If you’re hungry for Italian food that real Italians would eat—you know, cuisine marked by the kind of highly evolved simplicity, superior product and exacting preparation that lies far beyond the fried calamari-spaghetti ‘n’ meatballs-tiramisu Axis of Culinary Evil—then you’ll want to pick up the phone right now and make reservations for the final night of Villa d’Este dinner at Arturo’s Ristorante (6750 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton, 561/997-7373).
Considered one of the finest hotels in the world, the historic (16th Century) property overlooking Lake Como in Lombardy dishes up food that matches its scenic location and reputation for superior service. Every year Arturo’s hosts the Villa’s chef and general manager Danilo Zucchetti, who put on a short series of dinners featuring the kind of cuisine that draws everyone from George Clooney to wandering foodies to the property.
Chef Michele Zambanini has recently taken over the Villa’s kitchen, bringing his own contemporary touch to its simple yet elegant cuisine. I had the chance to sample a few courses off the four-course menu, and if you’ve gotten to the point that you’d rather have a burger and a beer than what passes for Italian cuisine at so many SoFla restaurants, Zambanini’s cooking will be a revelation.
Just a few highlights. A stunning appetizer of perfectly cooked shellfish on a truffled potato puree so smooth and creamy it make silk seem like sandpaper. Delicate vegetarian lasagnette with unctuous taleggio cheese that was the black tie version of the lasagna we’re most used to seeing. A lovely entrée of branzino layered with tissue-thin slices of vegetables, then poached and presented with two tiny baked clams. And dessert of pineapple tart with fresh berries and dreamy coconut gelato.
Like I said, you have only one more chance to taste this highly refined, thoroughly delicious cookery, and that’s this Sunday evening. The four-course meal offers three choices per course and costs $90 per person, a lot cheaper than a flight to Italy, and you won’t get molested by TSA agents in the process.