nicely. My wife tried the Arugula salad which she also enjoyed. The thing I liked about this course is there was no hurry to take our main dish order or hurry us along with our meal.

We did eventually move on and I decided on the Linguine Nere alla Polpa di Granchio which is freshLinguine e Granchio octopus ink infused pasta combined with lump crab meat and spicy tomato sauce. The pasta was soft with homemade texture and the sauce had such fresh crab aroma and flavor- definitely a good dish. My wife tried the Gnocchi Gratinati which were soft and full of cheese richness. Both dishes had us leaving with leftovers.

We finished up with some espresso and an after-dinner drink, but we received the wrong chocolate dessert- a double chocolate cake which ended up being a nice end to the meal. We finished our drinks on a tour upstairs in their private party space which can be rented year-round for special events. There's a full bar, TVs, colorful furniture- a real classy place to have a party.

Overall, I was very pleased with the evening. Overall a very romantic spot with great service, good food, different wine selections, clean bathrooms and nice private event space. Like I said before, I'd do that again.

*Disclosure- this meal was compliments of Vivo Restaurant.

Italian Vintage Report 2009

I love keeping myself and all of you updated on the growing seasons throughout the world.  It not only gives us a clue to the quality of the upcoming wine vintage, but also a window to the world of wine.  My latest report comes from the Gaja Family Wine Estates, and their three properties in Italy: one in Piedmont and two in Tuscany.

The Gaja Family is very optimistic about this vintage, and have rated the harvest as good to excellent.  Here is more info on the weather conditions and harvest dates:

  • Piedmont: A very snowy winter kept the vines dormant, followed by rain in the spring and beginning of June.  This kept the soil moist, and helped it to recover it's balance from the drought of the past few years.  Summer was hot and sunny, giving the grapes much needed warmth and light.  September experienced some rain, and the harvest was warm and sunny.  Harvest lasted from September 2, beginning with Sauvignon Blanc, and lasted until October 9, with Nebbiolo from the Sori Tildin and Sperss vineyards.

  • Montalcino: Two phases of weather trends.  First, alot of rain in the spring with a cold May and June beginning.  Secondly, the temperatures rose, and additional rain in July swelled the Sangiovese grapes.  Dryness came and the heat continued.  The Sirocco wind rushed over the vineyard for about 10 days in August, keeping the grapes dry and cool.  Tramontana winds in September brought the grapes to a dry harvest, held from September 24 to October 10.

  • Bolgheri: Very rainy winter and early spring led to a hot, dry summer.  Harvest began on September 3 with Merlot.  Both Merlot and Syrah were completely harvested by September 18.  Five days of rain began followed by a northern wind, which helped dry the grapes.  This occurrence restored balance to the grapes after the hot, dry summer.  Harvest resumed with Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, and concluded on October 7.

Here is a general assessment from Angelo and Gaia Gaja:

"The quality of the grapes this vintage has been optimal.  Even though it's still too early to predict the quality of the wine they will produce, some are speculating that due to the top quality of the 2009 vintage in several European countries and in California, 2009 could be a repeat of the success of the 1990 vintage."

This bolds well for the world of wine, especially Barbaresco, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, and Super Tuscans.  Now, while it will be over two years until we see most of these wines released, make sure to keep the 2009 vintage on your radar, as this is sure to offer some tasty wine.  I know I can't wait!