Vivo Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar: Fantastic addition to Maryland’s restaurant scene

I suppose it is a compliment to our local restaurant scene that a restaurateur from out of state decides to open not one but two restaurants in Maryland.  After all, the owner can go to any state and is sure to find a suitable location.  So I guess we should be grateful to the New York-based George Martin Group for opening two restaurants in The Hotel, located in an area known as Arundel Preserve.  If you’re not familiar with that site, it is about one mile from Maryland Live Casino.  The one I’ll be telling you about here is Vivo Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar that opened in mid-December 2013.

Pizza (From Vivo’s website)

My first visit was on a Thursday night, a school night mind you, and the place was packed.  Both at all the tables and the bar.  The age range seemed to go from the 20’s right through to those who could be enjoying retirement.  Which, by the way, is not me.  I think that says something about the restaurant.  There are many choices within a five-mile radius, so the fact Vivo was crowded, and with folks who have been there before, I know because I asked, tells me there’s something people like.  Maybe it’s the food and atmosphere.  Let’s see if that’s the case.

To make that case, I asked Jill, who lives about 8 miles away, and she told me the second time she was there the host and the server already knew her name.  Brian came from Glen Burnie and returned because their crab imperial pizza was the best he was ever tasted.  OK one more.  The Rheinhart family, four of them from Ellicott City, returned for a third time within a three-week span because, and I’ll quote here, ‘it’s an easy place to bring the kids and since we only go out to eat once a week we want a place we can afford and has good food for all of us.’

Case made.

Vivo is certainly casual, it’s open daily for lunch and dinner, seats about 110, there’s an area for a private party or meeting, reservations, especially on weekends, are suggested, there’s free parking in an adjacent garage, a wine selection of about 120, carry out and catering.  Let me point out the restaurant is located off the lobby of The Hotel.  So to get there you’ll walk across a very nicely appointed lobby.  And if by chance you have just a bit too much to drink, just check in and take the elevator to your room.  By the way, I got a tour of the room styles and can assure you they’re all quite nice.

The entrance to Vivo’s restaurant. (Vivo’s website)

The owner, the gentleman who is there almost everyday, is George Korten.  He has seven restaurants, five of them in New York.  The two in The Hotel is his first venture in Maryland.  He probably knows what he’s doing regarding the restaurant business.  He opened his first one in 1984.  He is looking to open more in Maryland.  I asked him how he would briefly describe Vivo and he said, ‘ I think it is a true Italian kitchen with familiar food.’

He also mentioned that over half of the diners are locals.  He was enticed to this location by his long time friend David Hillman, perhaps the biggest apartment developer in the mid-Atlantic.  David owns Southern Management Corporation out of McLean VIrginia.

If you like pizza, and really who doesn’t?, try the pizza margherita, meatball parmigiana, the tre carne or the portobella marinara.  For pasta try the ala vodka, carbonara or the pomodoro.  Other items that look interesting are the garlic shrimp, veal piccata, rockfish and baby clams livornese and Nick’s chicken, served family style.  There’s also a selection of salads and appetizers.  I hit the jackpot the night I was there because our table left our selections in the chefs capable hands.  So basically I had a potpourri of food off the menu.

In short, this is most certainly a welcome addition to the local restaurant scene.  I’m hopeful George will open his next restaurant close to me.  For reservations call 410-799-7440.  You might be lucky and have the Matt, the general manager, answer.  Or you can go to their website.