Many Happy Returns at Vivace

The midtown favorite gets back to basics with the return of Chef Meredith Antunez



Vivace’s stylish, contemporary dining room is a popular destination for business meals and celebratory dinners.

Taylor Mathis

When Vivace opened in 2009, Meredith Antunez was in the kitchen, working as a sous chef. Eventually she leveraged her passion for the job and experience cooking Italian food (including a stint in the kitchen at celebrity chef Todd English’s Olives in Boston) into a promotion to executive chef. Her influence—a focus on classic Italian ingredients and simple layers of flavor—plus the restaurant’s great location, skyline views, and chic, contemporary décor helped make Vivace a trendy new destination for business dinners and birthday celebrations, and the downstairs bar a nightlife hotspot.

Then, last summer, Antunez left to start a family, just as the restaurant’s novelty started to fade. The menu, which changes seasonally, drifted toward more elaborate dishes. And although the restaurant remained busy, Kevin and Stacey Jennings, owners of the restaurant’s parent company, Urban Food Group, felt like something was missing. This summer, they asked Antunez to come back, and she happily agreed, returning to the kitchen in June.

“It was sort of like coming home, and yet there were definitely some changes,” says Antunez. “God, I’m so happy to be back.”

Antunez’s first seasonal menu, which was updated in July (and will likely change again in October), reveals the return of a few favorites, including the smoked chicken ravioli ($18), served with sun-dried tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, and a Madeira crema. A few classics are here to stay, including Vivace’s take on the caprese ($6), which uses oven-roasted tomatoes instead of the raw variety, and flavorful veal saltimbocca ($22), served on a bed of delicate fresh mozzarella ravioli, porcinis, and a tangy, decadent-yet-light brown-butter sauce.

Those favorites are balanced with a selection of tempting new dishes, including the gnocchi antipasto ($9), which pairs Vivace’s airy, fluffy house-made gnocchi with shrimp, fatty pancetta, wilted arugula, and a corn crema; and the pan-roasted pork chop ($21), a large portion that arrives with slightly spicy grilled sausage, an al dente vegetable ciambotta, and Parmesan polenta, topped with fried capers. Antunez’s focus on the details shows in smaller changes, too, such as the pre-meal bread basket, which now offers a thick, herby focaccia with a tender center.

Happily, the servers here are as knowledgeable—and unpretentious—as ever. They know their way around the exclusively Italian wine list, which is organized by categories and region. On a weeknight in August, the restaurant was bustling. A birthday party—complete with balloons and a sign—crowded around the tables in the upstairs dining room. The patios were full of people taking in sunset views of the city’s skyline and the manicured midtown greenway below. Diners tapped their neighbors on the shoulders and asked, “What is that you’re eating?” It was a spirited scene, and fitting for a restaurant named Vivace, Italian for “lively.”

For an expansive restaurant that opened in the midst of a recession, it was also a hopeful scene. The je ne sais quoi the Jenningses felt their restaurant was missing? It’s back.

More »Related Stories

Earl's Grocery in Elizabeth

A new bodega from the owners of Carpe Diem

Guest Post From Asheville: Beer Like Grandma Used To Make

Asheville's Wicked Weed Brewery has a Milk & Cookies Stout, but wouldn't you rather have milk and cookies instead?

Mountain Cabin Cuisine: Stone Mountain Grill

This restauant offers familiar cuisine in a warm atmosphere

Baku Brings New Flavors to SouthPark

A trendy and traditional take on Japanese cuisine

We invite your responses and discussion. Please refrain from personal attacks, profanity, commercial promotion, or non sequiturs.

Add your comment:

Newsletters

Stay up-to-date on all things Charlotte by signing up for our newsletters. Learn more by clicking here.

Newsletter Sign Up
Email*
 

Blogs »


Dine & Dish

News, Notes, and Gossip About the Charlotte Restaurant Scene

Try This: Scallops at Nan & Byron's

Scallops are tricky, but Nan & Byron's new-ish head chef Kyle Rhodes has come up with a way to fuse the shellfish with classic fall flavors

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

The Group That's Taking On 'Citizens United'

A national group with a Charlotte chapter is trying to drum up support for the abolition of corporate personhood. Are they dreamers, realists, or both?

Comments


Revue

Andy Smith on Charlotte Arts & Culture

This Weekend in Charlotte: Bachtoberfest, GUTS CLT, Halloween at the Haven

Comments


Dusk Till Dawn

Jarvis Holliday Chronicles Charlotte's Nightlife and Social Scene, Straight No Chaser

Buzz Fest, Celebrity DJs and Parties, Dogtoberfest, Grave Diggers Ball, Seahawks vs. Panthers Viewing Parties, and More - Oct. 23-26

The 20 social events and parties you should know about this Thursday through Sunday.

Comments


Poking the Hornet's Nest

Greg Lacour on Politics

Dispatch from Boone: The Early Voting Battle of App State

Can students at App State vote early on campus or not? A portrait of voter suppression in action.

Comments