De Medici Cucina Italiana – Tried and True and New

| February 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

One of my favorite restaurants is located in the Gaslamp — De Medici Cucina Italiana. It was one of the first restaurants to open on Fifth Avenue and it has prospered even in the face of economic slowdowns. Why? Because of the outstanding cuisine, relaxing ambiance, and attentive service that Sal Vitale and his capable manager Mario Valerio “bring to the table.”
The restaurant is owned by Sal Vitale, a dapper, well dressed genial man who exudes hospitality. He greatly enjoys pleasing his guests. “I want my restaurant to be the kind that Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin would have liked to dine at,” Vitale said.

Mario Valerio joined Sal Vitale after leading Star Of The Sea for many years. That used to be one of city’s premier seafood restaurants. Valerio merged his knowledge and experience regarding seafood with Vitale’s knowledge and experience with classic and traditional Italian recipes.

Vitale and Valerio have succeeded in making De Medici into a venue where one may greatly enjoy dining on any evening, not just as a special occasion restaurant. The interior of the dining room is very chic and comfortable. The walls are a light mellow pastel, decorated with beautifully framed paintings and drawings that reflect an Italian Renaissance theme. Large decorative molding hugs the ceilings, with plants draping down. Large comfortable booths frame the room. A heated patio is available for outdoor seating. There is nothing better than to dine there on a cool night while watching the crowds parade up and down Fifth Avenue.

With soft music in the background by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, the interior becomes quite romantic, a wonderful place to bring a significant other — perhaps the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The interior is romantic, a wonderful place to bring a significant other — perhaps the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The menu is very long, offering a large assortment of delightful items. It is divided into sections such as antipasti, secondi and the like. Take your time going through it, not to miss any of the choices. Antipasti can begin the meal with frutti de mari (fruits of the sea) or calamari fritti, savory coated octopi fried and served with a tangy marinara sauce. Take special note of the cannelloni, an appetite inducing fresh handmade pasta, rolled and stuffed with lobster, crab and shrimp then oven baked and topped with a pink lobster sauce. This dish, created specially by Vitale and Valerio, exemplifies the union of healthier approaches to traditional Italian recipes.

Two antipasti dishes that are difficult to find at other restaurants are the wild abalone and caviar. Pink wild abalone, lightly breaded then sauteed in extra virgin olive oil, is brought in specially from Cabo San Lucas. This is not the farmed variety but wild which offers much more robust flavor and texture. The caviar is served with all the condiments and can even be eaten ceremoniously to make the dinner special. Is this another idea for Valentine’s Day?

The list of seafood is very tempting. Filet of sole, lightly breaded, is an absolutely winning dish. Or try the sole Portofino, fresh fillet of sole stuffed with lobster, crab and shrimp then oven baked to a golden brown. Seabass, salmon, ahi and other fresh fish items are all offered. The lobster is especially tempting, whether lobster thermidor, medallions of lobster napped with a cognac scented sauce then baked in the original shell or lobster Fra Diavolo, one whole spiny lobster sauteed in extra virgin olive oil and garlic in a spicy marinara sauce over a bed of linguini.

There is a special menu section for prime steak that is aged 21 days to maximize flavor. The rib eye and filet are all prepared to perfection. To make the evening even more special, many of the dishes on the menu are prepared tableside by the expert staff.

De Medici Cucina Italiana presents the best of traditional Italian cuisine, updated to appeal to contemporary tastes, in an elegant yet casual setting that is comfortable and romantic. It is a place to enjoy any day but especially on Valentine’s Day. The restaurant is located at 815 Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp. Parking at Horton Plaza is convenient. Call 619-702-7228 for information and reservations.

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