On a cold, Monday evening in January, a Highland Park wine shop offers a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of the work week. Granted, the week has just begun, but there’s never a wrong time to treat oneself. On any given night, Trova Wine + Market boasts a cozy space. Throughout the vibrant dining room, groups of friends, couples on dates, and besties catch up, and chat over light bites, while sipping refreshing glasses of wine. Walls bedecked with artwork create a je ne sais quoi that has people coming for the wine but staying simply for Trova.
Even on her night off, Trova’s Executive Chef Stephanie Vivino can’t help but come into the restaurant, where she sits at the wine bar, chatting with her co-workers. Having grown up in an Italian family, Vivino constantly nurtures her sweet tooth by way of inventive desserts.
Vivino hails from Maryland but moved with her family to Massachusetts during her high school years. After graduation, Vivino studied baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America in New York City.
During her time in New York, Vivino studied under French pastry chef Dominique Ansel, a pioneer in modern dessert, often credited for the cronut. One of the many things she recalls from her time working with Ansel was to take smaller steps to push her craft forward — something she now tells her staff.
“[Ansel told me] do your best to do everything faster,” Vivino says. “Like move faster, walk faster, grab something faster. It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s something that has become a big part of my philosophy and that I pass on. Tell yourself to push yourself and be your best self.”
Come 2020, things began to slow down for Vivino, as well as the rest of the world. The opportunity to help open Trova with owner Michelle Bonds in Dallas came to Vivino through a “friend of a friend” during a rough time for the hospitality industry.
“At the time, being in New York during COVID, everything was shut down,” shares Vivino. “I wasn’t working, and I was looking for the next opportunity. I thought Trova sounded like a super interesting concept. It was the best decision I could have made.”
A Brush With Food Network Stardom
At only 25 years old, Vivino’s dessert dossier is unmatched. Some of her signature pastries include an espresso panna cotta, with salted caramel, brown sugar, chantilly cream, and triple chocolate biscotti; and a vanilla-orange pavlova with passion fruit curd, caramelized white chocolate sauce, strawberries, and mint.
Her work has even caught the attention of television producers, some of whom have invited her to take her desserts to the screen through competition.
“Someone from Food Network contacted me on Instagram,” explains Vivino. “They were filming for interviews for one of their cooking competition shows. It’s not something I ever thought about doing since it’s very much a different skill set. But Michelle was encouraging me to do the interview process and it was certainly interesting. Ultimately, it didn’t quite feel like what I wanted to pursue at that time — but it was a cool experience.”
Opting to focus on her craft over pursuing instant fame certainly paid off for Vivino. On any given night, Trova is packed — and nobody ever leaves without getting dessert. At 25, she’s just getting started and has attained enough wisdom behind the scenes to offer sound advice to young women who pursue careers in the culinary arts.
“I have heard a lot in my career that I was too young, or because I’m a woman, I wasn’t ready for certain things,” Vivino says. “[My advice would be] to just know what you’re capable of, and push beyond what people think. This field has been very male-dominated for a long time. But I think that’s changing.”
When she first started at Trova, Vivino originally intended to help open the space, and later, hone in more on her pastry and confections background. But upon walking into the charming wine bar for the first time, and instantly connecting with Bonds and the team, she knew she would never be able to find this kind of atmosphere anywhere else.
In fact, both she and Bonds see Trova evolving, and Vivino hints at other collaborations the two want to bring to reality in the future.
“I think Dallas, in the past couple of years, has had a lot of really great places open and grow,” Vivino notes. “And I would love to help keep that momentum going.”