Thursday, March 4, 1999
Ask Mark Davis if the fish on his menu is fresh and you may be in for a surprise. More often than not, the chef who sauted your sand dabs and served them to you in lemon butter sauce is the same guy who landed them on his boat first thing that morning. The same may be said for the rock cod you''ll find in the cioppino and the linguini pescatori on the menu at Vivolo''s Chowder House, and later in the year he''ll be hauling in salmon, halibut and tuna.
Calling it his own brand of therapy, "I do a lot of our own fishing," says chef and owner Davis, "and usually go out about two or three times a week." It''s apparently an effective antidote to the daily grind of running a business; he''s been at it for nine years. Formerly known as South Side Johnny''s, Davis re-opened the place in 1990 along with his wife Julie, giving it her family''s name, Vivolo''s.
It''s a name that''s become synonymous with Coast Weekly readers'' favorite pick for creamy, clam chowder, a recipe that Davis brought with him to the West Coast from his native Boston--first by way of Lake Tahoe and a long stint at Caesar''s Palace. Served San Francisco-style in a sourdough bowl, it''s one of three soups you''ll find in this casual, comfortable Pacific Grove eatery, offered along with seafood bisque and French onion au gratin.
And paired with half of a hearty house-roasted turkey sandwich--or make it albacore or shrimp--at lunchtime it becomes a full meal. Along with a generous selection of salads--Cajun grilled chicken or fish over mixed greens, tomato, bacon and blue cheese; or tuna, shrimp or a bitey, full-flavored Caesar--the sand dab sandwich is much in demand, as is the popular squid, prawns or fish and chips.
On both the lunch and dinner menus, several pastas vie for attention. Fettucine is featured with shrimp, chicken, scallops or prawns, done either in garlicky Alfredo sauce, or marinara. Smoked salmon ravioli is bathed in basil cream sauce and shrimp, and linguini is offered with clams and calamari; or with the works in the pescatore, a house specialty, brimming with prawns, scallops, clams and fresh fish of the day.
Vivolo''s specials of the day often feature two preparations of salmon, mahi mahi or swordfish, typically offered Cajun-style, done in the house blend of zesty spices, or glazed in teriyaki sauce, and served with a choice of potatoes du jour (whipped with sage and roasted garlic, or twice-baked with bacon and onions), rice or pasta, as is the regular menu. The Cajun prawns are served with roasted red peppers, or choose shrimp scampi, with garlic and capers. Other seafood dishes include a saut of prawns, scallops and fish in puff pastry with sherry cream sauce, scallops Provenale with tomatoes and olives in garlic cream, and calamari steak, baked in a Parmesan crust or with lemon caper sauce.
Besides the lengthy list of seafood entres, chicken breast is stuffed with provolone and prosciutto and napped with madera sauce in Vivolo''s style of saltimbocca, and New York steak comes either charbroiled or sliced over a roasted red pepper and mushroom pizzolia.
Davis does the desserts himself, and the white chocolate cheesecake is not to be missed, with a yummy underpinning of Bailey''s Irish Cream. Tiramisu is also tempting, with creamy mascarpone laced with Meyer''s Rum. A private banquet room, not immediately evident from the front of the house, is the frequent scene of special parties for up to 40 people.
127 Central Ave., Pacific Grove, 372-5414
Hours: Monday-Friday, lunch 11:30am-3pm dinner 4:30-9pm; Saturday and Sunday: 11:30am-10pm
Price range: $2.95-15.95