In the mood for Italian fine dining? Mangiare a Mesa de Notte
Story: John Sotomayor
Longing for a fine Italian dining experience equivalent to Abbocato, Babbo or Maialino in New York without having to travel, I made reservations for three at Mesa de Notte in Ocala. It did not disappoint.
Located conveniently off Silver Springs Boulevard and 25th Avenue on the east side of town, Mesa de Notte ¬offers superbly-plated Italian cuisine in an elegant setting ideal for romance, a night out with friends or colleagues or entertaining business or out of town guests, particularly if your company has a refined palate.
The experience was exquisite yet comfortable; relaxing from beginning to end. To begin, the restaurant is easy to access with handicap parking in the front off Silver Springs Boulevard with ample self-parking in the back accessible from either Silver Springs Boulevard or Fort King Street.
Upon entering, you are immediately welcomed by the inviting atmosphere, rich with sights and sounds of an upscale restaurant, including soothing music, flowerbeds of Lilies and exposed wine racks. The tables were draped with dark tablecloths, countertops were dark marble, the walls a soft crimson red adorned with a few Baroque paintings. The interior design is modern minimalism.
The central dual access entrance from either the front or rear opens to mixed seating of booths and tables, allowing ample space between dining patrons.
Our attentive server expertly tantalized us with the various selections of wine and entrée specials, explained with superb comprehension. She offered the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007, enjoyed by my colleagues who dined with me that evening, then recited the specials.
On the menu that evening was Pork Osso Bucco (which our server explained was Italian meaning osso – the bone, bucco – whole, so the whole bone), a shank that fell off the bone served with green risotto fettled in Arugula and Spinach; fresh fillet of Sea Bass with eggplant, fresh tomato, mushrooms, baby shrimp and Fettuccini pasta; and finally home-made lemon butter pasta topped with chopped salmon and flat caviar.
The owner of Mesa de Notte, Jose Moreno, greeted every diner personally and made the group feel welcomed at his establishment. He was conversational and engaging, offering palatable tidbits useful for our own culinary repertoire, a nice touch.
We ordered, then after a short wait, we dined. We started with a rosemary and garlic bread, made from Moreno’s own recipe. The pesto is made from basil, Arugula salt and pepper, parmesan cheese and olive oil. Our appetizer, the Specialita del Maestro – roasted poblano peppers stuffed with shrimp, lobster, scallops and snow crabs topped with lobster cream sauce and arugula pesto, quickly followed it.
My colleagues ordered the specials, the Pork Osso Bucco and the sea bass. I opted for the Veal Chop Caprese, a 12 ounce grilled veal chop topped with tomato mozzarella, drizzled with fresh thyme pinot noire demi-glaze and served with a side of mushroom risotto.
Other delectable options on the menu include, but are not limited to: an assortment of Carpaccio, your choice of tuna, beef or salmon, and Caprese di Bufala, imported buffalo mozzarella, slices of tomato and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, topped with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar as appetizers; plus various entrees from the chicken and veal, beef, seafood and pasta categories.
Those include but are not limited to: Chicken Scarpariello, sautéed breast of chicken with pepperoncini, mushrooms, onions, sausage and olives, finished with a red wine vinegar and a touch of white wine, served with a side of penne marinara; the Zuppadi Pesce Amalfi, consisting of lobster tail, jumbo shrimp, cedar key clams, New Zealand mussels, fresh salmon, scallops and scungili served over linguini in a red or white sauce; and a 10 ounce Filet Mignon served with the vegetable of the day and your choice of potatoes.
We capped our evening with irresistible dessert, a Tartufa, a layer of vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream in a hard chocolate shell with a dollop of raspberry and nut filling in the center; home-made Tiramisu with Zabaqlione sauce and wild berries with the same Zabaqlione sauce. It was a delightful finish to a splendid meal and dining experience.
If You Go …
Mesa de Notte
2436 E Silver Springs Blvd
Chef Jose Moreno’s recipe for Veal or Pork Osso Bucco
Owner of Mesa de Notte
Recipe serves four people
Veal or Pork shank 16 oz.
1/2 cup celery
1/2 cup onions
1/2 cup carrots
2 cloves garlic
Sautee with Pinot Noir (red wine) demi-glaze
Braise for 2 hours at 350 degrees
Check to see that the meat is real tender
Serve over risotto