The Italian restaurant at the Holiday Inn Aruba has recently unveiled its new menu. Here are the first impressions.
For those unfamiliar, Da Vinci is the Italian restaurant that is nested inside the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba. Da Vinci has been around for some time, delighting guests and locals with Italian cuisine. They have decided to improve their culinary offer by going into a more contemporary variety and refined presentations without losing authenticity.
Executive Chef. Aldwin Donata alongside the culinary team at the Holiday Inn carefully curated the new menu in order to have a wide range of dishes highlighting premium ingredients and plating them with thoughtfulness.
The inspiration for this new menu comes from the enormous love that Chef Donata has had for Italian cuisine since he was a little kid. The emotional connection and cultural importance drove his inspiration to create and elevate each dish. Compared to the previous menu, which was limited during the pandemic, the culinary team focused on comfort food favorites going beyond the classic pasta, adding new preparations and personal touches to the mix. The menu is not extensive but the offer is great. The food quality is impressive and the freshest ingredients are sourced daily to bring each dish to a new level. Here is the menu.
The ambiance is serene, ideal for a romantic dinner or a family gathering. The architecture emulates a wine cave, with exposed brick, slightly dimmed lighting, and arched ceilings. Lots of wooden accents and of course wines. They have a private dining area surrounded by wine racks that feels very special.
The journey starts with a Foccacia from T2 Pan, the wildly famous sourdough boutique. Specially made for Da Vinci, is served warm next to a mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt, fresh ground pepper, and Pecorino cheese.
It is not a night out without a Martini, and besides a great wine list, Da Vinci offers a cocktail menu. My choice: The Caribbean Cosmo: a twist to the classic Cosmopolitan with mango.
We had big appetites that night and we could not decide what to order, it seemed like all the choices were right. I have said it before and I'll say it again: if there's Octopus on the menu, I'll try it.
That is the Polpo marinato con patate. Grilled octopus served cold with potatoes, garlic, parsley, olive oil, and pickled onions. It's always a great idea to start the meal with something fresh and this dish is a perfect choice if you decide to take that route.
For all the bread lovers out there, there is a fantastic Bruschetta. Generously topped with tomatoes, capers, red onions, aioli, fresh basil, and Pecorino Romano.
The elegance jumped out with the Insalata di Pere. A pear poached in red wine surrounded by honey poached roasted carrots, arugula, dried cranberries, pickled shallots, radish, and walnut crumbs. In the center, whipped goat cheese. A raspberry vinaigrette for an extra touch. It is an explosion of flavors and textures.
Nicely served on a cast-iron mini skillet, the Casserola di Fungi e Gorgonzola made it to the table. Mushrooms, pancetta, herb butter, truffle oil, and pockets of gorgonzola. What is not to love?
You can find all the classics in the Main Courses section. All the pasta preparations that might have attracted you to go to an Italian restaurant are there. We have decided to wander off that path a little bit and try other specialties that are still very authentic to the Cucina Italiana.
The Ossobuco di Vitello is one of the stars of the menu and for a good reason. Slowly braised and served on top of creamy risotto with glazed carrots and asparagus. A toasted pine nut gremolata drizzled on top makes it the perfect spring dish.
The Specialle dello Chef will always be different. Chef Donata insisted I should order it. A favorite of chefs around the world, the Branzino or the Mediterranean Sea Bass has a mild sweet taste and flaky texture like no other. Donata's interpretation comes pan-fried, served on top of creamy polenta with Gorgonzola cheese, a drizzle of puttanesca sauce for brightness, roasted cherry tomatoes, pickled shallots, charred asparagus, and a touch of basil-infused oil. A true delicacy and an homage to Italian gastronomy.
I immediately felt drawn into the Polpo con Risotto Nero. Grilled and charred to perfection for that smoky flavor that makes octopus sing, it was insanely rich and tasty. Served with black ink risotto I think it's one of the stand-outs on the menu.
For research purposes, we had to have the Linguine con Gamberi. A way lighter preparation of the Italian staple, mixed with sundried tomatoes, herb butter, white wine sauce, basil, and of course shrimp. You can't go wrong with this one.
Lots of final thoughts about Da Vinci. First, I encourage you to try a different and more refined approach next time you feel like going to an Italian restaurant. Italian cuisine is classic but it's full of cooking techniques that are hard to master to achieve this level of sophistication. Away from the crowds with a staff trained to provide you with a special treatment, Da Vinci is setting the bar high. They are here to let you know that the Holiday Inn Aruba is aiming to establish itself as a culinary destination in Aruba.
Congratulations to the staff, led by Itala Lugo, another culinary extraordinaire, and right hand to Chef Aldwin, for exceeding my expectations. I am sure they will exceed yours too.
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*Special thanks to Johnder and Bibiana for the dedication.