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[whitespace] Don Giovanni Photograph by Goerge Sakkestad

Kitchen Orchestration: Chefs create Don Giovanni's voluptuous entrees in view of the elegant dining room.

Mediterranean Aria

Italy is as close as Mountain View, where Don Giovanni stages dramatic dining nightly

By Christina Waters

THIS PLACE is so Italian it's like a blend of Big Night and La Dolce Vita. Or better--like the name itself--a lusty opera by Mozart. Don Giovanni is an authentic slice of Italy, from its polished waiters who could be brothers of Dean Martin or Antonio Banderas, to the elegant woodwork, terra cotta-hued walls and high ceilings hung with turn-of-the-century chandeliers. Dining with the radiantly blonde Lanni means not dining unnoticed, and we were shown to a central table in the lively dining room. We love the atmosphere at Don Giovanni--kitchen blazing away in the back, racks of wine bottles waiting at strategically located sideboards, and a crowd of Silicon Valley neighbors carrying on over plates of pasta. A bottle of Stag's Leap Merlot 1998 ($48) turned out to be the right choice to accompany our entire meal--Giuliano (one of those masterful waiters who know what you want even before you do) could see that we liked pouring our own, so he didn't hover. He also allowed us plenty of time to decide on menu choices--not an easy matter, given the range and appealing prices of this Mediterranean menu.

Lanni saw a caprese salad ($6.95) go by and quickly nodded her approval, while I had a sudden passion for carpaccio ($8.95). Our waiter charmingly recited the evening's specials, including a Fettucine Pescatore ($14.95) loaded with fresh seafoods in a tomato sauce that captured the fancy of the picky Lanni. I had my heart set on veal, and the saltimbocca--a scalloppine enhanced with prosciutto--called my name ($18.50). I responded--d'accordo! While the Insalata Caprese was indeed lovely--three fat circles of tomato topped with equally generous slices from a huge sphere of buffalo mozzarella, alas the tomatoes were unripe and the cheese was dry. Even the presence of a flavorful balsamic dressing and enormous, aromatic leaves of fresh basil failed to salvage the appetizer. We could understand why one takes a chance ordering tomatoes in early spring, but the mozzarella should have been quivering moist. On the other hand, we both loved the appetizer of transparent beef, which arrived decorated with flavor-intensive squiggles of mustard, microribbons of Bermuda onion and lavish capers. I added a splash of garlicky olive oil--provided for our wonderful Italian bread--and then squeezed on some lemon. The flavor enhancement conspired to make the carpaccio a terrific appetizer.

Don Giovanni entrees are practically arias of voluptuous appeal. A luscious tangle of fettucini arrived ringed with fresh mussels in their shiny black shells and teeming with rock cod, prawns, halibut and other bits of fresh, succulent seafood. The pasta creation was plush with diced tomatoes, garlic and thyme--an excellent main course. Why then did Lanni's fork keep wandering over toward my vitello saltimbocca? Yes, she finally admitted, the thinly sliced veal scallops in a white wine reduction topped with prosciutto was her favorite dish of the evening. I took the bold cue and traded plates with her--for a few minutes. The veal was incredibly delicious and came with jewel-toned steamed carrots and broccoli florets--perfectly cooked--as well as a side portion of pasta, in this case macaroni, which Giuliano dusted with fresh Parmesan for me. The pasta was an authentic touch, and added to the harmonious impact of the entire entree. The flavors were as rich and pampering as you want Italian food to be. The merlot opened as much as merlot can, and made a smooth fit with each bite of pasta, seafood and veal. The entire meal felt as orchestrated as fine opera. And of course the right final note would help bring the performance to a close. Hmmm, not much imagination on the pastry list, Lanni noted. "How about some nice lemony tart?" she complained. The pouting stopped, however, with the first bite of Amaretto cheesecake ($4.50) chosen to accompany our espressos ($3). The elegant pastry distinguished itself with fine texture and topping of toasted almonds. Tutto bene! as the Don himself might have agreed.

Don Giovanni
Address: 235 Castro St., Mountain View
Phone: 650.961.9749.
Hours: Lunch 11am-2pm Mon-Fri. Dinner 5-10pm Mon-Thu, 5-11pm Fri; Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-10pm
Cuisine: Italian classics
Entrees: Moderate
Full bar

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From the April 26-May 2, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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