The five salads on the menu, just as appealing in description, may even have taken precedence as the appetizer of choice. On one visit, my husband and I shared the house specialty, insalata Pappamondo. A field of arugula was garnished with sweet kernels of corn and tender bay scallops barely braised by the heat. An addition of bresaola slices (salty, air-cured beef) was free of fat; a fine top to the salad and noteworthy if only for its
color, the meat was also chopped and mixed with the more bitter bottom of arugula. An accomplished plate, the salad's variety of tastes -- from salt and sweet to bland and bitter -- matched its aesthetic appeal.
For primi piatti, the pastas, several outstanding choices made selections difficult. My favorite, the penne funghi porcini e gamberi, a tubular noodle with wild mushrooms and chopped shrimp, was without question a rich, rich dish. Still, for all the cream, the earthy flavors of the porcini mushrooms and the delicate taste of the shrimp were not overwhelmed. Fashioned without the bondage of an indiscriminate cheese, as is appropriate with mushroom sauces, this pasta stood as testimony to Di Bari's culinary skill.
A lighter pasta pleasure was the conchiglie vegetariane, a melange of colorful zucchini, red pepper, and eggplant lightly tossed with large bow ties. A smooth and subtle olive oil sauce imbued this dish with gentle flavor, a summer scent.
The tagliolini pomodore e basilico also proved enticing on a hot evening. Handmade strings of pasta in a tangy tomato sauce lacked the promised snap of basil, but the egg noodles took an al dente blue ribbon.
Gnocchetti sardi con salciccia piccante, gnocchetti with spicy sausage, differed from the dumplings we anticipated. Rather they resembled tiny shells, covered gently by ground sausage and olive oil. No heavy marinara inhibited the sausage from being the focal point of this satisfying meal.
Though not many meat dishes grace the menu, they're sometimes featured as specials, along with a ravioli of the day (such as a recent ricotta and vegetable) and grilled catch of the day. We tried a prawns special, three beautifully presented shrimp so large they looked and tasted like lobster tails. Frequently, however, specials carry heftier price tags than the reasonable pastas.
Being reasonable was forgotten as apres dinner approached. As might be expected of a man so handy with his starches -- bread and pasta -- dessert is Di Bari's forte. We sampled several, including the ever-present tiramesu, as fine a version as I've had anywhere on the Beach, and a flaky apple strudel filled with currants and pine nuts. Complimentary almond cookies -- delicious swirls of butter, nuts, and flour -- tapped out my sweet tooth. But not my taste for Pappamondo, where courteous service and high-quality cuisine are residents' -- and everyone else's -- just desserts.