Sea Change

Former Prestige space reinvents itself as seafood and Italian joint Del Mare

Everyone talks about the location of restaurants, but the space can be just as critical. Del Mare features a new menu from its days as Prestige World Class, but the largest change is the walls that have altered the size of the dining room. Prestige opened in 2006 in a 10,000-square-foot building at 169th and Pacific. It featured a large main room, nightclub and spacious patio overlooking Pacific Springs golf course. I reviewed Prestige in 2007, and again in 2009 after a menu change. On both occasions, I enjoyed the food but found the “something for everyone” menu made it difficult to excel in any one area. All that space sometimes made the dining room feel empty. Last year, owner Gene Graves converted Prestige to Del Mare, with an “Italian + Seafood” menu. Executive Chef Don Doty developed the cuisine before leaving; he was replaced by his former sous chef José Lopez Balbuena. My wife and I visited Del Mare on a Saturday night. We started with the Spinach & Artichoke Dip ($7.95) because both our server and the menu said it was popular. The flour tortilla chips were fresh, and the dip tasted a bit like cayenne pepper-flavored tuna, with only a faint artichoke flavor. I enjoyed it, but others might find the title to be misleading. “Del Mare” means “of the sea,” so ordering seafood seemed the logical choice. My wife tried the Calamari Neapolitan Style ($15.95), with orzo pasta, basil and artichoke hearts in a white wine sauce. She said it tasted like spring in the middle of winter, with a light, refreshing flavor. Calamari can often be chewy, but this was expertly prepared. I ordered the Swordfish Involtini ($19.95), stuffed with breadcrumbs and pine nuts. Swordfish can be dry, but the preparation seemed to offset that problem. The dish was topped with an olive red sauce. I normally avoid olives, finding that the flavor dominates all other tastes. Here, the sauce was strong but not overpowering, and seemed to complement the fish. In a later interview, co-manager Brad Peters also recommended the Seasoned Diver Scallops ($11.95). “It’s one of our most popular items, and definitely my favorite,” he says. “I never thought scallops and Béarnaise sauce would complement each other, but they really do on this dish.” Del Mare offers seven seafood entrees, along with six pasta dishes and four steaks. In addition, you’ll find six pizzas and nine sandwiches. That’s a broad selection, but it’s more focused than the weighty menu formerly offered by Prestige. Timing seemed to be an issue. We arrived without a reservation, and waited about 30 minutes in the bar before being seated. That was obviously our fault, but then it took 45 minutes for our entrees to be delivered after ordering. Two separate servings of our appetizer were also inadvertently delivered to our table. We eventually received our food, and a manager came out to apologize, explaining that several new kitchen staffers were being trained, which had led to delays and misunderstandings. He also had two free slices of cheesecake sent to our table (he was not aware that we were doing a review). The biggest change at Del Mare is the dining room. It is now perhaps one-third its previous size, with about 50 seats. That creates a cozier and livelier environment. The remaining space has been walled off into an event room holding perhaps 100 people. The Reef lounge remains mostly unchanged, with a stage and an attractive two-sided bar. Peters says the goal is to create a controlled fine dining atmosphere and to increase private bookings. “Dividing it into three separate areas has been a positive change,” Peters says. “Food sales have gone way up.” One quibble is that a television monitor was showing the NFL playoffs during our meal, distracting diners from their food and companions. Am I the only person in Omaha who thinks TVs should be limited to sports bars? Del Mare is an improvement over Prestige, both in food and environment. It doesn’t try to be an entertainment complex, but has settled for becoming a smaller and more focused restaurant within a big building. Del Mare, 810 S. 169th St., is open Tues.-Wed. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Thurs. 11 a.m.-midnight, Fri. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sat. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. and Sun. 4-9 p.m. Call 614.7660 or visit delmareomaha.com

posted at 07:45 pm
on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

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