Jacksonville, FL 32204
The much anticipated opening of the new IL Desco took place last week and the reports have been mixed, so we decided to go and check it out for ourselves. The new interior is certainly a major improvement over the last tenant. Upscale, classy, comfortable, hip, all the good adjectives come to mind. Staff smartly dressed, young, smiling faces and well versed on the menu and bar offerings. It is daring to dine in any restaurant in the early opening days, staff is normally still in learning mode, dishes still need tweaking, and the rhythm is still to be developed, but we looked forward to what ever came our way.
Since it was happy hour we started with cocktails, missing from this menu was the humble and overlooked Cosmopolitan. My Professor friend was like what? She was assured the Cosmo was available so all was well. While we sipped our libations, we perused the menu. We all commented on the variety being offered, and how refreshing it was to see something new available. We took little time and started ordering.
Mussels, in tomato garlic shallots and olive oil, this was a little disappointing, the broth was flavorful, but the mussels were small and cook just tad too long, leaving them to shrivel up, not very appealing.
La Bandiera a beautiful mixture of Ricotta and arugula pesto with sun dried tomatoes and chili pesto. The sweetness of the Ricotta softened the pepper flavor of the arugula, this was a well thought out dish and we all enjoyed sharing. The grilled bread pulled it all together.
The much anticipated Grilled Octopus with Puttanesca, arugula crispy garlic and squid ink. This dish was all about the presentation and it worked. Sadly the dish did not deliver in taste or texture. Biting into one of the beautiful charred tentacles was like eating a gummy worm. Dense, and I can only describe it as dull in the mouth. Not like any octopus I have ever sampled, very disappointing
The Polenta in a Jar also missed the mark for us. Prepared with braised rabbit and topped with locally grown mixed greens it just fell flat and would have benefited from some salt.
A plus dish was the fresh Oysters. Ice cold and nice sized,
I did not get much better with the entrees.
Spaghettini Arrabbiata with meatball, When asked is the Arrabbiata was spicy we were told no. Uhm I thought that was what Arrabbiata was about. Again the presentation well put together, but on inspection the dish looked dry, and indeed the sauce was bland. There was not comment on the meatball.
The Linguine and Clams proved to be a worthy dish, pasta perfectly Al dente clams, tender and a perfect balance with the chili flakes. This is the dish I wished I had ordered this.
My dish Orecchiette, with braised lamb neck, English peas, and mint pea puree with ricotta salata. This is not a pasta often seen on menus in this town and I was not going to miss the opportunity to sample their offering. But alas this dish did not deliver. The one major component we decided was missing from all these dishes was salt. It really is amazing how much flavor a very small amount of salt can bring to a dish while cooking, but it is often too late to add salt after the fact.
So we moved on to dessert. This became the total win
A stunning Pear Crostata, Almond frangipane marsala caramel and house made vanilla gelato. Everyone wanted this once it arrived. Take a look.
There were several Blood Orange Basil Sorbetto, which is a favorite of mine.
But hands down the best of the Dolci was the Tiramisu. Our host Charles Tait the GM gifted us with this most wonderful Tiramisu any of us have ever experienced. Don’t think those rum and coffee soaked ladyfingers, think espresso white chocolate mousse, coffee liqueur soaked sponge cake and marscapone anglaise. Brilliant is the only word that comes to mind.
There is no doubt in my mind that IL Desco will be one of the top go to places in Jacksonville. It has everything it needs, location, vibe, food, good backing, great chefs, eager to please servers. The only thing lacking is time, I will venture to say three to six months this spot will be on the list of every foodie in town, where you bring your out of town guests, gather for cocktails and some great Italian not found in this town in a very long time. I know I will be back and so will my besties.