Vivo 53's new, insane, topping-covered, confection-filled sundaes are every Instagrammer's dream come true, which is probably why the restaurant is encouraging customers to upload and tag photos of their own sundae experiences for a chance to win a sundae a week for the next year. They likely won't have any trouble persuading diners to participate. When we stopped by to scope out the new treats, nearly every table ordered at least one of the gravity-defying desserts, and they all snapped a picture before digging in. #SundaeSelfie might become Fort Worth's hottest new trend.
The new menu launched last week to an immediate multi-squee of food-blogger delight. The over-the-top confections are a delicate explosion of ice cream, sauce, candy, baked goods, more sauce, nuts and a little bit more candy for good measure. We sat down with managing partner and executive chef Graham Blackurn to talk about the popular new desserts in between mouthfuls. We even got a sneak peek at the delicate plating process required for the sky-high sundaes.
The lineup includes five loaded sundae options, but Blackburn plans to add more options soon. With names like Candy Esplosione and Caramel Apple Bambolone, it was nearly impossible to choose. The most popular so far, Blackburn says, is the Neapolitan, a giant chocolate-covered parfait glass filled with Neapolitan ice cream and topped with an entire Neapolitan ice cream sandwich, two swirl lollipops, chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings, whipped cream, sprinkles and a house-made maraschino cherry spiced with cinnamon and orange, making the cherry taste like a tiny bite of Christmas. We played the field and ordered the Nutella Seduzione and the Holy Spumoni to assuage the two warring factions of our dessert cravings. On one side of the ring we had a chocoholic's dream; on the other, a colorful fruitsplosion of rich nuttiness and delicate pastries. We were the real winners in this match.
The Nutella Seduzione features Italian cheesecake ice cream with a touch of raspberry swirl to complement the richness. Served in a dark chocolate-rimmed parfait glass coated with crushed hazelnuts and dark chocolate shavings, it's topped with whipped cream, a slice of Nutella cheesecake, more whipped cream and a generous drizzle of house-made chocolate sauce. In fact, there's so much sauce it was still dripping onto the plate after plating. How does one even begin to eat a sundae topped with an entire slice of cheesecake? The answer, my friends, is without dignity. Bite by bite, we collapsed the slice of rich cheesecake into the glass and soldiered on. There were casualties — multiple napkins were harmed in the process — but in the end, victory was ours.
Prior to their new-found fame as arbiters of indulgent yet fashionable desserts, Vivo 53 was making waves for their wood-fired pizza, particularly the dough, which took a group of master bakers 53 attempts to perfect — hence the name Vivo 53. Oddly enough, the R&D phase for the new sundae lineup was almost the exact opposite. When chef Blackburn started conceptualizing the sundaes, he would post pictures to his Facebook page, soliciting friends to vote on their favorites. Instead of constructive criticism, their response was, "When can I have it?" Surprisingly, he says, he stuck with pretty much the same lineup from start to finish.
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The Holy Spumoni comes served in a caramel and crushed pistachio-rimmed parfait glass. Spumoni ice cream (a combination of cherry, chocolate and pistachio) is swirled around with bits of dried fruit and topped with whipped cream, cherry and pistachio macarons, rock candy, a lollipop and pink candy sprinkles. Perfectly plated, this sundae looks like the Unikitty special served on Cloud Cuckoo Land. It's so pink. And pretty. And downright delicious.
The idea for their insane sundae lineup was partially inspired by an Australian cafe's "freakshow" milkshakes that blew up social media last summer, followed closely behind by the over-the-top milkshakes at Black Tap in New York City. Blackburn's marketing director thought it might be fun to play on that idea of ridiculous dessert concoctions.
"We decided we didn't want to do the exact same thing," Blackburn says. "We wanted to put our own twist on it. So let's change it. Make it a sundae. Make it tall. Make it big. Make it gravity-defying."
Go big or go home certainly seems to be working for them. The menu of insane sundaes, each one more ridiculous than the last, has been drawing a steady stream of interested diners. Blackburn says customers are lined up before the doors open at 11 a.m. to get their sundae on. But to keep us all on our toes, Blackburn has plans to feature new seasonal sundaes every month and has almost the entire year mapped out. Next month he'll feature a patriotic sundae with blue cotton candy ice cream, white chocolate ganache, red white and blue M&M's, red, white and blue pull-apart Twizzlers, a Meyer lemon-infused white chocolate sauce, and to top it all off, a sparkler. He's also ordered summer-inspired lollipops in the shape of beach balls and flip flops to garnish a sundae featuring coconut ice cream, chocolate sauce, white chocolate ice cream and Sixlets, rounded off with a pineapple wedge and topped with an entire cupcake. We're hoping we can get that one delivered pool-side.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but at Vivo 53, a picture is worth about a thousand calories, and we enjoyed every one.