If you’re in the mood for delicious, authentic Italian fare served in a romantic atmosphere where the owners and staff make you feel like a personal guest in their home, look no farther than Casanova Ristorante.
My husband Tim discovered the Dana Point restaurant while vacationing in Venice, Italy over 15 years ago. Strolling by a quaint eatery, he noticed its sign showcased a sister establishment in Southern California not far from his San Clemente home. His experience of what he calls “truly terrific” culinary dishes prompted him to seek out Casanova Ristorante in the hopes that the “authentic Venetian” specialties served up stateside would rival its Italian counterpart.
The popular Dana Point restaurant apparently more than delivered because Casanova Ristorante has consistently been the eatery of choice when deciding on where to go on “date night.”
I can’t speak to the cuisine at its sister establishment in Venice, but I can tell you that literally everything I’ve tried on the menu here has been nothing short of superb. The service is excellent – attentive and unobtrusive – the ambiance is warm and friendly and its popular cocktail lounge featuring specially selected wine list (and full bar) has a loyal following among locals and visitors alike.
Start with the Mozzarella Caprese, which arrives with slices of fresh tomato topped with creamy buffalo mozzarella cheese and basil and served with virgin olive oil. Another popular pick is the antipasto misto made up of a selection of cured meats and complementary cheeses and my personal fave: the Carpaccio al Salmone defined by crisp romaine, capers, radicchio topped with smoked salmon, lemon and olive oil.
For the main course, Tim’s favorite dishes include the “Pink Lady Fettuccine” made with chicken and sundried tomatoes tossed in a creamy Alfredo sauce and a flavorful Rigatoni Mamma Rosa with Italian sausage and mushrooms in a tomato sauce with a touch of cream. My favorites include the Lasagne al Forno which arrives with layers of perfectly al dente pasta, ricotta cheese and meat sauce baked with mozzarella cheese.
A seafood aficionado? Options abound – ranging from the Linguini Vongole Veraci (long, flat pasta with baby Manila clams sautéed in a white wine sauce) and Farfalle al Salmone (bowtie pasta with smoked salmon tossed in a cream and tomato sauce with a touch of vodka) to the Linguini alla Pescatora (long, flat pasta with fresh fish of the day, shrimp, calamari, mussels and clams in a light tomato sauce.
Portions are generous, but if you’ve saved room for a little something sweet … try the crème brulee with its perfectly carmelized top or the homemade tiramisu, a traditional favorite or an equally delicious warm chocolate cake accompanied by vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce.