Monthly Archives: October 2006

Da Marco Cucina E Vino

We ventured recently to this top-rated Italian mecca for foodies.  We haven’t been overly impressed with owner Marco Wiles’ more recent endeavors — Dolce Vita and Sabor — so we were rooting for him not to go 0-3.  Fortunately, that wasn’t the case although we didn’t have home run experience.

The place was packed, but our reservation was honored promptly.  We were seated in the back room, which appeared only to have two head waiters for about 12 tables.  They were moving quickly but the lack of staffing showed in the service.  It took a little too long to get our drink orders, and water and bread weren’t replenished.  The most egregious situation was avoided when one of the waiters (not our lead guy) overheard us commenting that there appeared to be a chalkboard with specials about which we had not been told.  He quickly showed up with the aforementioned chalkboard, which was a good thing since we ordered two of the specials.

We shared the artichoke appetizer, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes — a sautéed artichoke heart served in a lemon butter sauce with a crispy artichoke leaf garnish.  It was simple and very tasty.  We had struggled over which pasta to order as a number of them sounded quite good, but we settled on the pasta special — gnocchi with crispy sweetbreads — because we are suckers for sweetbreads.  Although not out of this world, the dish was very good.  (Note on ordering — the pasta is intended to be a starter or middle course, not an entrée, although entrée sizes are available.  Don’t assume that a $17 pasta dish will fill you up.)  For entrees, we tried the short ribs (served with a very cheesy, creamy risotto) and a special of lamb tenderloin in a wild mushroom sauce.  Both were well executed.

Do we consider Da Marco’s the best Italian restaurant in town?  That depends.  To state the obvious, but to make a point — this is not  Carrabba’s or even Damian’s.  You won’t see fried calamari or veal marsala on the menu.  But you will find some of the more unique ingredients and innovative preparations around.  So, if you are an adventuresome eater, give it a try, but don’t expect what you find in most Houston area Italian restaurants.

(As a side note, don’t go to Da Marco if you are philosophically opposed to valet parking; the valet is your only option unless you want to venture into the dark Montrose area street parking located outside the fenced restaurant and parking area.)

1520 Westheimer