New Italian eatery stands up to competition
D’Amalfi, the name of a new Italian restaurant in the western suburb of Escazú, conjures up the riches of Italy’s Amalfi coast with its abundance of seafood, fresh fruit, veggies, sun-ripened tomatoes, aromatic herbs and melt-in-your-mouth homemade pastas.
With the above in our minds, a party of five arrived for dinner at D’Amalfi in Escazú’s Plaza Atlantis, and received a friendly, hospitable welcome.
The restaurant’s decor, with its black, white and red motif, complements the spacious open-plan dining area, and the tables are set with long-stemmed wine glasses and fresh bird of paradise flowers. Behind a large glass window, chef Giuseppe Galuppo, known as “Pino,” can be seen with his six assistants, performing their culinary antics in the shiny, stainless-steel kitchen.
Over the years, I keep bumping into Pino. I first sampled his excellent cuisine at Cariblue Hotel in the Caribbean beach community of Puerto Viejo, then later in Santa Ana at Antonio’s, an exceptional Italian restaurant now closed. I didn’t doubt Pino would come up trumps again, and he didn’t disappoint.
From the selection of soups, antipasti, carpaccios and salads, we ordered the very good minestrone and Mediterranean salad, salmon tartare and swordfish carpaccio. My salmon was impeccably fresh and accompanied by an avocado purée, which I thought was slightly on the bland side, but another diner disagreed and said it was perfect. The swordfish carpaccio was attractively presented with an arugula salad, but this tended to overpower the delicate flavor of the fish.
For main courses, the Primer Plato consists of a selection of pastas and risotto, and the Segundo Plato beef, chicken and fish. The latter is typically Italian. I remember my Italian friends’ huge lunches: antipasto, soup, a pasta course followed by a main dish such as veal, chicken or fish, then dessert, cheese and fruit. Their meals were killers and took at least five hours.
However, we refrained from the above and ordered only pasta choices from the Primer Plato. The homemade lasagna was very tasty, the gnocchi Gorgonzola served with pear slices was a wonderful combination of flavors, and the eggplant casserole received rave reviews. The linguine with a generous helping of clams and mussels and the agnolotti stuffed with veal in a butter, sage and basil sauce were both thoroughly enjoyed.
Over excellent coffee and a selection of delicious, calorie-laden desserts, including chocolate mousse and apple crumble, we talked to Angelo Palemo, one of the three owners. We complimented him on the first-class service we had received from our waiter, as well as on his choice of house wines: a Farnese Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Palemo said he realizes there is a lot of competition for connoisseurs of Italian cuisine, but D’Amalfi is prepared to give them a run for their money.
Prices are in line with other restaurants of this caliber and include sales tax. Expect to pay ₡4,000 to ₡6,000 ($8 to $12) for appetizers, ₡6,000 to ₡13,000 ($12 to 26) for main courses and about ₡4,000 ($8) for dessert.
Location: Plaza Atlantis commercial center, 150 meters south of Scotiabank, San Rafael de Escazú.
Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. daily.
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