Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Restaurant Review: da Campo Osteria, Ft Lauderdale, FL

da Campo Osteria - dinner on October 1, 2013, restaurant at il Lugano hotel
White Chocolate Bread Pudding - room service dessert
For my second week in Florida, I was out there for a 2-day offsite and we were literally offsite, holding our all-day meetings at Il Lugano Hotel. The restaurant in the hotel is da Campo Osteria and that's where our meeting attendees of 12 people went for our team dinner.  Nothing so handy as leaving the meeting room, taking the elevator back to your room to dump your laptop then taking the elevator back down to show up at the restaurant on the ground floor.
da Campo Osteria also makes the food served for room service and when I had arrived the night before, I ordered in since I'd gotten to the hotel late due to flight delays.  I had my ultimate comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs and this rich white chocolate bread pudding.  I couldn't finish it all but what I did have was pretty good.  I'm not a big fan of white chocolate but I love bread pudding and this was presented beautifully.
For our team dinner, we started off with appetizers.  One of the things da Campo Osteria is known for is their appetizer of fresh pulled mozzarella prepared tableside.  One of the staff wheeled over a cart with all the ingredients and accoutrements he needed and set up by our table.  He started with cow milk curds in a stainless steel bowl that he broke up into chunks.  Wearing gloves, he poured very hot (possibly boiling hot, hence one reason for the gloves) water over the curds and started working them together, kneading the curd chunks into a smooth mass, with a folding motion, adding more hot water as he went. At a certain point in the kneading process, he started pulling the mozzarella into a long strand, much like you pull taffy into a ribbon.  Fold the strand over, pull again, knead, shape.  He ended up with an impressive smooth round disc of fresh mozzarella which he covered with oil and balsamic vinegar and plated with an accompaniment of olives, peppers, tomatoes and other foodstuffs I couldn't identify.  And that was our appetizer.  We had ordered 3 so he did the first one as a demonstration and two of my coworkers did the remaining two so they experienced preparing fresh mozzarella "from scratch".
Breaking up the milk curds
Kneading the milk curds together
Need more hot water
Stretching like taffy
Cutting the mozzarella into pieces
The plated fresh mozzarella
We got margherita pizza to share which I don't see on their online menu but it was nicely done with a thin crispy crust and a light smattering of cheese, tomato sauce and herbs.  As an appetizer, you don't want to fill up too much too soon, not when there's pasta on the menu and dessert to follow.  At least I don't.
A slice of the margherita pizza we all shared
I had had the spaghetti and jumbo meatball for dinner the night before with room service so for the team dinner, I went with the Lobster Tagliatelle.  I'm mindful to make my contributions to the seafood economy in Florida and it's hard to go wrong with lobster. This was pretty good although, having already had the bread, margherita pizza and freshly pulled mozzarella, I had to start pacing myself if I wanted room for dessert so I focused on consuming the lobster. It was a foregone conclusion I wasn't going to be able to eat all the pasta. I had run 4 miles in the hotel gym that morning, not 40.
My entree: Lobster Tagliatelle
A coworker's entree: Grilled New York Strip
And I can't have a restaurant review without dessert, of course.  Since I had already had the White Chocolate Bread Pudding the night before, I went with the Ricotta Zeppole this time.  They were served slightly warm, crunchy on the outside, and stuffed with nutella on the inside. There was some fancy food art stuck in the gelato and I tried a snippet but set it aside to focus on the zeppoles and the accompanying vanilla bean gelato. Do I even need to mention it was delicious?  Let me say it again: warm zeppoles stuffed with nutella.  Yes, they were as good as that sounded.  I shared a couple of zeppoles with my boss and that was probably a good thing so I wouldn't snarf them all down.  Because again, I only ran 4 miles that morning, not 40.  I had to keep telling myself that.
Ricotta Zeppole
Sorry, the below pic is up-ended but I couldn't get it to rotate properly.  It uploads correctly then turns itself on its end.  Anyway, one of my coworkers seated on my left ordered this dessert which is essentially a chocolate cake filled with amaretto buttercream topped with vanilla bean gelato and chocolate sauce.  He said it was good but nothing fantastic.  I'm glad I got the zeppoles instead.
Caprese Torta aka chocolate cake
My other coworker seated on my right ordered the tiramisu souffle.  I thought it was a cute presentation, warm in the cast iron pot with separate containers for the mocha gelato and mascarpone cream. I forgot to ask him how it tasted.  At the time, I wasn't sure I had looked up from my zeppoles just yet.
Tiramisu souffle with mocha gelato and mascarpone cream
Overall, I thought da Campo Osteria was a good choice for our team dinner.  Beyond the convenience factor of being located in the hotel we were staying at, the food was good, the place was large enough to accommodate our party of 12 and the service was attentive.

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