DINING: Trattoria Dario – Try the summer prix fixe menu

This summer, life goes on and the food and drink are good at Trattoria Dario – the attractively decorated upscale Italian restaurant on South beach – a couple of months after the bistro was jolted by tragedy.

Mathew Pope, 31, a talented young man who had just joined the restaurant from The Tides this past year as its executive chef, unexpectedly passed away in early May as a result of a gun accident.

Since then, Dario Bordoli, the very hands-on proprietor who launched Trattoria Dario four years ago, has been even more hands-on, and the staff has rallied to maintain the restaurant’s high standard.

Bordoli was at the front door to greet us when we arrived last Friday evening, and while we often opt for a table under the fans out on the seaside patio, on this sultry night we decided to dine in the air conditioning of the red dining room.

Even before we placed our wine order, our attentive server Wesley brought us a basket of bread fresh out of the oven and a dish of olive oil and herbs. On this visit, I opted to start with the steamed clams ($15), my husband ordered the dirty oysters ($18), and our companion had a bowl of the Italian wedding soup ($8).

The steamed clams were prepared in a delicious white wine broth with sautéed garlic, tomato and onion. Good thing there was plenty of bread for mopping. My husband’s plump gulf oysters, topped with sour cream, caviar and raw onion, were sumptuous. The wedding soup also got high marks from our companion.

Following the appetizers, our server brought us very nice house salads, which are included with all entrées.

Then, for a main course, I chose one of the day’s specials, a grilled shrimp dish ($30); my husband went for another of the day’s seafood specials, the onion crusted grouper ($34); and our companion decided to have the cannelloni ($25).

My five jumbo shrimp, blackened and grilled just a few seconds too long, were served with mixed veggies, wild rice and a mango salsa. My husband’s local grouper was perfectly pan-seared, served with a champagne beurre blanc, and accompanied by risotto and a vegetable medley. Our companion’s meat cannelloni was an excellent rendition of this classic Italian dish. Very tasty.

On previous visits, we have enjoyed the risotto frutti di mare – saffron risotto topped with shrimp, clams, mussels and scallops – and the shrimp Genovese.

While we were too full this time for dessert, reluctantly passing on Dario’s excellent house-made tiramisu, we finally decided to share a dish of chocolate gelato. A wonderful conclusion. Dinner for two with a modest bottle of wine is likely to run $120-$150 before tax and tip.

But you can enjoy the same fine food at a much lower price by taking advantage of Dario’s summer prix fixe menu, which gives you four courses, including a choice of six entrées, for only $25. House wine with this menu is only $5 per glass. And best of all, the summer menu is available all evening.

Another thing that sets Trattoria Dario apart from most Vero restaurants is it serves full dinners pretty much until 10 p.m., and offers a bar menu from 9 p.m. until midnight.

In its fourth year, Trattoria Dario has become a favorite restaurant of many island residents. If you haven’t tried it, the summer menu prices provide an exceptional opportunity for an early visit.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at tina@verobeach32963.com.

The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.

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