Let’s just put this out there, I like Italian food, a LOT, but it’s longer than I can remember since I left an Italian thinking 'yup, that’s the one, that’s my new favourite place.', in fact I probably haven’t felt that way since I visited Rome last year.
Tonight when I visited Da Vinci – Ristorante Italiano, that all changed, and boy am I glad that I got to review this place for you guys for Aberdeen Restaurant Week!
Tucked away just out of sight of the bustling high street on Alford lane, housed in a picturesque wee building lies Da Vinci, an independently owned Italian approaching it’s first year of business. Partners Elena and Christian host with warmth and cook with passion and pride, oozing authenticity and genuine love for what they do. Hailing from Florence, head chef and owner Elena fuses family traditions with modern influences to create a menu that is not only stands out from the standard ‘carbonara and pizza' vibe that you find in every generic Italian in most cities, but also has an entire vegan and vegetarian offering, which is a huge win for me!
The decor is cosy but quirky, and suited for any occasion; intimate dates, family celebrations, casual lunches, you name it, you’ll feel right at home at Da Vinci.
Unlike with many set menus, be prepared to be fully spoiled for choice at Da Vinci this Restaurant Week - I genuinely thought we had been handed the wrong menu as we browsed the endless choices on offer! We passed the time with a crisp, cool glass of Prosecco until we had made the seemingly impossible choice from all of the extremely enticing options.
I had the vegan friendly 'Polenta con Salsa al carciofi' – a generous dish of perfectly fried portions of polenta with a crispy outer but light fluffy inside, topped with tangy artichoke sauce which added the perfect amount of zing to the overall flavour. Two things struck me as our lovely waitress presented it: one, the presentation was stunning. Talk about Instagram worthy! I didn’t know whether to eat it or frame it. The second was a moment of intimidation at the portion size knowing that I still had two courses to go.... I ate every bite of this perfectly balanced beauty, and still eagerly awaited my main course. This is a starter that I will absolutely (and probably unsuccessfully) be trying to recreate at my next dinner party.
My lucky devil of a mother who accompanied me to this fine feast went for the 'Crostino Toscano' – a homemade pate served with toasted bread and a deliciously sweet caramelised onion and honey chutney, which provided just the right amount of sharpness to this tasty savoury dish. The dish was a definite success scoring a top mark of 5/5 from my mum, who reported that the pate was not only smooth and flavoursome, but also completely unique as it was served warm with the cutest little tea light under the tiny serving pan. Elena later informed us that this is a traditional way to serve pate at relaxed family gatherings as opposed to the chilled version we all know which came about due to the need for speed of service in most restaurant environments. The more you know!
I made a great decision in choosing the 'Gnocchi 4 formaggi, a four cheese gnocchi with cream and peppercorns. Nothing annoys me more than when something that claims to be four cheese ends up being a bland, flavourless, vaguely cheesy goo, but not this delight of a dish. You could literally pick out the individual cheeses; a waft of rich blue cheese here, a chewy, melty bite of mozzarella there, this perfectly creamy smooth sauce had it all, and the portion size was just right too. I could eat this every day and never get bored.
My mum chose the 'Pollo al Sugo' – chicken thigh cooked in a rich, herby tomato and olive sauce served with crisp, perfectly seasoned roast potatoes. The presentation in the warm terracotta dish really added to the authentic, rustic, home cooked feel, and according to my mum the chicken was delicious and juicy. Another resounding success!
The first thing I should mention that really impressed me was that there was a separate list of THREE vegan desserts, how fabulous is that?!
I couldn’t resist the 'Tartufi al cocco', - vegan truffles with coconut. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful these tasty little balls of joy look! Once again top marks for presentation. The chocolatey truffles, rolled in desiccated coconut, were moist, sweet, and delicious, and perfectly complimented by a sticky sauce that had a subtle essence of rum. The attention to detail in this dish was what blew me away; from the tiny dried rose petals to the sprinkling of decorative turmeric – which had me sceptical at first, but moments later had my taste buds tingling. I (almost) struggled to eat all five truffles, three probably would have sufficed, but this is absolutely not a complaint. I gave it my very best shot and came out victorious. The things I do for you lucky readers!
My mum had the gorgeous looking 'Panna Cotta', which came topped with a sweet but tart wild berry coulis and a sprinkling of crunchy meringue pieces. Not only was this pretty plate a feast for the eyes, but according to my mother, this dessert was 'better than sex'. No further review needed!
After another lovely chat with the instantly likable Elena who went out of her way to come back to our table to check how our meal went, we went on our way with full bellies and happy hearts, already talking about our next visit to Da Vinci all the way to the taxi queue. I can’t urge you strongly enough to visit this delightful wee restaurant not only this Restaurant Week, but time and time again.