Friday, June 17, 2016

Ristorante Dario in Porto Recanati: Love at First Bite

Tucked away in a charming red and cream house on the beach at Porto Recanti is Ristorante Dario, which has been run by the same family for three generations. Started as a small wooden beach bar almost 50 years ago by Dario and his wife Nora, they would serve homemade pasta and fresh fish that Dario, being a fisherman, would catch each morning. Over the years, as the restaurant grew, the culinary reigns were handed off to son Marcello and his wife Anna with their young daughters Barbara and Tiziana eager to help in the kitchen when they weren't in school. Today the third generation, Tiziana and her Mom Anna are in charge of the cuisine, with Barbara managing the dining room and overseeing the wine cellar, while Marcello purchases the daily catch. And at almost 90, Dario and Nora are still a daily presence, and enormously proud that the restaurant they started in the 1960's is now the best seafood restaurant on the coast.

Recommended by our friend Eva whose family lives in the area, we arrived for lunch and greeted by Barbara who led us to a picture perfect table by the window overlooking the beautiful beach and stunning Monte Conero. Surprised with a chilled bottle of Verdicchio di Castello di Jesi that Eva had organized for us upon our arrival, we put ourselves in Barbara's culinary hands who suggested we start with the six-course 'degustazione di antipasti', followed by her Mamma Anna's homemade pasta and finishing with 'pesce in potacchio', a classic preparation of fish cooked in white wine, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs. 
I have an obsession with fish and seafood, which has led me on great adventures up and down the coast of Italy and elsewhere around the world, with a potpourri of special places laying claim on my culinary heart. Great chefs and restaurateurs never stray from their route; it’s all about passion. Ristorante Dario was beyond exceptional — the best restaurant of our trip to Italy and one of the best meals we've ever had. Grazie Eva for shining your light on this culinary gem.  

Ceramic plaque at entrance to Ristorante Dario celebrating the family's surnames

A vase full of lilies and arrangement of shells greet guests as they enter Ristorante Dario

The place setting with fish knife and shell 

Coral, sand and shells - a wonderful sight 

Glorious lavender coloured Lisianthus

A delicious bottle of Verdicchio di Castello di Jesi was brought to the table when we arrived,
a very thoughtful gift from Eva — Grazie mille!

Kept chilled in a wine bucket placed on our table, the Verdicchio was sublime

Paintings of Dario, who started the restaurant with his wife Nora in the late 50's, 
repairing his fishing nets on the beach

Marcello on the beach fixing the nets

An amuse bouche of a profiterole filled with fish mousse 

The first dish of our incredible 6-course 'degustazione di antipasti': Il Crudo - panocchia e triglia - raw mantis shrimp and filet of red mullet

Filetti di triglia con rabarbaro e crema di pisello

Alici fresche con olio d'oliva e le erbe - fresh anchovies with olive oil and chopped herbs

Piccolo calamaro in crema di piselli con timo - calamari in a creamy pea soup with thyme

Piccole vongole saltate - tiny sautéed Le Marche clams

Buccini in salsa piccante - little local whelks in a spicy sauce

Polenta di Granoturco Marchigiano con Razza - polenta with skate

Co-owner of Dario, Barbara serving my Tagliatelle con sugo bianco di crostacei e molluscs

Tagliatelle con sugo bianco di crostacei e molluscs made with pasta made by hand very day

Tagliatelle con sugo di scampi al cognac e pepe nero di Sarawak

View from our windowsill table over the beach of Porto Recanti

The pretty town of Numana on the far side of the beach

Our server brought over 'il pesce' San Pietro 

Marcello, the patriarch of Dario, then came over and served our fish by hand

John Dory and Calamari 'in potacchio', a classic culinary preparation of the Marche in which fish is cooked with a small sauce of white wine, olive oil, garlic and herbs 

With embarrassing memories of our experience at Uliassi a few nights earlier, 
we knew the tablet placed before us was not to be ingested

With some warm water poured overtop from a small decanter, 
the tablet immediately puffs up into a wet hand towel

Dolce of lemon curd made with Limoncello topped with a single perfect blueberry

A hot Macchiato - the perfect end to an absolutely perfect lunch

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