My interview at the Beach Hebrew Institute and being around the Wednesday lunch drop-in program had made me hungry, so I decided to continue my discovery of culinary places in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood along Queen Street. At the east end of the strip of found a small restaurant with the name Vivetha Bistro; I thought that had an interesting ring to it, so I went inside. The place was absolutely hopping, and virtually every table was packed with people having lunch. I asked the waitress whether I might be able to meet the owner, but she indicated that he was too busy and that I should come back after 3 pm, once the lunch crowd had dissipated.
Looking forward to a good lunch I sat down and started to peruse the menu. One dish jumped out at me: the Gorgonzola Vegetarian Sandwich. Combined with a Buttnernut Squash Pecan Soup this would make a nice nutritious meal. I sat back, relaxed and not long after my meal arrived. The creamy soup and the vegetarian sandwich, containing spinach, wild mushrooms, onions, topped with feta cheese on home-made focaccia bread, made for a very satisfying meal, and I arranged with the waitress to come back and do a brief interview with the owner in the early evening.
I returned at 5:30 pm to have a chat with Siva Thampinathan, Vivetha’s owner, who was just sitting down with his crew and discussing preparations for this evening’s business. Siva is originally from Sri Lanka and learned how to cook in Paris, working in Italian and French restaurants as a line cook. After his arrival in Canada he worked in a variety of restaurants including Zaidy’s 225 on Queen Street, which featured New Orleans Cuisine, as well as at the Duncan Street Grill, Atlas Bar & Grill and Nevada’s Ristorante, another restaurant in the Beach.
Vivetha Bistro, named after Siva’s daughter, opened on November 2, 2005, and Siva says he has been very busy since then. His restaurant is open 7 days a week , from Sunday to Thursday from 8 am to 10 pm, and on Fridays and Saturdays Vivetha’s is open from 10:30 am to 11 pm. Tuesdays are particularly popular since a $20 prix fix menu offers a choice of pasta, steak or fish.
Of course the owner is here every day, and since he started in late 2005 he has had precisely one day off: Christmas Eve of 2006. Restaurant ownership is certainly a very work-intensive business. Siva is particularly proud that he serves home-made breads and desserts. Only pastas and meats are purchased, the rest is made in-house.
The menu of Vivetha Bistro features an eclectic mix some Italian dishes, pasta dishes and a variety of salad and seafood dishes. A total of 20 staff members are employed at Vivetha, and the restaurant’s 38 seats are usually fully occupied during prime-time hours. 17 people can sit outside on the patio, and Siva added that the windows in the front are opened up in the summer and allow patrons to enjoy the open air.
There is not much time for recreational activities in his life, but every Sunday Siva takes his son to play hockey, and his daughter to figure skating. He also takes his children swimming on a regular basis. His wife Geetha stays at home and helps him out with payroll and accounting.
Siva has been in Toronto since 1989 and really likes the city. He adds that Toronto is a good city to live in, people are friendly and there is lots of opportunity. Siva himself has been working hard for many years, often working 60 to 70 hours a week. He explains that “when you work for yourself you have to love your job. When you’re busy you’re happy.” And he concludes “When you work hard you can make it.”