Cui­sine

Din­ing at Divieto Ris­torante

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - BY GINA BIR CH Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food, fine wine and fun times. She’s also a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in South­west Florida.

Astep through the doors of Divieto Ris­torante is like tak­ing a step back in time, but with a mod­ern twist. The new­est ad­di­tion to the din­ing scene at Co­conut Point Mall, Divieto means pro­hi­bi­tion in Ital­ian, and that is in­deed the vibe here. The res­tau­rant’s con­cept pays homage to the great mi­gra­tion of Ital­ians to the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Divieto co-owner San­ti­ago Lopez says, “Cul­tures came to­gether very nat­u­rally, to the point that to­day Ital­ian food is the sec­ond most pop­u­lar in the coun­try. In those years [there] was the pro­hi­bi­tion of the sale of al­co­hol, and this brought the Ital­ian mafias, the in­her­i­tance of the fam­ily tra­di­tion, and these anec­dotes gave us the ideas to cre­ate this con­cept.”

Wear­ing 1920s-style garb, the well-dressed staff pro­vides at­ten­tive ser­vice through­out the large space that feels both ca­sual and like you’re some­place spe­cial at the same time. The res­tau­rant even of­fers en­ter­tain­ment that in­cludes live croon­ing of clas­sic songs and Ital­ian fa­vorites.

The res­tau­rant busi­ness is sec­ond na­ture to Lopez. “I grew up work­ing with cooks dur­ing my sum­mer breaks,” he says. “For me, it was part of the sum­mer en­ter­tain­ment to work with them. It’s been my pas­sion ever since those years.”

When it came time to open a res­tau­rant of his own, he chose to lo­cate it in the city of Do­ral in the Mi­ami area, ex­plain­ing, “Mi­ami is the sec­ond fi­nan­cial port in the United States and is a city that is con­stantly grow­ing. It’s a mul­ti­cul­tural city full of life.”

The suc­cess of Divieto on the east coast fu­eled Lopez’s drive across Al­li­ga­tor Al­ley, where he says, “We fell in love with both Es­tero and Co­conut Point Mall.” From a busi­ness stand­point, he says, “the area is grow­ing fast, and we saw a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties around.”

Divieto is a com­pany that thrives on in­no­va­tion, ac­cord­ing to Lopez, though he adds, “We also respect the tra­di­tional el­e­ments of Ital­ian cui­sine. This mix­ture be­tween mod­ern and tra­di­tional has given us very good re­sults.”

The menu is full of Ital­ian spe­cial­ties with a touch of lo­cal fare for

good mea­sure. Take, for ex­am­ple, the trop­i­cal tuna tar­tar or the re­fresh­ing ji­cama taco. For the taco, the root veg­etable is thinly shaved, then filled with a mix of surimi, mayo and ser­rano pep­per.

The menu has 70-plus items, in­clud­ing more than a dozen pas­tas that can be pre­pared with ei­ther wheat or gluten-free noo­dles.

The guest ex­pe­ri­ence is a big part of the Divieto equa­tion, as Lopez ex­plains, “In an era where the ser­vice has been de­per­son­al­ized, we try not only to serve good food, but to make the visit of our guests a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He cites the prepa­ra­tion for the res­tau­rant’s sig­na­ture Ruota di Parmi­giano as an ex­am­ple. A gi­ant wheel of aged Parmi­giano Reg­giano is rolled ta­ble­side, where tra­di­tional fet­tucine al­fredo pasta is cer­e­mo­ni­ously poured into the hol­lowed cen­ter. The hot pasta melts the outer layer of the cheese, se­duc­tively pulling it into the sauce for an ex­tradeca­dent treat. What­ever you do, don’t leave the ex­tra bits of cheese be­hind; have them scraped on top of your pasta or put in a side bowl.

The pizza served here is thin crust, with sev­eral spe­cial com­bi­na­tions such as fresh pear, Gor­gonzola, bal­samic onions, can­died wal­nuts and fresh arugula; or moz­zarella, mas­car­pone and Parme­san with sautéed mush­rooms, ham and a driz­zle of white truf­fle oil.

The slow-braised pork shank os­sobuco is tow­er­ing and hearty, served over a rich, creamy risotto. The carpac­cio is per­fectly shaved and more than enough to share, with mush­rooms, arugula, Parme­san and a truf­fle driz­zle.

Open for lunch and din­ner, Divieto has a lot of space to ac­com­mo­date a lot of pref­er­ences, in­clud­ing a pri­vate VIP room for larger par­ties and spe­cial cel­e­bra­tions. The main din­ing room is spa­cious but still cozy; many seats have a clear view of the open kitchen.

The in­door ter­race of­fers a qui­eter and more in­ti­mate at­mos­phere, while the out­door ter­race is per­fect for peo­ple-watch­ing be­tween cour­ses. The bar is ex­pan­sive and a great place to make new friends. Here you’ll find well-pre­pared cock­tails and a wine list that cov­ers more than just Italy.

This Ital­ian res­tau­rant, with its class and cui­sine, is a wel­come ad­di­tion to the din­ing scene at Co­conut Point.

Among Dive­tio’s high­lights (left to right): a good wine list that pairs well with the ul­ti­mate ta­ble­side ex­pe­ri­ence, Ruota di Parmi­giano, pre­sented here by man­ager Al­fredo Cedeño (sec­ond from right), and evening en­ter­tain­ment fea­tur­ing Ital­ian fa­vorites.

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