Masterpiece Feeder

Service was as outstanding as the pasta. No one hovered. But we had only to open our mouths and begin, "This gnocchi would be great with . . . " when our waiter would appear, finishing our sentence: " . . . some fresh ground pepper?" We put his omnipresence to the test when a less-expensive special that evening, a fillet of snapper topped with a lemony butter-caper sauce, appeared. The delicate sauce gracefully complemented the sweet-fleshed snapper, which had been pan-fried to the crisp finish only a very hot skillet can produce. But a promised dish of noodles didn't show up with it. We stopped a busboy. "We're missing . . . " The waiter materialized: " . . . a side of pasta? I have informed the chef," he said, and served the bowl of spaghetti with olive oil and slices of sauteed garlic a minute later. (Here, unfortunately, the garlic had been browned a bit too much, yielding a telltale bitterness.)

Presented on plates decorated with chocolate swirls, desserts were incomparable. A wedge of silky chocolate mousse cake was just barely edged out by a meringue cake, crumbly egg-white wafers napped with thick whipped cream. You should be wary, though, of the wobbly nature of the meringue -- as it was being delivered, a fragile wafer tumbled like Humpty Dumpty into the lap of one of my guests.

I've had a special fondness for Oggi since I first wrote about it three years ago. I've been pleased to watch the restaurant grow from a busy pasta-delivery service into an ultracasual -- and ultracrowded -- no-frills trattoria, and then into a full-fledged Italian restaurant with an expanded menu and linens on the tables. I've rooted for Eloy Roy's determined efforts to duplicate his brilliant accidental brainchild, even when I thought those attempts were misguided. And I'm delighted, finally, to see that Da Vinci doesn't merely equal Oggi, it's an evolutionary advancement: a roomier, more elegant dining room, an unhurried staff, even a policy to accept reservations! (The wait at Oggi is legendary.) For Roy and his partners, the third time isn't only charmed. It's charming.

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