Up to a few months ago there was a very quiet and lovingly decorated restaurant on 6th Avenida, not far from my apartment. Both of us were located in the northern part of central Antigua, Guatemala’s most famous tourist attraction. Da Vinci was a favorite stop, if only for the décor and the presence of the three Claudias, two of whom are waitresses and the third the hostess. The owner and the man behind the reception desk is Luis Miguel Andrino, who admits to being somewhere in his 40’s, as does Claudia #3, his cousin. Luis Miguel first opened the doors of Da Vinci at that location eighteen years ago and it speaks well of the restaurant, considering how very few establishments in Antigua are of that vintage.
He’d probably still be there except for the sale of the building a few months ago: a fortuitous telephone call revealed the existence of a building in a better location, more central and while in need of minor repairs, it was available immediately.
Now you can find the new location of Da Vinci a block west of the Central Park, at #7a 5th Calle and it’s almost redecorated, repainted and refurbished to Luis Miguel’s satisfaction. There’s a new fountain that quietly splashes, new plants and flowers and if the occasional afternoon or evening showers appear, there are new umbrellas to shelter under. As with the previous incarnation, the interior is and was that of a very old Spanish Colonial house, and every effort has been made to keep that feeling. Antique lamps, fixtures and paintings enhance every room. The bar is a cozy green colored den, from whence some unusual beverages occur. In keeping with the antiquarian theme, they offer a Tom Collins or a well stirred and not shaken Martini. If one’s feeling slightly Latin, try their Mexi-Colada, a delicious blend of Kahlua, tequila, pineapple juice, coconut milk and a splash of cream.
Food-wise, given the Italian reference and the numerous sketches of Mona Lisa within, expect a heavy leaning towards a variety of pasta dishes (and they do). There are the usual entrees of meat and chicken as well as very good fondues: try the Champignon y Cerveza/ mushroom and beer item. There’s even a Lasagna Maya dish, prepared with ‘special Guatemalan spices’ and no, I have no idea. Their wine list is extensive, focusing on South American vintages: expect a good assortment of labels from Argentina, Chile, plus Italian and Spanish varietals. The ambience is that of a comfortable old house: music, usually Broadway and or show tunes, softly purrs from a corner here or a corner there. No, it’s not coming from the vintage Blaupunkt radio that gleams in its wooden shell, and it’s not for sale (I’ve asked).
As regards the four gilded wooden angels that decorate the ceiling, they’re part of Da Vinci’s history. When Christmas approaches, they and one of the most spectacularly decorated Christmas trees that you’ve ever see comes alive. Da Vinci, just another word for magic.