Last week, my dinner guest Dustin and I had the pleasure of dining at one of celebrity chef Todd English’s most renowned restaurants, da Campo Osteria. Located in the beautiful il Lugano Hotel on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale, the restaurant offers a minimalistic approach in design, but makes up for it in flavor and presentation.

 

Our friendly and knowledgeable server Michael was eager to tell us about da Campo’s menu and wine list. We left most decisions up to him since his family has been in the food business for years. Michael recommended we start with the fresh-made mozzarella pulled tableside, served with an assortment of accompaniments.

Within minutes, a cart arrived to our table and a chef started to prepare our offering. I have never watched mozzarella cheese being made before, so this experience was quite fascinating. The cheese was then placed on a serving platter alongside prosciutto di Parma, heirloom tomatoes, honey-spiced walnuts, pickled pepperoncini peppers, and a green and black olive tapenade. It was very interesting to try the different combinations of flavors, but my favorites were the traditional couplings with the tomatoes and prosciutto di Parma.

Next to arrive was the jumbo meatball, prepared with veal, beef and pork and served in a homemade pomodoro sauce. I was skeptical about this dish, being that so many other establishments have tried and failed to prepare an extra large meatball, but da Campo rose to the occasion. The meatball was not only tasty, but it was cooked perfectly throughout, with a bit of crispness on the outside. The Parmigiano-Reggiano really helped to add sharpness and flavor to the dish.

For our pizza and pasta course, the chef, Joshua Hedquist, prepared the delightful butternut squash agnolotti and the mozzarella, tomato and basil pizze. Although both dishes were enjoyable, I favored the agnolotti, prepared with a delightful cream sauce. The flavor of the butternut squash really shined through in this dish and the pasta was cooked al dente, much to our liking.

Earlier on, Michael had recommended a nice red wine to accompany our meal, a Ruffino Ducale. The wine seemed to fit perfectly with our entrees, the bone-in veal chop with Gorgonzola mashed potatoes and saltimbocca jus, and the seared scallops with braised artichokes and olives.

The veal chop was extremely tender and served medium rare. Although the chop itself contained slightly too much fat for my liking, there is no denying the flavor and complexity of this dish. The gorgonzola potatoes really work well with the chop and the sauce compliments the veal and potatoes. My favorite of the two entrees, however, was the seared scallops, which were cooked perfectly with a nice sear on one side and just enough seasoning as to not to mask the flavor of the fish.

Finally, for dessert, the general manager suggested that we sample the tiramisu. Don’t let the name fool you, this is not your grandmother’s tiramisu. The dish is actually a chocolate-chip soufflé served with mocha gelato and mascarpone crema. Both Dustin and I fell in love with the flavor and presentation of this dish and finished every bite. This dessert is not to be missed.

In addition to being home to such a great dining establishment, il Lugano Hotel will also host Men's Night Out on Tuesday, August 3. Unique cocktails and a sample menu will be available for guests to enjoy. Free flatbread pizza will be offered from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

For more information on da Campo Osteria or Men’s Night Out, contact the hotel at 954-564-4400 or visit ilLugano.com


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