PRICE PAID: $328 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 9.0/10
I want to start off by saying that Da Vittorio was an extremely special experience; absolutely one of the best evenings I have had in Europe and perhaps in my global adventures.
The hotel and restaurant are run by the Cereas, and various family members are responsible for different branches of the property- one brother (Enrico) runs the restaurant, another (Francesco) runs the hotel, a sister runs hospitality (Rossella); you get the picture.
Without exception, every member of the family operating this property are joyfully and completely committed to ensuring their guests have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Let me convince you with examples:
- Every single member of the staff, bar none, came out and introduced themselves to me before the meal even got rolling.
- Even though it was well past midnight, the sommelier offered me a personal tour of their world-class wine cellars, showing off what is likely one of the best collections of Italian wine in Europe.
- The Chef and Hotel Manager personally checked in with me throughout the evening to ensure everything was meeting expectations.
- Omar running service is fantastic- informed and friendly.
Beyond the personal touches, the property itself is incredibly dramatic and grand. You approach their enormous, gated property that looks every bit the hillside Italian villa of yore. Beautiful lighting and enormous gates give it an exclusive and almost untouchable feel.
The only slightly strange bit- every ten minutes, a plane roars into flight at the very-nearby airport. A bit unsettling at first.
Now, for the meal itself. I chose the Carta Biaca (Carte Blanche) menu, which was the longest on offer.
First out, a single large chunk of squid with a big, creamy ricotta. Tomato base, and Porcini mushrooms round things out nicely with a sliced celery topping. A subtle and herby gazpacho. 9/10. Great cleanser/starter.
Next, a Taleggio cheese "ice cream" served hot- textures are squishy and awesome. Bell peppers bring it all together. 8/10.
Cherry and foie gras pair up absolutely perfectly. The cherries are deadly sweet, and the foie is rich as sin. 9/10.
Next up, a "False Apple" with Beluga caviar. Sweet presentation! Altogether this dish is an awesome idea- the flavors of the caviar and apple work well but the textures aren't a perfect match; you end up with a salty-fruity mash that tastes like good fruity oatmeal. Not entirely a bad thing. 8/10
Another creative idea to bring the foie gras and cherry combo back- cool presentation and extremely rich! This time, the foie isn't fried and the cherries are fresh, presented with their leaves. Is Cerea winding back the clock? 9/10.
Getting into the seafood dishes- "Caccia al caciucco" with prawns. The prawn is soft and almost buttery. A hearty but refreshing course. 9/10.
The next seafood course was absolutely outstanding- sea bass carpaccio. Not too salty, great textures, and the clams add a nice touch. 10/10.
This next dish was super summery- prawns from Sicily, enclosed while cooking to release their smoky notes. The prawn has a taste quality I can't quite put finger on- almost a delicious hot dog taste. Paired up with Burrata cheese, a close cousin to Mozzarella. 9/10.
Beautiful saffron accents in the presentation is pretty. I like that the rice is sculpted into a small circle, with herbs on top. This dish has a nice comfort-food feel that I really appreciate. 9/10.
9) Sea Bass cooked in a cocoon of sugar. The sugar-cooking method brings out all kinds of flavors that I never imagined existed in seafood like this. Once again, bringing back the Sea Bass ideas from the fifth course and reflecting them nicely. 10/10.
Cooked Scorpion fish cheeks and neck with raw fish. Scorpion fish are extremely poisonous, by the way. Raw fish is in separate broth and is considerably tastier than cooked. 8/10.
A nice cheese plate, including robiola and red onion sauce, partially melted. Excellent pre-red meat cleanser. 8/10
These homemade raviolis were beautiful, and possessed an unexpectedly sweet flavor, most likely from the extremely rare Strachitunt cheese, which is only produced in this region of Italy by a single producer. 9/10. Duck sauce sets it off nicely.
Fatty and delicious duck breast with coffee and Guanaja chocolate sauce. Guanaja, by the way, is one of the small Caribbean-side islands belonging to Honduras that Christopher Columbus discovered in 1502, becoming likely the first westerner to taste Cacao on that very voyage.
Anyway, the polenta is an excellent textural contrast, and they go together fantastically. 10/10, an excellent main!
The only even mild disappointment of the evening- beignet with cookie, prepped table side. It was, unfortunately, burnt. 6/10.
Not much to say about this strawberry sorbet and mint except that it was perfect. A classic pairing, executed without flaw. 10/10
This Millefeuille of apple had a delicious, crumbly texture and bright green apple flavors. 9/10.
Next, some amaretto. A bit like a pain au chocolate. 9/10
Next, a fluffy cotton cloud arrived with chocolates and mint. The idea, of course, is that you should be floating on a cloud by now, and these desserts are coming up to join you. 9/10.
Last, parting gifts- a small batch of hand-made cookies. I love this place. 9/10.
A last, charming gesture- a copy of the menu, signed by Chef Cerea himself. What an outstanding level of service.