Lunch of the Weak: Vivo Italian Restaurant
Whenever I see a restaurant that doesn’t start out offering a buffet add one, it’s a huge red flag.
Then again, a buffet — in my opinion — is never a great sign anyway. Yes, it’s been done well, most notably by Primo’s d’Italia, but it is a red flag.
So when I saw the “now offering a buffet” banner go up at Vivo Italian Restaurant, 12305 N Rockwell Ave., I was concerned.
Partially because in the handful of visits I’ve paid there, the food has been uneven at best. And it certainly doesn’t have the atmosphere — unless you count the louder-and-proud playlist of Neil Sedaka singing pop standards — to deflect from mediocre offerings.
Parked in an old Godfather’s Pizza, ownership cleaned the place up, added a bar and painted the walls white. Really white. Really, really white. It feels a little like a waiting room at a really hip dentist’s office.
The new buffet has a little bit of everything — with the emphasis on a little bit.
There was a single pan of pizza, half sausage the other Canadian bacon. Not a large pizza, not even a medium. Clearly, a small. The remanining entrees were many but, again, small. It’s as if they’re not expecting much of a crowd. That said, I was glad for the wide variety: canneloni, lasagna, sausage and peppers, meatballs in red sauce, chicken alfredo, artichoke chicken and egg rolls.
Yes, egg rolls. There also was stir-fried rice.
The salad bar was simple, offering iceberg lettuce, pasta salad and the typical accoutrements of an understated smorgasbord of this type.
The buffet is only $6.99, but I think I would’ve rather spent that seven bucks on Primo’s Presto lunch or Caffe Pranzo‘s Take a Load off We’re Gonna Be Here Awhile Lunch.
Other than the pizza, nothing was terrible. As I walked away from the buffet, I noticed a single cook in the kitchen. The lights were out and he was gazing from his perch in the service window, his elbows resting where fresh dishes of pasta should’ve been and his hands clasped around his cheeks. This dude looked really, really bored. I took one last look at the food on the buffet and felt like I was standing next to the guy.
In fairness, I have eaten Italian food at a rate over the last two weeks that would’ve made the late Dom Deluise girlishly squeak with pride. Perhaps I need a break. I say that because my second favorite part of the lunch were the egg rolls. My favorite? Neil Sedaka’s understated interpretation of “Mack the Knife.”
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