Date Night heads for the hills. Not the hills of northern Italy, but the hills of Buckhead, where we attend an Atlanta Food Bloggers Society dinner, hosted by Davio’s.
More specifically, we are in Phipps Plaza. Davio’s has seven locations: four in the Boston area, one in Manhattan, one in Philadelphia and this one, which features indoor dining and a really nice patio.
We are lucky enough to get a big table on the patio tonight. This dinner must be important as Steve DiFillippo, the personable owner of the restaurants, has flown in to join us. Our guess is that he’s also checking up on his place in Atlanta, but as we will see for Mr. DiFillippo, it’s all about the guest.
There is a large, open kitchen towards the back of the restaurant. If you sit inside you can get dinner and a show, but if it’s a nice night, you are going to want to go for the patio seating.
Disclaimer time: Since this is a media event and we are guests of Davio’s, we do not pay for tonight’s meal. Our flowing prose, however, is priceless.
We start with a selection of hors d’oeuvres, passed by the excellent Davio’s staff.
The potato-goat cheese puff really benefits from the cheese. It gives it an earthy taste that you really do not expect.
Tuna tartare features raw tuna on what we think is a bite-sized egg roll shell. We could eat a lot of these, but we are trying to pace ourselves. There is a lot more food to come.
The Philly cheese steak spring rolls are very cute and an excellent idea. Who would think to put steak and cheese into a spring roll wrapper instead of on slider bread. Brilliant.
DiFillippo thinks of everything. He even has his own label on the California Russian River wine. The wine is good, and our glass never gets close to empty.
The bread on the table is fantastic, especially when we add the eggplant capenata and goat cheese pepper spread. We are not here to fill up on bread, although it would be very easy to do so.
The first course is delivered to the table, the oven baked Jonah lump crab cake, which is covered in mustard sauce. There’s a lot of crab in this dish with almost nothing to hold it together. The sauce complements the crab, making this a very successful dish.
Gnocchi should be “soft pillows that melt in your mouth.” we hear DiFillippo tell a fellow diner. These potato gnocchi are served in a veal, beef and pork bolognese sauce and they do just that. We know we should save room for what is to come, but these are too good to leave.
The main event is served next, a surf and turf featuring NY sirloin, scallops and pea risotto. I’m not a scallops guy, but I would become one if they were all served like this. They are huge and pan seared, which gives them a browned outer crisp while keeping them nice and juicy inside. The steak is a little on the rare side. I would have liked it cooked for 60 more seconds, but I wasn’t going to send it back. We are full, and take some home for lunch the next day, and it cooks up perfectly on the reheat.
Just to make sure we have enough to eat, there is also asparagus and horseradish mashed potatoes on the table. Molto benne.
We hardly have any room left, but fortunately there’s a light dessert. The panna cotta comes with Georgia strawberries and mint on top. It’s very refreshing and a nice way to end this amazing meal.
We aren’t done yet as we are presented with a raspberry and almond truffle before we go. DiFillippo goes around the table and gives each person a copy of his book “It’s All About the Guest.” At Davio’s, it really is about the guest. The service is amazing, perhaps because the boss is in town, but we have a feeling it’s like this most of the time. We have the feeling that DiFillippo spends a lot of time in his restaurants making sure people are happy, something that perhaps some of Atlanta’s “celebrity chefs” could learn from. (We have been to all four of Hugh Acheson’s area restaurants and are pretty sure that he wasn’t within 50 miles of any of them when we visited.)
Date Night could get very spoiled eating like this all the time, but don’t worry, we are back to our usual Friday dates. Thanks to Denise Romeo and the Atlanta Food Blogger’s Society for making events like this possible.