Stroll past Vivace's patio on any given evening when the weather is fair, and it's obvious that this is one of the hottest al fresco dining spots in town. If you've ever been among those fortunate enough to snag a table by the fountain on a balmy night, the popularity is no mystery.
And the Tuscan courtyard setting is just one of many things Vivace has going for it. The contemporary Italian menu is consistently well-executed and reasonably priced. Service is as attentive as you've come to expect from a restaurant run by Urban Food Group, whose other restaurants include Coquette, Frazier's and Porter's City Tavern. And Vivace's all-Italian wine list is one of the very best in the Triangle, regardless of regional focus.
Much as I enjoy exploring that list, though, wine isn't the first thing I turn to when summertime temperatures soar into the 80s and 90s. That honor goes to Limoncello Fresca, one of the house specialty cocktails. The recipe is simplicity itself: limoncello and soda over ice in a tall glass, garnished with a lemon slice. What makes the drink special is Vivace's homemade limoncello, which isn't as cloyingly sweet as commercial versions and is more intensely redolent of fresh lemon zest. It makes for a most refreshing Limoncello Fresca, too -- the ultimate grownup lemonade, you might say.
The Fresca can also be made with any of Vivace's other homemade cellos: orange, lime, or the rotating seasonal flavor (currently strawberry). Or your taste might run to one of the other specialty cocktails -- the Mojito Italiano, say, which is made with limecello, fresh mint and soda. Or The Agrodolce: orangecello, raspberry liqueur, orange juice and house sour mix.
Who knows, maybe one day I'll try one of them for a change. Until the weather cools off, though, I'm sticking with Limoncello Fresca.