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DINING: Trattoria Dario hits stride with chef Mathew Pope

As Trattoria Dario swings into its third season on Vero’s South Beach, this attractively decorated upscale Italian restaurant finally appears to be hitting its stride with new executive chef Mathew Pope.

One of the younger generation of chefs who seem to be taking over the kitchens of many of Vero’s Italian restaurants, Pope – a former sous chef at The Tides – has replaced Anthony Dimiano, who arrived at Trattoria Dario amid great fanfare just a year ago then left not many months later.

Pope was cooking last week when we arrived on a Wednesday night to be greeted by Dario Bordoli, the restaurant’s very hands-on proprietor.

Even though it had been a warm day, we decided to pass up the red dining room and opted for a table out on the patio where overhead fans helped augment the ocean breeze.

On this visit, I decided to start with the burrata ($12), my husband ordered the scallop e polenta ($13), and our companion went for the calamari fritti ($9).

The burrata, fresh bufala mozzarella oozing a seductive mix of cheese and cream atop a bed of arugula, was to die for. My husband’s appetizer consisted of two pan seared diver scallops, wrapped with bacon, served with wild mushrooms and creamy polenta. A nice combination. And the calamari, flash fried, drizzled with garlic butter and served with marinara, were spot on.

Then for entrées, I chose the risotto frutti di mare ($29), my husband went for the day’s seafood special, swordfish ($34), and our companion opted for the shrimp Genovese ($25).

The saffron risotto was cooked perfectly and topped with shrimp, clams, mussels and scallops. It was everything a risotto frutti di mare should be. Our companion’s shrimp Genovese featured nicely cooked jumbo shrimp served with linguini in a creamy pesto sauce.

While both these dishes were excellent, my husband insisted his swordfish was best of all – a large, gorgeous piece of sword, perfectly grilled, topped with two jumbo shrimp and served with asparagus and risotto.

For dessert, we shared an excellent house-made tiramisu.

Dinner for two with a modest bottle of wine is likely to run $120-$140 before tax and tip.

Beyond being open on Sundays, another thing that sets Trattoria Dario apart from most Vero restaurants is it serves full dinners pretty much until 10 p.m., and offers a bar menu from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Midway through our meal, Dario’s wife Diana arrived from working at Chelsea’s – which the Bordoli family took over this past summer – and made the round of tables chatting with guests.

The Bordolis, who owned Mangrove Mattie’s in Fort Pierce for 15 years before it closed three years ago, are very hands-on owners of both Trattoria Dario and Chelsea’s. Their attentiveness to patrons – not seen everywhere – together with the steady hand of Mathew Pope in the kitchen seem likely to keep diners coming back.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at

The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.

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