Davide, Marco Island, Florida

What a pleasant place!  It certainly belies expectations.  Davide (pronounced a la Italian, with three syllables) is set in a small strip mall near a major intersection, Collier and Bald Eagle.  The location is unprepossessing by Marco Island standards.  There are eight tables outside, overlooking a parking lot, and eight more lining one side of the narrow interior.  The other side of the interior includes a small, four-stool bar and the serving area.  Waiters and servers weave in between.  I didn’t know that Davide takes reservations — many places in Marco don’t — so we had a 20-minute wait for a table, and loved it.

First, the maitre d’, Davide (I presume).  Diminutive and very Italian, as are most or all of the waiters, Davide was everywhere and on top of everything.  For those of us waiting, Davide would look over at us every few minutes, catch our eye, and nod and smile to let us know he hadn’t forgotten.  As a table started to become free, he would again catch someone’s eye and hold up five or fewer fingers to signal how many more minutes it would be.   A final smile and lifting of the forehead let us know our table was ready.  It’s an endearingly nice system, much nicer, more human than the normal page or shout (Donner, party of four!), and what memory!

Even more entertaining, Davide (the restaurant now) has live music outside.  Two performers alternated that night: a woman who sings updated standards, and a man with an operatic tenor.  Both were quite good, and sang to the group rather than hovering over individual tables.  The tenor mainly sang an Andrea Bocelli-type repertoire (with better dynamics), but also mugged his way through a delightful Largo al Factotum as we were about to be seated.   We walked over after getting ice cream cones another night, and in addition to the tenor, there was a very animated singer of Italian standards, including that song from the wedding scene in The Godfather.

Note:  We couldn’t hear as well once inside.  Next time I’ll try to reserve an outside table.

We sat down and were presented with menus, a very lengthy wine list, and fresh, good quality focaccia and a kalamata olive tapenade.  Great start.  The wine list includes a half dozen or so red wines by the glass, and about every Italian red wine that you can imagine by the bottle.  There are no white wines on the list, although they do have some available.  I guess they believe in the sensible “red wine with food” principle.

Nancy started with a nice salad with balsamic vinaigrette, and pronounced it good.
I ordered a caesar salad and looked the waiter in the eye when I said, “with anchovies, please.”  It worked.

davide salad

The salad came with about a whole tin of anchovies.  The salad and dressing were good, and the anchovies knocked it out of the park.  The paleness of the lettuce was curious, but didn’t affect the taste.

For her entree, Nancy ordered an appetizer of thinly sliced eggplant, rolled and stuffed with ricotta cheese, topped with mozzarella cheese, and a tomato sauce.  The appetizer portion was enough for a meal, and it was delicious.    The tomato sauce in particular was excellent.

It was the same thing she had eaten at Da Vinci a couple of nights before.  Not to be outdone, I ordered the same thing I had ordered at Da Vinci a couple of nights before —  the Spaghetti a la Pugliese (the waiter kindly repeated the order with the proper pronunciation): spaghetti with sausage and broccoli rape (which menus usually call broccoli rabe or rapini, for obvious reasons) sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

davide j.jpg

It was very good.  The sausage, which is made in house, is wonderful, rich and flavorful.  The spaghetti was properly al dente, and the broccoli was fresh and well cooked.  A touch of parmesan and some crushed red pepper made its sing!  It was not as garlicky as its Da Vinci counterpart, which you will consider as either a feature or a bug, as the computer people say, depending on your views of garlic.

Davide clearly has a lot of regular diners, and many seem to come for the red sauces — bolognese, marinara, etc.  — or for the specials (carbonara the night we went).  Everyone seemed to be happy with their orders, and most got doggy bags.  Even I got a doggy bag, possibly a first, and I enjoyed the leftovers the next day for lunch

I went by Davide a couple of days later to get a sandwich to go.  In ordering, I mentioned how much I liked their sausage and got a quick recommendation for the sausage and broccoli rapini sub.  Why not?  It was delicious.  Great sausage, great bread, and fresh, properly cooked rapini.

Sandwiches at Davide come with either french fries or pasta salad.  I’m not a big pasta salad fan, but even less so a fan of french fries to carry out.  So I got the pasta salad and it was a pleasant surprise.  It was well seasoned, not overwhelmed with mayonnaise, and contained chopped artichoke hearts, among other goodies.

As you can see, I was very impressed by Davide.  Put simply, I loved it.  The food is great, and the atmosphere is warm and lively.   Marco Island has a lot of very good restaurants, and Davide definitely is one of them.

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