Reviewed and Photographed by: Billy “Wisdom” Jilla & J. Oliver
Food & Service: Just north of the Oakland Park Blvd. Bridge next to the Intra-Coastal Waterway is a lovely restaurant called da Campo Osteria. This oasis of great food and service is located inside the il Lugano Hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Some places have exactly what it takes to create that perfect dining experience for their guests, and this restaurant is one of those places. At da Campo Osteria, the combination of a wonderful view and caring service, combined with amazing food made by dedicated chefs, make this a dining experience you’ll remember for a long time and one you’ll want to enjoy over and over again.
The water-side setting is spectacular, with several lovely areas outside to relax and enjoy the Florida sunshine or a relaxing evening walk. Upon request, da Campo Osteria will even serve your dinner outside, but the dining room is the best place to experience the full effect. Cozy and genuinely welcoming, da Campo Osteria’s guests experience the warmth of a real Italian kitchen, where it seems like all their delicious meals are prepared just for you.
General Manager Michael Hatzfeld brings over 20 years of hospitality experience and proven expertise to da Campo Osteria and il Lugano Hotel. Born and raised in a “hotel family”, Hatzfeld studied hospitality at the college level, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management in 1989. He took his first job in Europe with ITT Sheraton, and then headed to the hotel group’s Asia Pacific Division. He returned to Europe with the Kempinski Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, later joining Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in 1999. Michael went on to hold several top management positions in his 11 years with Starwood in Europe and North America. His expertise and experience shows in the excellent service and courtesy afforded all who enter da Campo Osteria and il Lugano Hotel.
Executive Chef Steven Acosta worked here previously as Executive Sous Chef, and has triumphantly returned as the leader of da Campo’s culinary direction. He feels by returning he has come home, and is right where he belongs! da Campo Osteria is lucky to have this talented, dedicated chef on board again. Steven says, “This has to be a testimony of my talent, sacrifice, and hard work to be back where I feel began”.
Our party of eight arrived early on a very busy summer Wednesday night, and enjoyed some wine at a charming table just to the right of the entrance. The quaint bar and dining room area was already full, and it was only 6:30 PM. Apparently the word is already out about this hot spot on the water!
Hostess Rose escorted us to our table, and manager Sasha came over to make sure we were comfortable. It feels so good to sincerely be treated like a VIP by the thoughtful professionals working at da Campo Osteria.
We were immediately surrounded by several servers placing fresh bread before us and pouring ice cold bottles of water of our choice, sparkling or flat and wine too. The breads and garlic dipping spreads were awesome, but even better was the “Edwin Show”! Chef Edwin deftly made mozzarella tableside for our entire party, all the while explaining exactly what he was doing! It is called “Super Mozzarella”, and it is as fresh as can be, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and served with prosciutto, green and black olive tapenade, fig jam, Pepperoncini and Peppadew peppers, almonds, pesto, roasted garlic, micro greens, sweet basil and red and yellow tomatoes. This is so delicious, and such a good idea that da Campo Osteria now has a mozzarella making class every Thursday! These fun classes are sold out three weeks in advance!
The Lamb Meatballs with ricotta and arugula are worth a visit to da Campo Osteria alone. Several of us shared the entrée portion as an appetizer. Beef Carpaccio is dish I often judge restaurants and chefs by, and da Campo’s was perfection. The paper thin raw filet mignon was well chilled and finished with arugula and an interesting twist of Caesar salad dressing.
The table was efficiently cleared and reset for dinner, and soon we were gazing upon some spectacular looking entrees. I had Seared Diver Scallops over truffled potatoes, balsamic onion jam and salsa verde. The large scallops were laid out in a curved design on the plate with each one sitting atop a hash-brown like potato and a dollop of onion jam on top. Each bi-valve was cooked to perfection and delicious from start to finish. Lobster Tagliolini was outstanding too, with the just-split lobster still in the shell and on top of the Tagliolini pasta, all in a spicy tomato Pomodoro sauce…a great example of modern Italian-style comfort food.
We also sampled Grilled Swordfish Spada, served over a Sicilian white bean ragout, and Polo Al Mattone, which is chicken roasted under a brick! This perfectly cooked chicken rests a top cabbage and red wine risotto, along with garlic spinach… comfortingly delicious! There are many other menu choices I want to try in the near future, such as Veal Saltimbucca, Rack of Lamb, Shrimp and Clam Scampi and the classic Frutti di Mare, made with Bucatine pasta, lobster tail, scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams and Mahi Mahi.
We would not be disappointed at dessert, as massive platters of sweets arrived simultaneously! We had ordered one of everything! Choccolato is an amazing layer cake andFrutta is a pistachio coconut gelato torte served with maple cranberry compote. We tried several different flavored gelatos and sorbets, Ricotta Cheesecakes and Ricotta Souffles too. One of the very best desserts (and not just because it is fried) is the Ricotta Zeppole, filled with Nutella and topped with vanilla gelato.
Enjoy some of da Campo’s great specialty drinks and signature cocktails, and peruse their smart wine list. This restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner too. If all this is not enough, then call and ask about the “30% off your total check” promotion Sunday through Friday (excluding Monday) from 4:30 – 6:30 PM. Friday and Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30 PM enjoy live music and haute tapas. Finally da Campo Osteria offers a fun Happy Hour from 4:30 – 6:30 PM Monday through Sunday. During Happy Hour da Campo offers their Tapas da Campo menu, with tapas starting as low as $5.00. Why go anywhere else? Stop in soon and tell them DinnerReviews.com© sent you!
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