Thursday, February 7th, 2013
I’m going to have to eat my words. Maybe with some pesto. I always tell people I hate Italian food, when the fact is, I really only hate what most Americans consider to be Italian food, like spaghetti with meatballs and marinara.
A recent assignment took me to Davio’s, a relatively new Northern Italian restaurant at Phipp’s Plaza. Like all Italian restaurants, there are pastas, but none of them with marinara. Instead of pizzas you’ll find Tuscan white bean and hand-rolled gnocchi with basil truffle oil.
This is the fourth Davio’s location in the U.S., the first opening in Boston in 1985. The company has grown slowly, taking its time to perfect the concept before branching out to different markets. White tablecloths, upholstered seating, and fat columns give the space a traditional fine dining feel. I ordered a bellini followed by an unusual selection of an off-dry riesling. Both were fantastic.
The menu reads like a study in decadence, from seared foie gras to lobster risotto, until you get to the section titled Marchi. This section is a brief list of Davio’s trademark Spring rolls which come in four flavors that mimic other dishes, for instance the Philly Cheese Steak Spring Roll. They even sell them wholesale to supermarkets. I don’t get it. It’s as out of place as pizza at a sushi bar. But we were obligated to try them, so we ordered the sampler. As expected, LC loved the crispy fried rolls, especially the Buffalo Chicken. I was not impressed.
In addition to the Spring rolls we ordered the steamed mussels to share. The aromatic broth, flavored with ginger, lemongrass and fresh basil had a little kick, but I found the shellfish to be on the small side. LC devoured them as I focused on my foie gras. Seared and paired with roasted Georgia peaches, I initially thought the kitchen had plated an enormous serving of foie gras with no peach because the port glaze made everything look the same. Even our server thought they had made a mistake and whisked the dish away for repair. Meanwhile, I requested some undressed field greens on the side, my favorite way to cut the richness of foie gras. Our server returned, explaining the peach was hidden beneath two lovely slices of the goose liver. I proceeded to cut a piece of each and brushed a few leaves of baby romaine through the port glaze. Heavenly.
That was just the appetizers. The next dish was ravioli stuffed with Maine lobster in a rich basil cream sauce. Pastas come in two sizes so we ordered the small bowl and treated it as a side to accompany an 8 oz. center cut filet mignon. I couldn’t pass up the pan roasted Brussels sprouts while LC had a hankerin’ for the green beans with crispy pancetta.
Our steak was kitchen split, each half (that looked to be around 6 oz. each rather than 4 oz.) individually seared to a perfect medium. Served with caramelized onions and two housemade sauces, horseradish cream and a citrus herb sauce called prezzemolata, it was the best steak both of us had eaten in years, perhaps ever! Each bite melted in our mouths, after which we exclaimed “Oh my God, this is amazing!” It was so incredibly delicious, no sauce was required, but the prezzemolata was terrific so I couldn’t resist dipping a few bites in. We savored every morsel.
Brussels sprouts were roasted until tender and tasty. Lots of porky pancetta punctuated the skinny, whole green beans. Despite its richness, we polished off the lobster ravioli and had the nerve to order dessert.
I was disappointed to discover this Italian restaurant did not serve gelato, so we opted for what seemed to be the lightest, a strawberry parfait with vanilla ice milk and lemon pound cake croutons. A textural delight, it would have been better without the hint of lemon, and with a dollop of whipped cream.
But why stop there? Our server, who’s timing was impeccable, suggested we take home a second dessert, the traditional Italian tiramisu. Sadly, it didn’t even make it to the refrigerator.
Certainly not inexpensive, Davio’s is the perfect choice for a special occassion or if your pockets are particularly deep. Do I like Italian food, you ask? If it’s Davio’s, I love it.
3500 Peachtree Road 404-844-4810