Craving Pasta? Try Trattoria DaVinci.

by Fashionista Troy

I had a craving for pasta on Friday night, and knowing that there is a pasta bar right down the street, I called a friend and we met at Trattoria DaVinci, located in the Lowertown neighborhood of downtown St. Paul.

It was shortly after 5 – I didn’t make reservations or apparently need any. The hostess greeted us at the door and led us to a table near the open-kitchen-concept pasta bar. The restaurant is located in an old brick building on Mears Park. The decor plays off the inventions and works of Leonardo DaVinci, a bit much for my tastes, but by no means offensive.

The tables were all covered in white tablecloths and had lit candles. The place felt very clean and comfortable.

The Order
Water was delivered immediately and the waiter, Brady, welcomed us with menus. I ordered black coffee and began to peruse the menu.

Although the restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine, the menu is varied and includes enough options for those not in the mood for an Italian dish. I noticed the Prosciutto E Mozzarella and thought that a good way to begin the evening, along with a nice merlot. I ordered a large Caesar salad to split followed by a couple of pasta entrees. My companion selected the Linguine Al Gorgonzola, based on the recommendation of the server, while I went for creating me own at the extensive pasta bar. The Trattoria DaVinci pasta bar features a variety of sauces, ingredients and pastas so that you can create your own combination. (They also serve from the pasta bar over lunch for a reduced price).

The Dinner
Fresh bread and a garlic seasoned butter were delivered to the table, along with the wine, followed shortly by the Prosciutto E Mozzarella – pan seared fresh mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto di Parma. The was served with a small side of mixed greens in a light dressing. My initial impressions were that this was bland and dry. The prosciutto only covered a small portion of the toasted bread, the rest tasted dry. Only after adding a bit of the salad to the mozzarella and prosciutto and minimizing the toast could I enjoy this appetizer.

Before I go further, let me say that the service was perfect. Brady was spot on with everything – timing, friendliness, understanding of the menu and making us feel comfortable at Trattoria DaVinci. There was not one thing I could flaw with the service. Not one. I wish I could say the same for the food.

The next item delivered was a split Caesar Salad. Like most fine dining restaurants, The server split this for us in the kitchen and presented it to us in two dishes – a touch I always appreciate. As for the salad, I was hard-pressed to find anything representing flavor in the dressing. While the Romaine was crisp, the parmesan was fresh and plentiful and the croutons (while nothing special) were as expected, the dressing left me severely disappointed. I only order this item because I assumed an Italian Restaurant would have an outstanding Caesar Salad. Unfortunately this was not the case.

After finishing about 1/4 of the salad, I was ready to move on to the main course. Our plates were quickly cleared and fresh silver delivered to the table. Brady told me that I could go to the pasta bar and begin my creation as he had timed the kitchen order with mine. At the bar the selections included various meats, assorted vegetables, multiple sauces and several pastas. I selected a spicy red cream sauce, added Italian sausage and pepperoni with hot red peppers on bow tie pasta. The chef prepared the dish in front of me and was even so kind as to let me photograph him making it.

I returned to my table and it wasn’t long before Brady appeared with both our entrees. I was concerned about the timing since the items were coming from two different kitchens, but they arrived simultaneously and hot.

While I had some concerns about the Prosciutto di parma, and outright disdain for the Caesar, the pastas were terrific. My pasta was perfectly done, the sauce had just the kick I was looking for. The portions are huge and the chefs are generous with the ingredients. (This must be one of the reasons the Wild hockey team eat here so frequently). I knew I would have a difficult time completing even half of this meal, but it was was not easy to stop.

While my pasta was great, the Linguine Al Gorgonzola was amazing. It is described as linguine pasta topped with jumbo shrimp, portobella mushrooms, arugula and cherry tomatoes in a brandy gorgonzola creamy sauce. I was fearful that gorgonzola might overpower the dish and be too rich, but it was an amazing combination and complimented the ingredients perfectly. The shrimp were nicely cooked, slightly crunchy and not rubbery.

We ate as much as we dared and still had more than enough for another meal (so yes, I did have them boxed).

After Dinner
Dessert is an essential, no matter what, so I ordered an espresso and we shared a Creme Brûlée. It was done well, crunchy on top and creamy underneath – just the right finish for the dinner. I did think, however, that the cherry on top was a bit cheesy as far as presentations go, but that is a minor point and completely subjective.

The Finish

Although it has been mentioned, the service was impeccable. My coffee was kept full and hot, our water glasses never dry, and I didn’t even have to wait for the bill or to pay. How refreshing. The total was about $80 plus tip. I will definitely be back and will recommend Trattoria DaVinci for pasta and more.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 out of 5 stars. My rating would have been a five if the Caesar Salad had not been absolutely flavorless and the appetizer hadn’t been disappointing.

Trattoria DaVinci
400 Sibley Street
St. Paul, MN 55101


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