Some days are just hard to top -- especially when the Outlook calendar reads: "Dream Car tour" at 3 p.m. and "Dinner at Lamborghini Café" at 8. Talk about two great reasons to wake up, even on a rainy day... Any occasion that begins by driving not one but six luxury exotic cars and ends with a gorgeous meal at a chic new restaurant with friends qualifies as 12 hours of perfection in my book.
This fortuitous pairing of sublime events began a few weeks ago with an invitation to dine at Tonino Lamborghini's Caffé Corsa
, owned by the son of the restaurant's namesake. Daddy was the creator of the ultra-sleek Lamborghini sports cars that often zip around our local beaches, so it just makes sense that Sonny Boy would parlay the name. Though Europe has its share of restaurants with the same moniker, his first American joint had just opened in the Village at Gulfstream Park, and the media were told to expect eats and design that were authentically Italian.
Before we committed to a date to dine, however, another email arrived from a peer asking if I "would at all be willing to" take over her assignment to drive luxury exotics for a story about Gotham Dream Cars
, a local company that offers mere mortals the chance to tear up local roads in $200,000-plus machines for an afternoon as part of a Dream Car Tour
. Ah, the sacrifices one must make.
Since this is a food blog, I'll spare readers any gushing about how exhilarating and amazing it was to experience 130 miles per hour on I-95 with the top down and the growl of various engines in my ears. Nothing will ever compare to the feeling I got controlling the beast those Gotham guys nicknamed "Angry Smurf": a blueberry-colored Lamborghini Murciélago Roadster.
It was a bit disappointing having to return to my Subaru after that joyride, but at least I was able to take comfort in the fact that I was on my way to Tonino Lamborghini's Caffé Corsa, the one place where the staff would most likely understand my high. Expecting the interiors to be as racy as their vehicles, I was surprised to find that the place doesn't entirely resemble its website images. First off, the chairs were clear, not black, and the unfortunate thing about the overhead accent lighting is that -- at least at night -- it glows a pansy peach color instead of a racing red. (Another unfortunate byproduct we later discovered is that it makes executive chef Paolo Del Papa's well-crafted plates appear slightly anemic.)
Not too keen on the peachy light.
Arriving at my table with a smile, the chef offered to provide a tasting menu, which my guests and I happily agreed to. The meal began with his signature Lamborghini salad, a tantalizing mix of sweet melons, such as cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, with salty speck, bitter endive, and a tangy, light lemon dressing uniting it all. We also tried his pan-seared tuna on arugula but found it not as awe-inspiring (though the giant capers were a treat). Next came three slices of pizza topped with caramelized balsamic onions, wild mushrooms, crumbled goat cheese, and mozzarella. Labeled a true hit, we could've eaten an entire pie.
When the fettuccine with another mix of wild mushrooms arrived, our scent glands went into overdrive. A tease of truffle oil reached our nostrils, and we simply couldn't wait to start twirling forks. As we suspected, the pasta was made in-house and tasted as such. He also brought us a veal Milanese, which we thought was a bit too simple, though arguably I couldn't imagine our senses could've taken more stimulation by that point. But then the hunks of fennel-seed-crusted tuna over fennel gratin appeared, complemented by a velvety eggplant caponata followed by the unanimously agreed-upon star of the evening, bronzino al forno, a thick cut of roasted bass topped with lemon artichokes and asparagus.
Though we protested, claiming our stomachs simply couldn't accommodate dessert, a little puffy chocolate cake filled with deliciously oozy fudge arrived along with cups of hair-curlingly strong espresso and tiny homemade biscotti. Put a fork in us; we were done.
Doling out dollars for the tip, I realized I wouldn't be able to relive this day for another six months, since the Gotham guys take their vehicular circus up to New Jersey for the warmer months. But at least it was comforting to know that Caffé Corsa will remain parked here for a while, especially if chef Del Papa remains behind the line.
Caffeine to end the day on a high note.
Photo by Riki Altman