Review: DaVinci’s of Boca

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6000 Glades Road, Boca Raton, 561/362-8466

PRICES: Entrées $17–$44

HOURS: Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–11 p.m.,

Sun. noon–10 p.m.

WEBSITE: davinciofboca.com

Back in the day, if you were hungry for a slab of gray meat cooked to the texture of Kevlar or a piece of fried fish oozing oil like the Deepwater Horizon, you had options.

One place, for certain, that you could count on for a terrible meal: the local shopping mall, especially its venerable food court, a pulsating palace of indigestion that insulted the cuisines of countries from around the world.

However, at places like Town Center at Boca Raton, not only is the court deciding in favor of the diner, so is the rest of the mall’s restaurant offerings. Is there any place where a man can find simple, honest, just plain bad food?

Certainly not at DaVinci’s. Devotees of crummy dining would tremble at the sight of the Carvelli family’s spacious Italian restaurant at Town Center (in the spot once occupied by Legal Sea Foods). They’d despair at the professionalism of its servers, grieve at the depth of its thoughtfully chosen wine list, blanch at the carefully prepared food that satisfies both traditionalists and the more adventurous with equal aplomb.

The rest of us, though, can only rejoice. Start with DaVinci’s burrata Caprese, an elaborate salad featuring a ball of fresh mozzarella filled with the creamy leavings of the cheese-making process, artfully plated with prosciutto, smoked tomato jam, balsamic syrup and arugula. It’s a combo that seems wildly overwrought yet manages to work perfectly.

Much less complicated is a giant platter of fried calamari—crisp, golden rings and squiggles that are an ideal foil for a bright-tasting marinara. Wagyu carpaccio is betrayed slightly by a heavy hand on the salt. Otherwise, the translucent petals of designer beef offer a rich, meaty complement to more arugula, shaved Parmesan, thin coins of black truffle and a tangy lemon vinaigrette. Pastas come “classico” (think lasagna) and “moderno” (lobster ravioli), both of which live up to the billing.

Lasagna is hearty and filling, much improved by the use of fresh pasta. Ravioli are as delicate as the lasagna is lusty, caressed with a bronze cognac cream sauce.

Osso buco is terrific. If the accompanying wild mushroom risotto is a bit gummy, it’s made up for by a gum-tender veal shank scattered with gremolata and crowned with a veal bone that begs prospecting for its quivering, luscious marrow. Marco Prime sea bass is a riff on Nobu’s miso-marinated fish, here a snowy fillet given a sweet-salty ginger-miso glaze and served atop addictive scallion-flecked polenta “fries.”

Desserts gently tweak tradition to salutary effect. Cannoli arrive as a trio of crunchy, finger-sized tubes jacketing ricotta infused with Grand Marnier, chocolate and Key lime juice. Tiramisu combines the classic espresso-spiked ladyfingers with all-the-rage sea salt and caramel, the latter whipped into mascarpone, the former in a smoky toffee topping.

We didn’t exactly need another reason to visit Town Center, but DaVinci’s is as good of an excuse as any.

For more on the South Florida dining scene, pick up the March/April issue ofBoca Raton magazine. Subscribe to the magazine here.