Ristorante Da Vinci has grown from a small Italian eatery into a local Calahonda landmark and firm favourite of diners in the area. We went to see why it’s so popular.

Originally Da Vinci was a small Italian restaurant on the coastal side of the A-7 road in Calahonda, but over time owner Jacky and his team have made it one of the most popular dining venues and a landmark in the area. The recipe for this success? It’s quite simple: good food, a charming ambience, friendly and efficient service, great value for money and, importantly, consistent quality.

These are the things that make Da Vinci stand out, and they have formed the basis for a success story that resonates in the area. In truth, the characteristics mentioned above count as the main ingredients for success in restaurants the world over, but the fact that they are not easy to achieve and maintain is evident in this highly competitive industry, where some do well and others don’t.

Da Vinci has three distinct indoor dining spaces, all cosy and comfortable with charming decoration, and in summer it opens up to include spacious terrace areas either close to the unique feature of an outdoor pizza kitchen or a little further out. What’s more, the pizzas made here come from a traditional wood-fired oven and their authentic texture and taste are the backbone of Da Vinci’s fame in Calahonda and surroundings.

The fact that people come from Marbella and Mijas to dine at this popular landmark restaurant is also down to the quality of the pastas, risottos and the meat dishes. A new chef has been added to the kitchen, and the menu has been slightly extended to additionally include more meat and fish choices for those who like Italian food but also wish to widen their options. This is especially good for the families and large groups who, like couples, enjoy Da Vinci.

Good, Honest Italian Cuisine

Above all, the restaurant offers good, honest Italian food prepared and presented to a high standard of quality and refinement. The portions are just right – not overly big and also not leaving you hungry – and the buzz of a lively venue adds to the sense of a night out; cosy in winter and bustling in summer.

In addition to the set menu there are also daily specials to keep things fresh and exciting, and on the night, we chose one of them, a cream of seafood soup starter made from fresh ingredients. Off the menu came other starters, such as a beautifully seasoned sea bass ceviche marinated in a zesty lime and cilantro salsa, a melt-in-the-mouth funghi aglio (mushrooms with garlic) and the special pil pil prawns, which include a tequila infusion and parmesan shavings, adding to its gorgeous flavour.

You can tell everything is made fresh on the day; it’s evident in the taste of the food and also the great flexibility of the chefs. Just inform them what you want and they’ll adapt the dish to your dietary needs and/or personal preferences. This was immediately put to the test by one of my companions, who ordered the spaghetti al pil pil, but with the request to change it to fettucine and add cherry tomatoes. True to form, this was done without so much as a batting of the eyelids.

We also sampled one of the pizzas that has made this restaurant so renowned: the Padrino, which comes with tomato, mozzarella, onions, green and red peppers, chilli, garlic and that classic of pizza toppings, pepperoni. It disappeared so quickly that no one else got a chance to try it, so certainly lived up to its reputation, and the meat dishes ensure that Da Vinci is far more than a one-trick pony. The entrecote al funghi, a sirloin steak flambéed with brandy in a creamy mushroom sauce, was delicious, while the tower of beef fillet steak in a puff pastry easily equalled it in all aspects.

We accompanied these delectable offerings with a very good red wine from the Ribera del Duero – Pruno Crianza 2016. It completed an altogether successful evening, something that is easy to achieve at Da Vinci, for its excellent fayre is matched by a convivial atmosphere in which we topped off the evening with a fragrant carrot cake, a soft and creamy cheesecake, a gorgeously warm and moist apple crumble and an equally well-presented and luscious chocolate mousse. Having experienced it for ourselves, we now know exactly why Da Vinci is a such a go-to dining experience in Calahonda.

Urb. Dona Lola, 21, Calahonda, Mijas Costa. Tel: 952 934 667.