Vivo 53 is a relatively new Italian restaurant in Bellevue, Washington. It’s next to Bellevue Square and makes a great lunch spot for shoppers. It’s a comfortable place where you could grab a quick bite, or have a longer, more drawn out meal, depending on how you order. Pizza and salad makes for a quicker meal while the many side dishes create a family style dinner with lots of variety perfect for long conversations.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have Italian heritage and was brought up partly on home-made Italian food. Non-Americanized Italian cuisine is much lighter and filled with vegetables. For many years I found Italian restaurant food so heavy that, apart from pizza, I avoided it entirely. Until recently, that is, as I’m discovering a lot of Italian restaurants now have lighter food options. Vivo 53 is one such place, but we did not eat light this day. We wanted to check out what the restaurant had to offer, and we found that to be quite a bit.
The atmosphere is open concept and spacious. Exposed pipes, high ceilings and cement floors make for a relaxed industrial vibe. You can see the wood fired oven from everywhere in the restaurant, and there is a brick wall behind the bar that says L’AMORE È. I bet it looks cooler at night with the flames from the oven dancing around.
Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, but the menu looked so good, we wanted to try a bunch of stuff. We sampled a variety of dishes family style. It’s always fun for me to find vegetables on a menu and there are many veggie side dishes to choose from. Gluten free and vegan options are available.
We tried the Fried Brussel Sprouts and Seared Cauliflower. Sprouts are gluten free and crisp with a kick of spice while the Cauliflower is meaty with lemon and garlic yoghurt sauce. A little too much garlic there for my taste, but the lemon and cauliflower combo was good. The Burrata (fresh mozzarella) was big and delicious served with ripe on-the-vine tomatoes, olive oil and Kalamata olives. My friend had clams and raved about them. Portions are surprisingly large and our half orders seemed huge to me.
Apparently, the name Vivo 53 comes from the number of times it took to perfect their artisan pizza dough. If you only order one thing, I would say get the pizza. Or the Rigatoni. It’s a hard call actually. I almost always order Margherita pie at pizza joints because I like the subtle flavors and simplicity. Vivo 53’s Margherita Pizza did not disappoint. I’d recommend it and order it again. The sauce is just right–light and with the perfect amount of sweetness and not too much garlic. Crust is thin and crisp on the bottom with a generous outer crust that is good with salad. The center has just the right chewiness.
In a restaurant, I rarely order pasta. It’s something I can make easily at home just the way I like it, and I like a very simple sauce that has simmered for a long time. Vivo 53’s Rigatoni is excellent. The presentation is fabulous, served up in a bright red Le Cruset pot. See how creamy that looks? The sauce was rich and tangy, and not over-flavored with garlic and herbs. That is what kills a restaurant sauce for me–too many ingredients and too much garlic. This was perfect. I could only muster two bites, but I wished I had room for more. If you are in need of comfort food–the Rigatoni is spot on.
When I was a kid and the family was making home made pizza, it was customary to use leftover dough to make Pizza Frittes. It’s just fried pizza dough dusted with sugar or cinnamon sugar. Kids love it. That is what the Torta Fritta reminded me of, but it’s served with chocolate sauce.
Vivo 53, Bellevue Bottom Line
Vivo 53 is in a great location for people shopping at Bellevue Square. You can park for free right in the parking garage for Bellevue Square. Vivo 53 is just outside on of the garage doors, so if it is raining, you won’t get wet. Food is Italian comfort food and wood fire pizza with lots of vegetable side-dish options. I especially loved the Margherita Pizza and Rigatoni. Combined with a salad (we liked the arugula based Panzanella), you’ve got a delicious meal. Find out more on Vivo’s website.
- We were guests of Vivo 53, opinions are my own.