For our last stop of Do Downtown’s Restaurant Week we decided to give Via Vite a try. We had been wanting to for quite a while since we had heard so many good things about it, but had yet to find the excuse to spend dinner downtown.
520 Vine St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Mon-Wed: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.
Thurs: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Saturday: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Appetizers: $5 – $10
Lunch: $10 – $17
Dinner: $17 – $30
Pizza: $12 – $14
Dessert: $6 – $8
Via Vite is situated right on Fountain Square, directly across the street from Palomino. Their dining area has two floors with outdoor seating avilable on each, and there are plenty of opportunities for a nice view of Fountain Square while you dine.
Our reservation was for 6 p.m. and we were seated in a corner of the lower level by the window. Even in the corner the view wasn’t bad. The enormous windows lining the wall we were seated against made the already open layout of the dining area seem even brighter and more spacious.
Though wine pairings were offered with the prix fixe menu, we decided to stick with water and as the waiter left to get our drinks we looked over our meal options for the evening. The first course was a choice between Insalata Siciliana and Gazpacho, the second was between Ravioli and Scallop Fettuccine and for the final course you had your pick of Tuna with Sicilian Vegetable Caponata or Seared Lamb T-Bone.
Caroline chose the Insalata Siciliana, the Ravioli and the Lamb T-Bone. I chose the opposite for my first two courses, the Gazpacho and the Fettuccine, but also went with the Lamb for my third.
While we waited for our first courses to arrive we were supplied with a basket of bread and some oil. They were both good, but not great. The oil seemed to be a standard olive oil and vinegar combination. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t like the oil at Pasha Grill where I think I could have made a meal out of it.
The first round of entrees came surprisingly quickly after the bread. Caroline’s first course, the salad, was comprised of baby arugula with shaved fennel and orange supremes topped with a Mediterranean vinaigrette. She said she enjoyed it but admitted it was nothing really special. From the few bites I had of it I would have to agree.
My first entree was a fairly standard gazpacho with a little medallion island of zucchini, yellow squash, plums and Jonah crab with truffle aioli. Having just had Daveed’s gazpacho the previous night I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I was actually pleasantly surprised. Whereas the gazpacho at Daveed’s was somewhat average I particularly enjoyed the gazpacho at Via Vite. There was something pleasantly different about the flavor of the gazpacho itself, and that little island was as tasty as it was visually pleasing. I’m not sure, like with all of our Do Downtown Restaurant Week stops, if I would feel the same paying full price – we’ll have to come back some time to find out.
As soon as we were finished our waiter came and took our plates away, replacing them with our second courses. I got the impression that they were watching and timed the preparation of the second course to come after we were finished, which I appreciate. All too often in multi-course meals we’ve had the following course brought out before we’re finished with the first which can make things kind of crowded.
Unfortunately, the pleasant suprise of my gazpacho was not repeated by the second course, the fettuccine with baby rock shrimp, bay scallops, white wine and extra virgin olive oil over a locally grown zucchini sauce.
It’s not that it was bad by any means, but I really expected a little more. The sauce was the best part and it alone was quite good, but without the sauce to carry them the pasta, scallops and shrimp were a little plain.
Caroline’s ravioli, accompanied by more baby arugula, mozzarella and “mama’s cherry tomato sauce”, was more well received than my pasta. She really liked it, saying that the ravioli were really meaty and that the tomato sauce they were in was excellent. I think the only problem she had with it were the cherry tomatos nestled up to the ravioli – not because there was anything wrong with them, I wound up eating them all and really liked them, just because Caroline doesn’t really do tomatoes.
Just like before our emptied plates were scooped up just in time for the void they left on the table to be filled by our final course, matching plates of the seared lamb t-bone.
The lamb was presented in an interesting way with two t-bone cuts stood on end connected by a wooden skewer like an axel. A small mound of red cabbage provided contrast for the salsa verde which was streaked in a way that emphasized the distance between the two cuts of lamb.
Well presented though it may have been, it turned out to be a lot closer to the pasta than to the equally aesthetic gazpacho.
Repeating a common theme, the sauce was really good. Combined with both the lamb and the cabbage it definitely made it a pleasing dish, just not as good a one as I was expecting. My main problem was that the lamb was just too done for my tastes. Perhaps I could have requested it rarer, although it didn’t occur to me while ordering so I’m willing to give a little leeway on it.
Lamb is really easy to overcook, and in addition to drying out quickly it really changes the flavor of the meat. Caroline agreed that it was overdone and a little dry. Much like the pasta I could never call it bad, but it was a bit of a letdown given the reputation of the restaurant.
Verdict: We’ll Be Back
There were things we liked, and things we found a little disappointing. The gazpacho and the ravioli were good enough that I am definitely interested in going back for a full price dinner sometime for a better evaluation. I also hear their pizzas in particular are something worth going for. We’ll definitely be back. For now I will say it’s a great place for ambiance, view and location but about average for food.