Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ristorante Donatella ~ Rancho Mirage ~ 8

Have you ever been to Verona? The ancient city, nestled in Northern Italy, is the setting of Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet. Many lovers visit the legendary (albeit symbolic) balcony where Mr. Romeo lured Miss Juliet. I too tumbled into a great love affair while in Verona … with the fabulous food. I always assumed a revisit to Italy would be necessary to again devour pasta made with such luxurious finesse. Ristorante Donatella, in Rancho Mirage, reminded me of one of The Four Agreements … “Don’t make assumptions.” Owner, Donatella, is a native of Verona and has successfully re-created her towns cuisine on American soil, twice. Tucked away in an inconspicuous location, next to mainly retail and office space, the Italian gem sparkles with a warm inviting ambiance once inside.

The menu is extensive and reads in traditional Italian style, beginning with antipasti and moving through pasta, carne, pesce etc. My parents and I spent at least 30 minutes poring over the menu, pre-tasting with our eyes. Risotto alone is prepared in six different ways! The wine list is formed from both Italy and California with many reasonably priced options. We sipped on a bottle of Tormaresco Chardonnay from Puglia. The insalata choices seemed endless so we decided to share three of them. (Many of the salads can be ordered small or large which I liked.)The Caesar was classic, creamy, and crisp, resonating with garlic and parmigiano cheese.

They raise the bar with their “house salad;” chopped red leaf, fresh mozzarella, pepperoncinis, olives, cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, and proscuitto. This was a mansion of a salad to me!

My favorite though, was the Contadina with shredded cabbage, radicchio, endive, gorgonzola and walnuts. The crisp, lacy texture created by the lettuce medley combined with the potent, creamy cheese made my palate sing. Though we opted for the small size, these salads were more than enough to share!

We each ordered our own entrees, but next time I would order one or two pasta dishes, one meat, and one fish and share family style since the portions are large.

I indulged in the fettuccine zucchini gamberi, but replaced the fettuccini with pappardelle. The wide ribbons of satiny pasta, perfectly al dente, dallied in a light white wine sauce along with long rectangular slices of wholesome zucchini and a copious amount of plush pink shrimp.

My dad went the way of meat and ordered veal scaloppini in a rich, velvety tomato sauce dotted with porcini mushrooms and served with penne. While the pasta and sauce were quite good, the veal itself was a bit dry and lackluster.

My mom had the fish special, Sand Dabs swimming in a shallow lagoon of luscious white wine butter sauce. The fish was so deliciously delicate, that it vanished in your mouth almost instantly. Emerald green spinach sautéed in garlic and olive oil was the perfect simple accompaniment. Unfortunately, we were too satisfied (aka full) to pamper ourselves with dessert, so we’ll just have to make a return visit to Ristorante Donatella. Thankfully, it’s but a 2 hour drive from my home in Los Angeles; a far more manageably trek than returning to Verona on a regular basis and every bit as authentic.

Ristorante Donatella
71511 Hwy. 111 Ste. A-B
Rancho Mirage, Ca 92270