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Da-lovely 

While watching the Food Network recently, I caught a repeat of Opening Soon, a series about what goes on behind the scenes in the months leading up to the opening of a new restaurant. On this episode, Bish was featured, and I watched as owners Stephanie and Maurizio Bertossi painstakingly turned yet another dream into reality. The Bertossis, along with Bish, have two Il Mercatos, and of course, da Maurizio.

The Grand Dame of dining in Halifax, the Northern Italian fine dining restaurant da Maurizio always on tops the SuperCity’s “best restaurant” lists, and I think it’s time I revisited the mother ship.

The opulent interior of da Maurizio instantly creates an atmosphere of luxury and immediately makes a guest feel pampered and cosseted. Beautiful Italian prints, fine china and exquisite place settings, gorgeous crystal—no detail has been overlooked.

Da Maurizio is an expensive restaurant, with entrées hovering around the $30 mark, but savvy diners know that you don’t have to choose from the main courses in order to experience a kitchen’s cuisine—a selection of appetizers can be just as fulfilling, especially when the selection is as broad as those offered here. Tonight, we are doing just this, sampling several different starters and (wisely, as it turns out) saving room for dessert.

The most expensive of the appetizers is foie gras ($18.95), quickly seared so the inside melts in your mouth, with apple slices, crusty bread and an ice-wine reduction. It is decadent and delicious. Zuppa de pesce ($10.95) is a large bowl of tomato-based seafood soup, featuring mussels, shrimp and an enormous scallop, garnished with a piece of grilled flatbread. Not as mind-blowing as the foie gras, but excellent nonetheless.

A lovely pear and arugula salad ($9.95) deftly shows off contrast in flavours. The sharp, peppery arugula and the impossible creaminess of cambozola cheese, along with the sweetness of pears and the sweet, nutty vinaigrette, is all about balance of flavour, and is a delight. Agnolotti (think large ravioli) stuffed with lobster ($14.95) with a tomato pesto cream is certainly generous with the lobster stuffing, but the sauce has an aftertaste that is not great and I can’t quite pin down why.

Sadly, two pastas ($10.95 each) do not live up to the other dishes. Both the linguine alla gardese (with tomato, garlic and black olive pesto) and the spaghettini aglio olio (with olive oil, garlic, fresh chilies and parmigiano) are so overwhelmingly salty as to be unpalatable.

One other misstep is the seafood risotto ($16.95)—the creamy carnaroli rice with clams, shrimp, scallops and mussels is delicious, but the lobster claw on top of the dish is not cracked, and there are no cracking implements provided. It’s coated with the liquid of the dish, and so it’s very difficult to eat delicately in these elegant surroundings. I decide that’s what the linen napkin is for and wrench the claw open—I can be classy that way.

Desserts ($9.95 each) are finally in sight—a rich chocolate custard with chantilly cream, a lemon and raspberry tartuffo (a semi-frozen cake), and a chocolate hazelnut torte, helped down with excellent espresso.

With the outstanding service we’ve come to expect from one of the Bertossis’ establishments, our trip to the mother ship, with few miscues, has been simply divine.

da MaurizioThe Brewery Market1496 Lower Water Street423-0859Mon - Sat 5pm to 10pm

You can find Liz Feltham’s simply divine review archive online at this website as well as www.foodcritic.ca

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