Caffè Vivo - Newcastle upon Tyne
What better way to spend a sunny, springtime Saturday afternoon than enjoying a long, lazy lunch in an authentic Italian café - complete with a glass of wine and a plate of simple yet delicious food. If this sounds up your street, then head down to Caffè Vivo, a charming Italian eatery tucked away on the Newcastle Quayside. Owned by Terry Laybourne (also at the helm of the ever-popular Café 21 round the corner from Vivo), it is unsurprising that the combination of unpretentious yet tasty dishes, and relaxed, peaceful atmosphere just works.
In search of a satisfying late-lunch, my parents and I opted for just one course each, although the choice was not easy due to the array of appetising dishes on offer, spread across the A La Carte and Express Lunch menus. Once we had made our choices, the food arrived in good time, and service was efficient and accomplished yet relaxed and subtle - adjectives which seem to sum up all aspects of the experience, from the music and atmosphere to the food itself. My father opted for the Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara - a tasty pasta dish with a creamy sauce and moreish flecks of crispy pancetta, yet still light and fresh, being packed with seasonal green veggies.
Fresh and seasonal Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara
Caesar Salad was my mum's choice - and old classic that she believes can separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of restaurants, and it seems that Caffè Vivo was definitely the former. The generous portion included large, succulent pieces of chicken, rashers of crispy pancetta, oozing soft boiled eggs crisp lettuce leaves, and spicy croutons, all liberally coated in the creamy yet sharp Caesar dressing. Her one criticism was the rather cold eggs compared to the rest of the dish, yet in a busy kitchen I can understand the need to pre-cook and chill such ingredients until needed. Nevertheless, she was adamant that the high quality of ingredients and subsequently impressive flavours made-up for this small hiccup.
A rustic and hearty take on the classic Chicken Caesar Salad
I settled on the 'PLT' sandwich - a delicious gourmet take on the standard BLT that we all know and love. This Italian version substituted bacon for thin, crisp pancetta, encasing this, the lettuce, tomato and fragrant basil aioli inside a soft and fresh ciabatta roll - heavenly. All dishes were perfectly complemented by a glass of cool and crisp house white, although for the more adventurous drinker they offer an intriguing selection of unique Italian artisan craft beers - we'll save that for another afternoon!
All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable eating experience. Besides the great food and informal atmosphere, it was the attention to detail that really impressed. This ranged from the charming vintage-style bread tin which held a selection of artisan breads including focaccia and grissini, to the fresh seasonal daffodils adorning the tables, and delicious home-made lemon and hazelnut biscotti served alongside our coffees. Furthermore, all dishes were reasonably priced, with everything on the Express Lunch menu costing under £10, and the Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara from the A La Carte menu costing £12. If you are ever in search of an informal supper, late lunch, or just a coffee, be sure to seek out this hidden gem!
Caffè Vivo, 29 Broad Chare, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3DQ