CAFFE DELFINI'S SEAFOOD DISHES ARE A CATCH.
Byline: >Eric Noland
Don't get too locked in on an entree selection while perusing the printed menu at Caffe Delfini, because the nightly specials are the forte of this inviting neighborhood spot tucked away in a canyon between Pacific Palisades Palisades, cliffs along the west bank of the Hudson River, NE N.J. and SE N.Y., extending from N of Jersey City, N.J., to the vicinity of Piermont, N.Y., with a general altitude of from 350 ft to 550 ft (107–168 m). and Santa Monica.
On one visit, plump, luscious grilled scallops nestled in a bed of spinach with a touch of white wine, chili pepper and garlic ($28) -- a superb dish. Another time, the highlight was fusilli fu·sil·li
Pasta in short spirals or corkscrews.
[Italian, from pl. diminutive of fuso, spindle, from Latin fsus.] with shrimp and shiitake mushrooms, accented with a reduction of tomatoes and cream sauce and those same hints of chili pepper and garlic ($22).
The waiter will rattle off a long list of specials -- not three or four, more like eight -- such that you wish they'd print the darned darned
Adj. 1. darned - expletives used informally as intensifiers; "he's a blasted idiot"; "it's a blamed shame"; "a blame cold winter"; "not a blessed dime"; "I'll be damned (or blessed or darned or thing up nightly so you could peruse pe·ruse
tr.v. pe·rused, pe·rus·ing, pe·rus·es
To read or examine, typically with great care.
[Middle English perusen, to use up : Latin per-, per- it more leisurely. Listen for his recommendation; you won't be steered wrong.
Also, be advised that seafood is the specialty here (as you might expect for a place that uses the Italian word for dolphin). I made the mistake of taking a stab at something more traditional, veal piccata pic·ca·ta
Sliced, sautéed, and served in a sauce containing lemon, butter, and spices. Used of meat or fish.
[Italian, feminine of piccato, larded, past participle of piccarsi ($24), and although the thin medallions of veal were tender enough, they were so heavily laced with a lemon-juice preparation that you could taste little else.
For starters, consider the pasta fagioli ($8), finely chopped pasta in a puree pu·rée or pu·ree
tr.v. pu·réed or pu·reed, pu·rée·ing or pu·ree·ing, pu·rées or pu·rees
To rub through a strainer or process (food) in a blender.
n. of white cannelloni can·nel·lo·ni
1. Pasta in large-sized tubes.
2. A dish consisting of such tubes stuffed with meat, vegetables, or cheese and baked in a tomato or cream sauce.
[Italian, pl. beans and chicken broth. The beans aren't pulverized pul·ver·ize
v. pul·ver·ized, pul·ver·iz·ing, pul·ver·iz·es
1. To pound, crush, or grind to a powder or dust.
2. To demolish.
v.intr. but retain a pleasing coarseness. For the caprese ($12), the mozzarella moz·za·rel·la
A mild white Italian cheese that has a rubbery texture and is often eaten melted, as on pizza.
[Italian, diminutive of mozza, a cut, mozzarella, from mozzare, is creamy and flavorful, but the tomato was found to have a bland quality, as if picked up at a supermarket rather than a farmer's market.
For dessert (all $8), skip the chocolate decadence of the bacio -- "it's designed for an American palate," our waiter sniffed -- and opt instead for the subtle flavorings of the tartufo, which has a center of marsala and zabaglione ice cream surrounded by chocolate ice cream and carmelized hazelnut, and lightly dusted with cocoa powder. The tiramisu tir·a·mi·su
A dessert of cake infused with a liquid such as coffee or rum, layered with a rich cheese filling, and topped with grated chocolate. is homemade and infused with espresso -- plan on staying up awhile afterward.
At its best: Chef has a deft touch with shellfish, not overpowering it with the preparations.
Could be better: Crank up the printer for a nightly specials sheet. Customers' memories shouldn't be challenged to remember all the particulars of the long list of dishes.
>Details: 147 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica. Dinner nightly, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. (310) 459-8823; www.caffedelfini.com.
>Cost: Starters $6-$18.50, pastas $13.50 to $18.50, main courses $14 to $39, desserts $8.
>Noteworthy: There is an extreme street-parking crunch in this little neighborhood, so valet parking ($5) is a must. Delfini is a romantic place, with candles, white tablecloths, dim lights and prime tables in two window alcoves. But you'll need a flashlight (provided) to read the menu after the sun goes down. It can also get a bit noisy, what with tall ceilings and tile floors. The wine list leans heavily to Italian labels, and skews a bit high in price, with the standard bottle costing $40.
>Our rating: Two stars
Caffe Delfini, nestled in a canyon between Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades, is a comfortable Italian restaurant where the seafood and pasta are the featured players.
ERIC NOLAND>STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER