Del Mars Davanti Enoteca
Nestled among the shops, theaters and eateries at Del Mar Highlands, Davanti Enoteca caters to a hustle and bustle crowd in search of a social, family-style experience without sacrificing decadence. The Italian country décor brings a bit of the old country to Southern California, while the floor-to-ceiling windows provide plenty of opportunity for people-watching during happy hour. Staff is attentive, friendly, and informed, and the nearly sold-out environment we experienced on a Tuesday night proves Davanti is definitely doing something right.
Chef Scott Harris prepares old world Italian dishes designed to be shared amongst friends and family (portions are large), full of antipasti, pasta, flatbread pizzas, and fish and meat entrees that each bask in unique combinations of flavors.
My wife and I opted for the mix-and-match salumi and cheese plate to get our palates warmed up. Robiola Bosina, Grana Padano and Capicolla Piccante formed our combo. We combined this on housemade bread and punctuated it with the accompanying spread of dehydrated grapes in red wine reduction for an explosion of sweet and salty savor. For a veggie option, the roasted campari tomatoes and buratta topped with basil pesto was perfection — a dish easily shared by four that plays with the traditional bruchetta ingredients. Perhaps our favorite surprise was the must-get focaccia bread, infused with a combination of alouette, crescenza, and marscarpone and topped with warm honeycomb spread. With its crispy exterior and gooey insides, it makes an impression and is arguably Davanti’s most popular starter choice. Finally, the bountiful cauliflower steak, swerved up warm with garbanzo beans, lemon vinaigrette, and Parmesan was a perfect transition to our hotter fare.
Entrees range from steaks to fish to both traditional and seafood pastas and even vegetarian fare. My wife, being a self-professed salmon connoisseur, had the grilled salmon with asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes, which was moist and flavorful, prompting her to exclaim it’s the best she’s had in North County. The grilled pork loin chop on a bed of Italian red beans topped with arugula and red peppers was a savory choice for myself. It was perfectly prepared, complemented nicely by the smoky beans and rustic greens. It’s worth noting that patrons at tables around us were all oohing and ahhing with delight as they dug into their own fare.
For dessert, a tart and sweet limoncello with espresso powder rim was a grand dessert cocktail to pair with our choices of Caramel Budino and Torta al Limone con Mirtilli. The Budino was served in a small mason jar (one of Davanti’s vasi options) and consisted of a generous amount of salted caramel custard mixed with homemade whipped cream and chocolate chips served on top of a chocolate cookie crumble. The Torta, a burst of lemon tiramisu and cream topped with fresh blueberries, was moist and sweet and the kind of decadent treat you have to pass around to friends just to see their swooning reaction.
Davanti’s menu is abundant to say the least, with so many choices it will require several repeat visits to experience it all. But not to worry, because after your first taste you will have no problem finding the time to go back again and again. (858.519.5060, www.davantidelmar.com) RYAN THOMAS
Photography by Vincent Knakal