138 E 74th St
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 717-4700
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Area: East 70s
Ladies who lunch and the occassional gentleman enjoy Cucina Vivolo, a UES spot with a nice assortment of Panini, salads, soups and other fare with some main dishes to round out the menu. This is not a place to visit if you're in a hurry as the service can be incredibly slow but it's been a neighborhood fave for some time and the food is reliable.
CV offers in-house dining in a room that's on the spare side but never noisy thanks to well-spaced tables. There is also delivery, take-out and a catering service that is probably a good bet as prices are modest given the quality and the location. Once a waiter turns up, water is poured and a fairly crisp dinner roll with a generous dollop of butter is produced.
The menu offers many Italianate salads; over the years, I've eaten tons of the curried chicken laced with red and green peppers and spiked with mango chutney served atop a bed of arugula. This is also available as a sandwich. Frutti de Mari brings calamari, conch, octopus and celery in a lemony dressing also over arugula or you can indulge in the smoked salmon with goat cheese on toast points with red onions. "Build your own salad" is a recent addition offering a variety of greens that can be combined with any four ingredients from a decent list--a high end version of the ubiquitous salad bars.
Two fresh soups are always on the menu as is a large selection of pastas. For $13,50 you can enjoy the rigatoni with pork meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce or whole wheat penne with veggies. The most expensive pasta ($15) is linguini with clam sauce; on the lower end are Manicotti stuffed with ricotta; really good lasagna and a hearty eggplant rollatine.
Want a Panini? These are amply sized and served on crusty bread. Piemonte brings brie cheese, ham, tomato and greens with honey mustard; Basilicata is smoked turkey and pancetta along with tomato and avocado. I'm partial to the Salsiccia in which sausage snuggles up to green and red peppers and onions, all bathed in a plum tomato sauce.
If you're here for dinner and want something more substantial, chicken is represented by Pollo Valdostana, a breast stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella for $16; Arrabiata with filets sautéed with sausage and potatoes as well as spicy peppers and a classic Parmagiana among other variants. You can choose from several veal dishes--all a bargain at $19.50 including one with mushrooms and Marsala and a very pleasant Vittello Picatta with white wine and capers. Even fish eaters are taken care of with shrimp over linguini in a spicy sauce (spicy here means a hint--this is the Upper East, after all); filet of sole and a baked salmon served with mustard sauce.
You can enjoy alcohol if wine is your tipple, choosing from a modest but perfectly adequate selection. Cucina Vivolo (not to be confused with the "regular", pricier and more elegant restaurant next door called simply "Vivolo") is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 to 8:30. All major credit cards accepted.
Review By: Mari Gold