The big review: Da Vittorio **1/2 (Good)

At Da Vittorio Restaurant serves a Costoletta alla Milanese. Elephant ear veal cutlet, pounded, breaded and served on the bone. The Coral Gables Restaurant is located at 270 Giralda Ave. Photo: Al Diaz.
At Da Vittorio Restaurant serves a Costoletta alla Milanese. Elephant ear veal cutlet, pounded, breaded and served on the bone. The Coral Gables Restaurant is located at 270 Giralda Ave. Photo: Al Diaz.

There has been no cheek-kissing and back-clapping to welcome Vittorio Lozzi back to his old chopping grounds, but the Roman chef is in fine, old-fashioned form at the new Da Vittorio. It was here, at this very address on Giralda Avenue, that Lozzi took his first U.S. kitchen job two decades ago at La Bussola.

When not providing fodder for New York gossip columns, Da Vittorio’s owner, the socialite and reality-show bad boy Fabian Basabe, is on the premises, too. The soon-to-be dad (he and his wife, La Perla lingerie heiress Martina Borgomanero, are expecting their first next month) has done a fine job of retrofitting the double storefront that was most recently housed Caramelo.

The decor has been enhanced with deep-chocolate-hued woods and creamy vanilla marble floors. Tables are set with crisp white cloths and fine tableware. The cheesy Italian pop music could be turned down a notch, but the setting is otherwise perfect for Lozzi’s well-honed recipes and the veteran waiters’ old-school charm.

Its website declares that Da Vittorio does not advertise and has no signage — an odd boast given the dearth of customers. The months-old restaurant was gloomily empty on two recent dinner visits and two drive-bys.

The menu is a greatest-hits list — prosciutto and melon, burrata with tomato, beef carpaccio, steamed mussels, Caesar salad, saltimbocca a la romana, tilapia livornese and a dozen pastas. Foremost among the dishes Lozzi has perfected is a classic spaghetti alla carbonara. No gloppy cream sauce or, God forbid, peas here. Lozzi respects the simplicity of the dish with a silken, egg-yolky sauce slightly warmed from the heat of the fresh noodles, smoky bits of charred pancetta, meltingly sautéed onion, a light dusting of fresh-grated pecorino and a heavy dash of roughly ground pepper. This is one of those hard-to-find dishes I would come back for again and again.

A simple octopus over well-seasoned mashed potatoes studded with bits of bell pepper and preserved lemon is a delight. Other fine first plates include richly satisfying, evenly rolled tagliatelle with a chunky, well-seasoned Bolognese sauce and penne alla vodka in a tangy orange-pink cream sauce. Pasta servings are overly large and relatively expensive for a traditional first course. Unfortunately, The kitchen is unwilling to serve half-portions, but a couple could split a plate and move onto the mains.

A hanging-over-the-plate veal chop on the bone has a heavy jacket of bread but still satisfies, especially with its crown of baby arugula and cherry tomatoes. Even better is the subtle and brightly lemon scaloppine dotted with briny capers. Risotto with mixed seafood was perfectly chewy and richly sauced with delicate tomato saffron but suffered from overcooked shrimp and mussels and too much butter. The otherwise delightful tricolore salad with goat cheese and zuppa di verdure (pureed vegetable soup) were as salty as licking pretzels. A springy pizza margherita was delicious if slightly bland.

An amateurish wine list has some lovely selections, especially on the Italian side, but reveals not a single vintage, even for a $670 bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothchild. We ordered a Zisola Nero D’Avola from Sicily that turned out to be a rather harsh, young 2006 — and at $48, one of the cheapest bottles. We were told there was no by-the-glass list, and the house wine is a rock-gut Trichero from California that I don’t get paid enough to drink.

Desserts — cheesecake, profiteroles, sorbet, cannoli and a soggy, way-too-sweet tiramisu — are mostly ho-hum. The exception was a thick roll of sweetened mascarpone snowed under with lusty dark chocolate chips. It should be a signature here, but had disappeared from the menu on my second visit.

Da Vittorio, 270 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-8783. 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. weekdays, 6-10:30 p.m. Mon-Sat. Antipasti $9-$18, pastas $14-$26, pizza $12-$16, desserts $8

FYI: Limited wine list. Corkage $25. Plentiful metered street parking. Takeout and local delivery available. AX, DN, MC, VS.

Published: 1/09

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