There are not many similarities between the northern region of Italy and the Upstate of South Carolina. You might be able to find some of them in a small, 15 table restaurant doing things differently away from the heart of downtown. They’re bringing a world class dining experience to a small shopping center and focusing on the customer and the best quality ingredients they can find. At Da Vinci's Ristorante, Kristi and Carlos Echeverri are making northern Italy a part of Greenville.
Kristi and Carlos opened Da Vinci’s Ristorante in 2013 after both working at the now closed Coal Fired Bistro on Pelham Road. Carlos has been a chef for about thirty years and Kristi has been in the restaurant business for twenty two years. “With his expertise in the kitchen and my knowledge of being in the front of the house, we decided to open our own place and be our own bosses,” said Kristi on the impetus of opening Da Vinci’s. While many places try to rekindle an experience from another country, the Echeverris have made Da Vinci’s their own. According to Kristi, they wanted the restaurant to feel cozy, homelike, and welcome with warm Tuscan color accents, but with their touches. Kristi and Carlos love working together because if they didn’t, Kristi says, they would never see each other.
Situated near the intersection of Pleasantburg Drive and Laurens Road, Da Vinci’s is definitely a destination restaurant, says Kristi. “We like where we are. So many people say ‘I don’t want to go downtown because of the parking’ or ‘I don’t want to go downtown because there’s so many different options’. Where we are is a great location. It's a five minute drive to downtown.”
Da Vinci’s has built its reputation almost fully on word of mouth. “When we left Coal Fired Bistro in 2012, most of our customers followed us here,” Kristi says. “When we opened, we already had quite a reputation. As word of mouth grew, we got other customers from Augusta Road and then from Downtown. We were growing and getting busier, before we even had a chance to advertise. We thought we needed to slow down and take a minute in before we can’t give the quality and service that we’re used to giving so we can keep it level, and that’s what we’re doing.”
So what makes Da Vinci’s different from all of the other restaurants in Greenville’s growing food scene? “First of all,” states Kristi, “the experience that you get here is excellent service.” Kristi was very happy to note that they had recently been voted having the best service in the State of South Carolina. “We try very hard with our staff to be welcoming and want them to come back over and over again. Our customers know the staff by name and know they’re going to be taken care of, they’re going to have a great dining experience and have great food and great wine.”
Chef Carlos likes to focus on classic northern Italian cuisine with some French touches, like truffles, on certain dishes and specials. Kristi says Carlos’s food is unique because “he takes so much time per dish. He doesn’t use deep fryers or microwaves. If there are ten people at a table and they each order the same dish, he’ll have ten pans going, one for each person’s dish.” Carlos tries to get ingredients as local as he can but some special ingredients have to be ordered direct from Italy. When asked what her favorite dish is, Kristi smiles and says that it depends on what day it is due to the seasonal changes, but mentions that the Veal Kristi, named after her, is the most popular dish during dinner service.
Pappardelle Chiantigiana with wild boar ragu, San Marzano tomato and chianti sauce with chocolate shavings; Fall appetizer special octopus and shrimp cocktail 'ceviche' style and the popular; Agnolotti appetizer which is butternut squash ravioli topped with buffalo mozzarella and amaretti brown butter sage.
"The Egg Yolk Ravioli is to die for. You taste it and you'll be in heaven," says Kristi.
The finishing touches to the agnolotti appetizer include this delicious brown butter sage and crushed amaretti cookies.
Favorite dessert? According to Kristi, “… it depends on your mood.” All desserts are made in-house with the finest ingredients. The warm apple tart is finished with a cinnamon glaze and served with vanilla gelato. The tiramisu and chocolate mousse would make a great ‘to go’ for later if you can't fit in a few more bites.
The wine closet holds over 500 bottles, mostly Italian wines. They are all personally hand selected by Chef Carlos and Kristi to pair perfectly with each menu item. These wines are not sold in grocery stores and are priced fairly ranging from $30-$280 per bottle or $7-$18 by glass.
For people who have never been to Da Vinci’s Ristorante, Kristi wants them to know that “You’re going to get food here that you’ve never had before, the experience here is above and beyond expectations.” The consensus used to be that the best restaurants in Greenville are all located downtown. That’s changing and Da Vinci’s Ristorante is one of the reasons why. Or as Kristi says, “Once you give us a try and you taste it, we’ll have won you over.”