Published on July 1st, 2012 | by Kevin Barron7
Review: Da Massimo Ristorante Italiano
[Click Play to listen to our Audio Review from the Pee Dee Food Show]
WHY YOU SHOULD GO
The decor is tasteful, the food is wonderful, and the service is excellent. What more can you ask?
We arrived around 7:00pm during the soft opening event, which was by invitation. The dining room was nearly full and the buzz in the room was palpable. After being greeted warmly, we were initially seated at a pub table and chairs near the entrance. Upon request, we were moved to a table in the rear of the restaurant near the bar and kitchen. That accommodation was appreciated.
In no time we were greeted by the front of house manager, who introduced himself and told us that he and the owner, Max Borghesi, were old friends. He noted that menu was limited for this preview event and shared his recommendations. Shortly thereafter he returned with a complimentary order of bruschetta and took our order. The bruschetta, by the way, was delicious. The bread was crisp and topping was cold – beautiful.
Our first selected course consisted of our appetizers. We decided to order both that were offered and shared them. The first was Cozze alla Marinara ($10.00) or mussels in marinara with fresh basil and the second was a simple Caprese ($10.00) or salad with mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and basil drizzled with olive oil. Can I just say, “Wow!” Whether or not you like mussels, you’ll love these. The marinara is light and didn’t over power the mussels. That said, it was so flavor-filled that I commented that to make it perfect all that we needed some fresh bread for dipping so as not to waste what remained on the plate. I will request that next time. The Caprese was also very good, though in my opinion was out-shined by the mussels. The mozzarella was good, as well, though I don’t believe it was locally-produced. If that could be added through a local farm connection, it would add to its appeal for many.
Our second course consisted of Insalata Cesare ($8.00). While a house salad of mixed greens was available, all of us opted for the caesar. The romaine was sized well, not too many large pieces which can sometimes make a salad difficult to enjoy. I do not know if the dressing was house made, but my specific salad could have used a bit more of it, as it was good. Cracked black pepper topped each, as applied with a thirty year old, extra large pepper grinder.
Our third course, our mains, was a cross-section of the menu and we shared with each other so that each of us could taste as much of the menu as we could. My favorite was the Salmone alla Massimo ($18.00). It consisted of a fresh, very well-prepared salmon filet topped with sautéed shrimp, capers, lemon butter, and pasta on the side. Many people dislike salmon for its fishy flavor. Unfortunately, those who’ve had salmon that tasted fishy didn’t have fresh salmon. This salmon was fresh and meaty, with a portion size ample for sharing. We also had Penne alla Vodka ($15.00), which was penne pasta, a creamy vodka marinara, pancetta, and sautéed onions. While the sauce was very good, the star of this dish was the pancetta. It was classically salty, hammy, and pulled you back to the plate for another bite. The pancetta is an inspired addition to this traditionally simple Italian dish. Finally, we shared Vitello al Marsala ($20.00) or veal marsala. Another traditional dish, but done in the sublime Da Massimo way. Earthy from the mushrooms, the veal was mild and so tender. Having not eaten veal for some time, I was looking forward to this dish a great deal. It was not a disappointment and will be on heavy rotation for my future visits. As my friend commented, I was captain of the clean plate tonight. The only dish on the menu that we did not try was Pollo Limone ($16.00) or lemon chicken. If there would have been four of us in our party, no doubt we would have done so. Alas, yet another reason to visit Da Massimo again soon.
Course number four, dessert, was forced. We were stuffed, but the offerings sounded too good to pass up. The first item was the house made Cannoli ($8.00) with sweet ricotta, chocolate chips, and (believe it or not) almond slivers. I absolutely love cannoli, but finding one that goes beyond the traditional chocolate or vanilla flavoring has been rare in my experience. A couple of us made that very comment. The almonds were unexpected and will be a signature addition, I believe. The second was the Da Massimo version of Tiramisu ($8.00). This well-known dessert was layered and served in a chilled glass, much like a large ice cream sundae would be. The lady fingers were not soggy and the espresso did not compete with the cocoa and mascarpone. It was well-balanced.
We completed our meal having thoroughly enjoyed every course. We paid our check, which totaled approximately $130.00 with tax, but before gratuity.
In closing, I would like to say “thank you” to Max Borghesi for his invitation. Joining me for that meal were my friends Garin Dickerson and Jerry Klein. You can hear more about our visit in this special episode the Pee Dee Food Show.
See Photo Gallery
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Apart from a couple of suggestions mentioned in our related podcast review, I cannot think of any at the moment. Those were expected, however, as a restaurant soft opening is used as a means to identify opportunities for improvement by the owners and staff. No doubt they will be addressed in the coming days. Please add your thoughts in the comment section below. Any feedback is appreciated.
Editor’s Note: The images above were taken using my iPhone 4. Please look for an additional photo gallery to be posted separately in the coming days. Jerry Klein of Klein Style Photography captured some stunning images that you will want to see. We’ll post those as soon as they are received.