2009 Top Ten Restaurants: Via Vite #4
“2009 Top Ten Restaurants: Via Vite #4”
It's one of the fundamental rules for food writing: Observe what others are eating. If you notice a majority of diners with a particular dish, order it. During one of my 2008 visits to Via Vite, I was struck by how many people were gnawing on huge lamb shanks. It was a very carnal scene, and naturally, I was intrigued. Several menus in the city feature similar shanks, but none of them touch Via Vite's. Perhaps it's the depth of flavor, or the infinite tenderness of the meat. Maybe it's the obscenely good polenta underneath: creamy and plush with Parmigiano-Reggiano and rivulets of lamb jus. It's sexy, and I'm mad about it. With its Fountain Square spot, contemporary glass and steel structure, curvaceous details, and bursts of color, Via Vite could get by on good looks and location alone. That the Pietoso family (owners of Nicola's) has ignored simply meeting the standard in favor of working to create a trattoria that buzzes with energy and exemplary dishes is a testament to their solid restaurant genes and passion for food. Thick spears of grilled asparagus, roasted beets, and smears of goat cheese doused in cracked pepper is a salad I often turn to for lunch. For a light dinner, an airy tumble of arugula dressed in lemon and olive oil, tossed with toasted pine nuts and shards of Parmigiano, and paired with a bowl of dark, wickedly seasoned cioppino, is an unbeatable combination for its nuance and intensity. With a steak and side of sautéed mushrooms in brown butter vinaigrette, it's culinary feng shui. Cocktails, late night, lunch, and dinner are all delivered, for the most part, with warm and comfortably hip service (the outdoor deck is most susceptible to inconsistency), making Via Vite an axis both of the city center's rechristening and the restaurant community at large.