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than bite-sized and almost creamy in texture. Though easier to get right than potato gnocchi, ricotta ones are still a challenge for most restaurant kitchens, but Aviva has the knack. The tomato sauce — the same bright, fresh-tasting one that came with the peppers — nicely showcased this wonderful pasta without overpowering it. Meatballs were standard-issue, suitably tender with a flavor that was balanced, but unremarkable. Pizza, of all things, failed to wow us. In addition to the classics and a broad list of a la carte toppings, Aviva offers a few distinctive pies with recipes borrowed from pasta favorites, like vodka sauce with basil and chicken pesto. In the latter, a thin smear of pesto was smothered by a thick blanket of housemade mozzarella, so that the pesto ended up acting more like a condiment than a sauce. We liked the big, juicy slices of tomato, the slices of chicken were fine, and the crust was medium-thin and deeply browned. But we’d hoped for more pesto presence.

On the RoCKs

{BY CELINE ROBERTS}

IF IT GROWS TOGETHER Livermore looks to Italian food — and wine In June, The Livermore in East Liberty closed its doors as a cocktail bar and reopened as a restaurant focused on hyperregional, close-to-the-earth Italian food and wine. “We’re restaurant people, and we weren’t feeling the energy we were at Bar Marco,” says Dominic Fiore, sommelier for both establishments. While Livermore still offers a handful of craft cocktails, most of Fiore’s attention goes to the expertly curated wine list. “We want to give a village-to-village, provinceto-province perspective,” he says, “almost like a mini tour of Italy.” Fiore and coowner and executive chef Justin Steel work closely to deliver seasonal, complementary flavors to the table. “It puts you in the region where the dish and the wine comes from, and that’s what we are trying to do here,” he says.

“WE WANT TO GIVE A VILLAGE-TO-VILLAGE, PROVINCE-TO-PROVINCE PERSPECTIVE.”

The bread was more deeply disappointing. The promise of a brick oven is great bread products, but the slices that accompanied the peppers and the gnocchi were one step above supermarket white bread. And, while not the brick oven’s fault, the Caesar salad wasn’t worth eating. It was a spiritless pile of chopped romaine and stale croutons with, yes, shaved Parmesan but also a bland, almost flavorless dressing, the sort of thing you’d expect from a salad kit in the produce aisle, not a restaurant kitchen. Those flaws notwithstanding, Aviva offers all the easy-pleasing appeal of a pizzeria with an atmosphere — and often recipes — clearly a cut above.

To keep his wine list as close to the plate as possible, Fiore follows the cardinal rule “if it grows together, it goes together.” This often means gathering wines that are more obscure to American markets, so Fiore works with representatives and suppliers who are passionate about spotlighting lesser-known varietals and vintages. He leans toward natural wines, made with minimal human intervention and low or absent in sulfates. Minimal processing creates wines with clarity, unencumbered by oaky, buttery notes. A light, crisp white, from the hills surrounding Rome, is a shining example of the wines Fiore will be putting on the menu: little known, interesting and easy to drink. He walks me through the list: a soft, slightly briny white from Marche on the Adriatic coast; a light-bodied, dry Sicilian red made from the endemic Nerello Mascalese grapes, perfect for summer drinking; and, finally, a Sangiovese Foglia Tonda blend from Tuscany that’s so smooth, it would be nothing to finish the bottle. There might not be quantity on this list, but there is certainly quality. With restaurants like Livermore bringing passion and diversity to their cellars, I’ll agree with Fiore when he says, “There’s never been a better time to be a wine drinker.”

INFO@ PGHC ITY PAP ER.CO M

CELINE@PGHCITYPAPER.COM

Chef Elaina Rallo puts housemade mozzarella on the Aviva pizza.

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Profile for Pittsburgh City Paper

July 29, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 30

July 29, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 30