This is what happens when you combine restaurant veterans with a passion for Italian fare. And a chef with a knack for taking classics and adding his own creative flare.
That’s the formula at Osteria Vivo.
Located right off Route 3 in Pembroke, Osteria Vivo is the latest spot by restaurateurs Jimmy Burke and Joanie Wilson, who over the years brought South Shore Italian favorites like Orta. In their latest spot, they’ve brought on Chef Douglas Rodrigues, a creative cook who cut his teeth in Boston’s fine dining scene, to bring a modern edge to their classic Italian menu.
“Osteria Vivo came about when Jimmy and Joanie, decided to get back into the restaurant business and tap me. They wanted to do something fun. Joanie takes care of the front, Jimmy and I take care of the back. And it was a really good melting pot of our backgrounds in cooking.”
“I love Italy. I love the food of of Italy. It’s simple. If you get the best possible ingredients that you can buy, and you put all of heart and soul into those ingredients, you produce a wonderful product. And it’s that simple.”
The space itself is warm and comfortable, with a mural of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio lining the dining room. But the thing that makes customers truly feel at home is when Joanie circulates through space making sure everyone has what they need.
“I want to make my customers feel at home when they come into our establishment.”
“She’s created an atmosphere in this restaurant that is like family. So the customers that come in here feel at home here. She’s created an environment where people feel very comfortable.
So Phantom grabbed a seat at the bar, and got out his fork, in search of THE PERFECT MEAL.
There are many antipasti offerings at Osteria Vivo. From creative seasonal options like Crab Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms served with a passion fruit and maple aioli to freshly baked focaccia with Tuscan white bean and sun dried sweet pepper dip to standards like Mama Burke’s Meatballs Marinara.
“My mother cooked, unbelievable Italian food. They’re not loaded with bread, which many meatballs are so and they’re only made with ground beef but the key is the moisture content of the raw recipe and that makes for a very tender meatball. These are delicate and soft. And they’re very, very tasty. “
And while Jim’s mother’s meatballs are great, it’s his wife, Joanie’s chop salad that’s the perfect way to kick off your meal.
“I designed it. One day was home and I wanted to try something different. So I took my knife and I chopped everything up so small and chopped up. There’s tomatoes Romaine, this goat cheese. There’s all of this and we make our own homemade dressing here that people love. It’s delicious.”
Since this is an Italian restaurant, the pasta has to be perfect. And at Osteria Vivo they do not disappoint with modern takes on old school Italian dishes.
“So we try and bridge classics, keeping technique, really at the forefront. But then when we want to have fun and stretch outside the box, you know, we can do that.
There’s indulgent Spaghetti Carbonara made with farm fresh eggs, guanciale and plenty of parmesan. And a unique take on lasagna.
“We started with the pesto Genovese, which is green basil, a lot of cheese. You know, good olive oil. And layer it’s about 12 layers of pasta, housemade ricotta, pesto. More cheese. It’s a bubbly grisly. But light.”
But it’s the Lobster and Oxtail Bolognese that’s an absolute must try.
“Lobster and oxtail Bolognese was based off of surf and turf. The concentration of beef and lobster really match well. I think it’s a little lighter. It’s lobster stock with with the braised oxtail and there’s…other nuances of cherry juice, brown butter, there’s rosemary, there’s chive you know, to really lighten it up, some parsley 24 month aged Parmesan Reggiano. It’s the best.”
The entree section of the menu offers a sirloin steak in a truffle jus with red wine butter served over an olive oil potato puree. There’s also a beautiful haddock Cioppino. But the top entree you need to try is Osteria Vivo’s perfectly executed Chicken Parm.
“The big thing with ours is it’s very tender and juicy. We buy the top quality chicken breasts, we brine it in milk wey and then we cook them and then finish them to order with my mother’s marinara sauce and fresh cheese. It’s crisp, and it’s got gooey cheese on it and a lot of flavor. And it’s abundant. It’s really great. “
And when plates are cleared and dessert time comes, you can opt for decadent cheesecake. Or the sweet and shareable cannoli trio, with flavors that change seasonally. .
“Cannolis are great..It gives us a real good vehicle to, you know, alternate in flavors seasonally. Really keep it creative. Our flavors are more outside the box, and people love them. You can take a box home, you know, it’s like going to the North End.”
Joanie’s Chopped Salad, Lobster and Oxtail Bolognese, Chicken Parm and a trio of Cannoli make for the PERFECT MEAL at Osteria Vivo.