IPA Magazine-Luxury Travel Reviews

Italian Fine Dining in Red Rock Splendor

dahlThe flagship of Chef Lisa Dahl’s trinity of fine Sedona restaurants is her very first establishment, Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante Italiano.  We reserved a table here on a Friday evening in January, finding the last available parking space and a restaurant full of patrons.  We were fortunate to be served by the very professional and personable Miss Brenda who has been with the ristorante since its inception, eighteen years ago.  Though the place was bursting at the seams, Brenda found time to thoroughly explain how every dish was prepared, careful to mention all the ingredients.  Throughout the evening Executive Chef Dahl moved gracefully from table to table, warmly greeting guests and making sure they were well tended.  In addition to answering our questions and commenting on how each selection was prepared, she brought over a copy of her book, The Elixir of Life, so that we might peruse the myriad of gorgeous photos and recipes.

We asked Chef Dahl to suggest items for our dining experience and she happily complied with our request. For our first of three antipasti, our server brought Burrata, a fresh buffalo Mozzarella, laden with organic Campari tomatoes, served over a bed of arugula and finished with Chef Dahl’s Signature Extra Virgin Olive Oil and balsamic reduction.  The tantalizing antipasto is garnished with Magic Marinated Mushrooms and served with grilled ciabatta.

Next came an order of Calamari Fritti featuring deep-fried, crispy calamari served with warm Marinara sauce and a particularly delightful lemon caper aioli.  We shared a single order on a plate filled with small, bite-sized rings that were mild in taste and seasoned to perfection.

The recommended wine pairing for this course was a Gavi Araldica “La Luciana” from Italy ($9.50/glass $38/bottle) a light, crisp white wine that served as a perfect match for the antipasti.

A third antipasto we sampled was the Ravioli Romana, featuring Chef Dahl’s Quattro Formagio cheese, veal stuffed ravioli finished with a crimini and button mushroom truffle cream sauce.  The sauce was exquisite and enhanced the tasty ravioli immensely.

The recommended wine pairing here was a 2010 Montepulciano Cantina Zaccagnini D’Abruzzo ($9.00/glass, $36/bottle).  Somewhat akin to a pinot noir, this deep red wine had a soft, smoky flavor.

Our next, insalate course featured Chef Dahl’s magnificent Cesare Insalata, made with organic romaine lettuce topped with signature creamy lemon garlic dressing, shaved parmesan and crispy garlic croutons, surmounted with a tiny, sliced white anchovy.  A Caesar salad this delicious is difficult to find, and the flavorful dressing brought added zest to the cold, crisp leaves of the romaine.

One of the several Specialita di Dahl & DiLuca is the Vitella Piccata, consisting of sautéed scallopini of veal in a delicate lemon-caper and chardonnay sauce and topped with more capers.  The very lovely, very thin-sliced veal was served with glazed green beans and a side of orzo.  Chef Dahl explained that it is uncommon to find veal so thinly sliced and tender so that you might cut it with a fork instead of a knife.  I could see how regular patrons might come back time and again to order this dish over and over.

This course was accentuated by a 2009 Chianti Ruffina Frescobaldi “Nipozzano Riserva” ($14.50/glass, $58.00/bottle).  There’s nothing like a fine glass of chianti with Italian food and this wine was notably the finest of the evening.

Although we were absolutely sated, we selected two desserts from a formidable array of Dulci.

The Cassata Siciliano featured a lemon-soaked chiffon sponge cake layered with candied fruit, sweet ricotta and a hint of Sambuca, an anise-based Italian liqueur, akin to the Greek ouzo.  It was an elegant and delicious dessert.

Chef Dahl’s “Sorbetto” featured a lemon sorbet creatively served in a hollowed-out frozen lemon.  This dessert not only “cleansed the palate” but brought our dining experience to a light, refreshing conclusion.

Other choices on the menu included Tiramisu (creamy mascarpone with “Pick me Up” espresso and Kahlua-dipped lady fingers), Crème Brulee, Cheesecake di Amore, Italian Wedding Cake, and a Chef’s Dessert Sampler consisting of tiramisu, cannoli, and chocolate torte.

Chef Dahl graciously answered our questions about her three highly successful restaurants from which over 150,000 guest meals are served annually.  In a moment of quick calculation, I figured that, if evenly distributed, each restaurant would serve 50,000 guests per year or about 1,000 per week.  That’s a phenomenal number considering these are fine dining establishments in a town which might have only 15,000 or so full-time residents.  Chef Dahl attributed her restaurants’ success to consistency of ingredients and meal preparation as well as concierge recommendations and repeat visitors who make it a point to dine at Chef Dahl’s restaurants again and again, each time they visit Sedona.

She also let us in on a little secret.  Chef Dahl is planning to open a fourth restaurant in Sedona named Maricopa featuring a completely different theme, more on the order of an Argentinian steakhouse.  She has selected a site with an incredible view and plans to build soon.  Already proving she has the golden touch as a restaurateur, Chef Dahl’s new venture promises to bring to Sedona even more culinary sophistication to an already fine array of gastronomic delights.

Please see our review of Dahl’s Cucina Rustica, located just a few miles away in nearby Village of Oak Creek.  Cucina Rustica is a great choice for large groups of people, weddings, and corporate gatherings.  –

Dahl & Di Luca Ristorante Italiano

 

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