Alcaravea

Av. Ignacio Zaragoza esq. 16 de Septiembre, Cabo San Lucas 23450, MX • 624-1-43-37-30

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From the moment you walk in, you can tell the place is special. The décor is warm and charming with it’s wrought iron railing and tasteful art. And the vibe manages to somehow honor both Italy and Mexico at the same time.

As for the service, it was very friendly and accommodating, but unfortunately the kitchen is a tad slow, so don’t go if you’re in a hurry.

That said, the kitchen takes its time for a reason- some of the dishes are simply incredible. So good that you will forget you are in Mexico. For example, the eggplant parmesan is easily on par with the best I’ve ever had. The pastas were also fantastic. And the special catch, Halibut, was incredible. Unfortunately, the veal was a big miss, as was the caprese salad and the antipasta platter.

Would’ve tried dessert, but because everything took so long, we just ordered ice cream for the kids thinking that would be quicker, but even that took forever to prepare, for some unknown reason.

Also, one other watch-out to consider, because they have a beautiful open façade, with wrought-iron and ivy, while it makes for a wonderful setting, if you are sitting next to it, prepare to hear lots of engine noise from the street, as well as to breathe in lots of exhaust. 😦

So all in all, a positive experience, but not without its detractors.

3 teeth

Capo

1810 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA90401(310) 394-5550caporestaurant.com

Capo-restaurant

My wife and I just love this place. One of the best Italian restaurants in the country.

Our favs: Start off with the burrata caprese. Then, for your entree, just about any pasta will do, but my personal preference is doing a split plate of lobster risotto and their quattro fromaggi ravioli. The ravioli is like love wrapped in pasta. My mouth is literally salivating as I think about it. In fact, to truly understand the depths of this love let me tell you a true story. During one of my trips out to LA when my wife couldn’t make it, I had the chef vacuum seal a serving of it so that I could fly it home and make it for her in New York. Now that’s love… of pasta.

Another wonderful ravioli dish worth keeping an eye out for is their special, sweet corn and white truffles. It’s even better than the lobster risotto, but just not as easy to come by. So if you see it, pounce!

And as for dessert, the Grand Marnier Soufflé. No questions asked. It will complete you. And it will complete a flawless meal. Coupled with no-pretense service and an intimate but charming decor, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a restaurant. Oh, and the best part, it’s not impossible to get in.

5 teeth

Piccolo

5 Dudley Ave. Venice, CA 90291(310) 314-3222 • piccolovenice.com

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Move over Capo, Valentino’s and Georgio’s. There’s, well, technically not a “new” game, but “new to me” game in town.

Decor is clean and simple. Basically dark wood and white.  The service, and particularly our waiter, was very authentic and very passionate about the restaurant’s offerings. So passionate that I think it took nearly 30 minutes for him to explain the burrata caprese alone. That said, the burrata caprese is phenomenal. So inventive. Easily the best I’ve ever had.

Another incredible dish is the tagliatelle with venison ragu. Seasoned with cinnamon and clove. Such incredible flavors layered in every bite. It was truly masterful and like nothing I’ve ever had, before or since.

Some other solid dishes were the carbonara with quail egg and the seared scallops with truffles. But while very good, they just weren’t at the same level as the first two.

And then came dessert. A make or break for 5 stars. And with me not typically being a fan of Italian desserts, save the cannoli, an improbable task to say the least. But Piccolo delivered. Two different desserts rocked my world. The dark chocolate gold leaf cake was insane. So intensely rich, but not overdone. Handled with complete elegance on the palate. And the crowd favorite, the chocolate cream filled pastry balls. Sort of a variation on a profiterole. Like a bomb of chocolaty, creamy goodness exploding in your mouth.

I think I’m in amore.

5 teeth

The Cookery

39 Chestnut St. Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522(914) 305-2336thecookeryrestaurant.com

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You should just take your socks off before the eating here, because they’re about to get blown off.

Apart from the best Osso Bucco I’ve ever had, they also make an amazing pasta with the very same pork, a killer quince salad, great octopus and two desserts that are out of this world, the chocolate polenta and the budino, which is done more like a bread pudding- no argument here.

And best of all, you can down every last bite with a stellar bottle of Amarone for only 60 bucks! And it’s in Westchester! Pinch me (just not on the tush, I’m a married man).

Seriously, this place honestly rivals every Italian restaurant I’ve eaten at in the city, which includes L’Artusi, Mailiano, Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa, Ciano, Carbone, Torrisi  and so on… The only thing we ever had that was a let down was the lasagna, too creamy and one note.

Also, one other small nit. Some people find the noise level a bit loud. For me, I let it slide, granted it does make it harder for you to hear yourself mmm-ing.

As for decor it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to be fair, but with food this good, your eyes are usually closed most of the time anyways, savoring every last bite.

5 teeth

Via Vanti!

Mount Kisco Train Station • 2 Kirby Plz. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 666-6400 • viavanti.com

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If you want 4 star Italian or better, this isn’t it. I’m sorry Yelpers, but you must be smoking the oregano if you think this place is that incredible. It’s just okay at best. Granted I thought the service was worthy of 4 stars. But the food is only marginally better than an Olive Garden, with crazy inflated prices. Which is hard to believe that some of you thought it was a great value! I guess compared to NYC, but that’s not saying much.

Here’s the breakdown. I had a glass of their most expensive wine by the glass, basically an Italian Pinot Noir and it was hardly worth $6 much less the $15 they charged. And having just had a glass of wine two days prior at Village Social that was excellent, it only exacerbated the issue for me.

As a starter, we shared the sunflower seed salad with grapes, which was good, best thing we had.

And for entrees, we all had various pastas. The kids had farfalle with meatballs to the tune of $17 bucks each! Does this sound like a cheap place?

I had the Arribiata with Shrimp for $24, which was far from spicy and equally distant from worth it. Granted I like a lot of heat, but this thing didn’t even register on my scale. Tasted more like marinara.

The wife had the orcchiette and that was probably the best of the bunch, but there is a place in Irvington called Mima that makes a very similar dish, but does it about 5 times better.

And as for the gelato, “amazing” it is not. If you want “amazing,” go to Eataly in the city. Then you will know what amazing is. And this is not that.

But I suppose I only have myself to blame. I mean an exclamation point in the name is a pretty big hint that you’re not exactly in for a culinary delight.

Now, before I leave on a down note, I wanted to offer some sage advice; if you truly want excellent Italian at a great price in Westchester, then go to The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry. Sure it’s harder to get into, but that’s because it actually deserves its stars.

2 teeth

The Ultimate Osso Bucco

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The Cookery – Dobbs Ferry, NY

When you go to an Italian restaurant the first thing on most people’s minds is pasta. Maybe pizza. Maybe a caprese salad. But very seldom is an osso bucco top of mind. Well, if you ever should happen to find yourself near Dobbs Ferry, NY (Hometown of Mark Zuckerberg), then I strongly suggest you make a stop inside The Cookery for some, you guessed it, osso bucco.

This thing is fall off the bone pork perfection. And yes, I tend to drop alliteration when I get excited. It is so moist and full of flavor, it’s enough to make brisket and short ribs jealous.

And best of all, you pair this baby up with a bottle of Amarone for only $60 (which is unheard of in a restaurant), and it’s game over.

Sapori Italian Restaurant

324 Central Ave. White Plains, NY 10606

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And now for a dose of reality…

It is PAINFULLY clear after eating here that the Yelpers who reviewed this place must not have been what one would call “foodies.” That said, at least they picked up on the poor service. But here’s everything else they missed, from someone who actually has discerning tastes:

First, the bread. Right out of the gate, we knew we were in trouble with stale breadsticks and dry, crumbly focaccia . Served with an olive oil that was probably Berio. And to think people actually touted this!

Then there’s the wine list, which may have some nice bottles on it, but to be out of not one, but two different choices on it is absurd. This was especially bad because they let us order the bottles both times, disappearing to fetch them, before eventually telling us that they were out of them, killing the first hour without anything to drink and our orders yet to be taken.

And then there’s the highly praised burrata. You people obviously know squat about food, because the tomatoes were served ice cold. What chef refrigerates tomatoes?!?! As a result, they were mealy and tasteless.

Then the entrees came and while mine, the osso bucco, was passable- meaning edible, my wife’s fish was as bland as balsa wood and not even served according to the preparation that was described.

And for dessert, the ice cream tasted more like redi-whip and the molten chocolate was very lacking in the molten department.

But at least the service- oh wait, that sucked royally too.

But at least the decor- nope. Nothing to speak of there either. It’s just okay.

Sad to say, but I struggle to find anything nice to say about this place other than the fact that it was good to spend time with friends- oh, and that the valet didn’t lose my car.

1 tooth

 

Zero Otto Nove

15 W 21st St. New York, NY 10010(212) 242-0899 • roberto089.com

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I’m not sure why so many Italian restaurants feel like they have to decorate themselves with fake fresco walls as though you might actually want to eat in an Italian themed amusement park. But décor aside, Zero is a very solid three knives. And you know it from the moment the warm rustica bread hits the table.

Then comes the pasta and the pizza. Both very respectable. Of the pastas we had two and both were perfectly al dente, each with its own toothsome blend of accouterments. Gun to my head, the one with the butternut squash won by a nose over the meatball, egg and soppresatta.

As for pizza, I recommend the arugula and prosciutto.

And the wines by the glass weren’t too shabby either. Can’t recall which one I ended up choosing, but I do recall liking it.

Also, service is always friendly and the place is seldom as busy as it deserves, unfortunately. Maybe because of its décor. After all, it’s hard to take this place seriously unless you know better, which fortunately, now you do.

3 teeth