An Unsolicited Review of Davio’s Restaurant

Saturday was my father’s 65th birthday, and to celebrate, he and Mom came down to Pittsburgh. They were here to spend time with their grandchildren (my brother and his wife have four boys); Sunday he was going to the Steelers’ game — good one! — and to really complete the festivities, he wanted to see Dr. Bro, SIL, Dan, and me for dinner.

After talking about the options, SIL and I decided Davio’s in Beechview was a good choice. The food is always highly rated, and it is a BYOB joint, which we all love.

We had a great time. Davio’s is not very big, maybe about 15 total tables, including about four 2-tops, four 4-tops, and a couple 6- and 12-tops. But it doesn’t feel crowded, and tables aren’t butting up against each other. Wait staff has plenty of room to move around, and you’re not overhearing conversations from other tables. (Laughter, yes, and we were probably the most guilty party on this score.)

Dan and I missed the ordering of appetizers because the movie we went to see (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1) let out at exactly our dinner reservation time (8 p.m.). But it looked like they ordered a seafood app, that Dan had, and a cheese and olive dish, that he and I finished off when we got there.

The bread sticks are served with several dips and oil; I only tried the bean dip, which was good and garlicky. The other was a Roquefort or gorgonzola dip that I couldn’t sample. The bread sticks were crunchy and cheesy, less Olive Garden, more cracker-like.

Our dinners came with salad, and the salad either had fennel in it or the dressing was flavored with anise. After a couple of bites, my father, brother, and I put it aside; we really don’t like anise (or, for those who aren’t familiar with that flavor: black licorice).

The menu is heavy on meat, which is fine if you are a meat eater. Dan had the DelMonico rib-eye; my father had the elephant’s ear veal; and my brother had the pasta with meat sauce. They were all very pleased with their dinners. My SIL and mom had fish dishes they really liked.

I had the choice of pasta with marinara sauce, pasta primavera with garlic and olive oil, or the pasta marinara with some grilled veggies. Marinara primavera, I guess.

*Yawn*

The marinara with grilled veggies — don’t get me wrong — was very, very tasty. The server had asked if I wanted or didn’t want any particular vegetables, and I asked for no peppers or onions, which spell heartburn for me now. The grilled zucchini, eggplant, and yellow squash were lovely, and the sauce was garlicky with no hint of onion or sweetness. (Some red tomato sauces either use sugar or onion, neither of which I approve of for a marinara sauce.)

But at a place that prides itself on outstanding food, I would think Davio’s chef(s) would come up with something a little more interesting for vegetarians (who don’t eat fish).

As an aside, my mother, Dan and I stumbled onto Davio’s some ten or so years ago (maybe more; Dan was pretty sure that we weren’t even engaged yet). They had a tortellini appetizer that I asked for as an entree, and it was amazing. No such luck this time around.

The green beans, which came family-style with the dinners, were buttery, rather than done in garlic and olive oil. My mom really liked them, but I did not; everyone else said they were okay.

The desserts, all of which are made on the premises, were outstanding. We only ordered two, for sharing: the cannoli, whose creamy filling was flavored with orange zest, and a mascarpone cheesecake topped with blueberries, which was light and fluffy.

My other beef with Davio’s (see what I did there?) is that they allow smoking right outside their side door, in a small alleyway there. Now, I know I am super sensitive to smoke because I’m a former smoker AND I’m pregnant, but toward the end of the meal, it was getting obnoxious. I wish they had a policy for people to smoke further away from a door because I was very distracted. For the record, though, when I mentioned it to my father (a former smoker as well) he said he didn’t notice it. So, again, it may have just been me.

The best part of the evening, of course, was the company. Several bottles of wine were shared. I had about a 1/2 glass of one of them, the name of which I can’t recall right now. It was an Italian red of some sort. I’ll have to ask Dan. We laughed and told stories, and made fun of my Mom a little bit (as always). At one point, after listening to my brother hold forth on something about which I feel the exact opposite way, I remember turning to my father and saying, “How did you end up with three such radically different children?” [This story from NPR may explain some of it. I’m going to have to look into this.] He laughed. We told jokes, and talked about my sister’s upcoming nuptials, as well as worked out some logistics of Thanksgiving weekend.

In short, Davio’s seems a lovely place to mark a special occasion or impress a date. Bring a bottle of good wine or two; the food will take care of itself. If you’re a vegetarian, maybe call ahead, and let them know you are coming. When I have done this other places, I have been rewarded with something more remarkable than a pasta dish with vegetables.

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