BY HESTER MILFORD | Wrapped in a cascading veil of artificial flowers and green vines, Viva Cucina, a new Italian restaurant offering vegan and gluten-free options, held its grand opening in the East Village at the end of last month.
Owned by Justin Iracani, the restaurant, at 85 Second Ave., at E. Fifth Street, offers an upscale dining experience featuring fresh spices, unbromated flours, olive oils, fresh, wild-caught fish and desserts.
The menu focuses on plant-based, nutrient-dense foods, using dairy substitutes as much as possible. In addition, the freshest, healthiest ingredients available, mostly local and organic, are also used.
Viva Cucina does not use any artificial flavorings, additives, trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs, irradiated foods or chemicals of any kind.
At the April 28 grand opening press party, I entered the place and made a beeline to the bar, conveniently located next to the entrance. I downed a glass of complimentary champagne from a friendly bartender and bobbed my head to the loud techno beats of New York-based artist DJ Ila, the night’s soundtrack.
Cameras flashed in the direction of a stubbly grass wall that served as the backdrop for a few orange flowers, a bench and a neon sign proclaiming, “Viva La Vita” (“Live Life”). A perfectly Instagrammable moment, for those so inclined.
The main dining room is on the two-story building’s first floor. It features the busy bar, an array of black marble tables and plush, dark-green chairs. The eatery’s second floor is available for private parties and events, and is reachable by a short staircase, illuminated by a neon sign that proclaims, “Dammi un Bacio” (“Give me a kiss”).
My dinner consisted of penne pasta, rigatoni pasta, Caesar salad, house salad, a delicious piece of salmon and risotto. I found both pasta dishes to be quite tasty, the sauce a thick, vegetable-heavy marinara, although I avoided the chunks of meat substitute, a personal preference. While the Caesar salad was typical, the house salad with a balsamic dressing was delicious. The risotto struck me as a little bland and gluey.
Given Viva Cucina’s great location in the East Village, it is not hard to imagine curious neighbors flocking in to give the place a try.
For more information call 212-777-2005 or visit vivacucinanyc.com.