Is Da Vinci Restaurante, the newest addition to the delicious eateries on restaurant row in South Philadelphia, a work of art or simply a Monet?
As is the case with most B.Y.O.B’s in the city, Da Vinci has a warm cozy feel, small but inviting. There are only two rooms for dining, both petite, and the décor consists of a distinct marriage of brown and orange. There are some nice touches (antique chandeliers, sophisticated white cloth draped on tables), and the whole restaurant looks nicely appointed.
However, the food stems from gorgeous to shockingly inadequate. The Cozi Leonardo consists of about a dozen mussels and is a good bet. The soft mussels are steamed to perfection in a light broth of tomato and white wine, accompanied by mini crab meatballs that aren’t as successful.
Another appetizer, calamari stuffed with crab, mussels and clams ($12), is on the other end of the spectrum, distinctly fishy in the filling and cased in a rubbery calamari. The arugula salad ($9) is delicious if a bit simple.
The entrees follow the same hit-and-miss pattern. The lnguine al ragu ($20), which is a medley of shrimp and hearty jumbo lump crabmeat, is phenomenal. It’s tossed in a red cream sauce and served atop a base of pesto. The dish is carefully constructed, so as you twirl the pasta in your fork, there is a combination of both sauces that makes for dynamic flavor.
The duck, on the other hand, is an overly salty entrée that comes off a bit gamey. As was the case with the appetizer, there is a certain funk to the bird, perhaps due to improper preparation and an overly salty sauce that would be at home in a Chinese take out joint. The pollo scapigliata ($20), on the other hand, is well cooked and flavored with the taste of balsamic reduction and toasted walnuts, which help bring it to life.
Finally, the chef features a different fish special every night, and one of them is the orata ($31), which resembles a branzino in appearance and taste. It may also be wise to avoid this special, as the fish, which was filleted tableside, was decorated sparingly with little flair, and left with too many bones intact. Overall, this white fish is bland and overpriced for what you get.
The deserts are a knockout—and it's nice to see Da Vinci end with a bang. The white chocolate cheesecake ($7) is subtlety sweet and obviously homemade, noticeable from its fresh, rich taste. The cannoli, stuffed with mascarpone and orange peel, then dusted with powdered sugar, is also light and delicious. Everything is washed down with a complimentary shot of house cello.
Davinci’s is a decent restaurant, but it faces some tough competition with the already fabulous slew of Italian bistros in the area. Still, if you read around and pick the right dishes, it can still offer a decent meal, despite its flaws.