The Background - We were in Hollywood over the holidays and made reservations for NYE at da Campo. The reservations were made months ago. There was no mention of a special menu on their website. When I called that afternoon to confirm the reservations, I was told it was a four-course prix-fixe at $125 per person (of course that included a complimentary thimble of prosecco.) The person I spoke to said that the menu wasn't on their website, but she would fax it to me if I wished. By that time we were kind of stuck so we decided to bite the bullet.
The Setting - The restaurant is literally inside the Il Lugano Hotel. We arrived 15 minutes early for our reservation (the first seating of the night) and were told by the hostess that the dining room was not open yet and we could "have a drink at the bar." The bar is located in the hotel lobby, adjacent to the elevators which take guests to their rooms It was somewhat jarring with diners dressed for the evening rubbing elbows with families returning from the outdoor pool wrapped in towels. We decided against a drink.
Dining Room - We were seated about 20-25 minutes later. The dining room is nice, casual, but elegant at the same time. One wall is made up of large windows overlooking the Intercoastal. The opposite wall is the open kitchen area (complete with a brick pizza oven). The ambience might have been better if they had turned off the football game which was on a flat screen TV over the service bar.
Menu - The four-course menu consisted of a choice of appetizer ("Antipasti"), a pasta dish, ("Secondi"), a main course ("Primi") and dessert ("Dulce"). Whoever composed the menu transposed "primi" and "secondi" and made the "secondi" the pasta dish and the "primi" the main dish. Our waiter assured us that was how it is done in Italy.
Service - The service was attentive (almost annoyingly so). As soon as we sat down a waiter asked for our drink order. We told him we were going to order a bottle of wine, but wanted to decide on our food before deciding on the wine. He left and returned about five minutes later to see if we had decided on a wine. We ordered a bottle of Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico. At $60, this wine (which retails for around $20) was one of the cheapest bottles on the wine list.
Appetizer - My wife had lentil soup with truffle sauce. It arrived in a large bowl which was barely one-quarter filled. The soup was wonderful, however. (A-) I had octopus which was chewy and almost completely devoid of any taste. (C-)
A Surprise! - After our appetizers, a waiter brought us a little treat from the the chef. It was a single strand of spaghettini which had been deep-fried into a little cocoon shaped thingy with a sliver of something red (I thought the waiter said "meatball consomme'", but I'm not sure) inside it. It wasn't clear whether they were intended to be eaten or worn as earrings. (D)
"Secondi" - I ordered "Ouvo Raviolo". That was not a misprint, since raviolo is the singular of ravioli. What I got was a single raviolo (large, but not especially so) filled with ricotta and a fried egg. It was actually pretty tasty, but looked a little lonely on my plate. (B) I can't recall my wife's "secondo" at this time, but that probably says a little about how memorable it was.
"Primi" - My wife had branzino. It was two thin strips of blackened fish. The seasoning was good and the fish was moist. It would have made a decent appetizer. (B-) I had a veal shank. It was quite good, moist and falling of the bone. (A-)
Dessert - My wife had a frozen chocolate something served in a drink glass. It was so-so. (B-) I had a bread pudding which came in the size and shape of a small cupcake. (C) I also ordered a double espresso (which I learned after I got the bill cost me $10.) My wife had a glass of the house prosecco.
The bottom line for all of this, with tax and tip, was just over $400. While I was driving home afterward, I had a strong urge to stop for pizza.
I realize that you shouldn't judge a restaurant on the basis of a holiday menu. But I've had prix-fixe at Ouest and Gramercy Tavern in NYC on New Year's Eve and had much better meals for less money. I won't be rushing back to da Campo
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