An Italian restaurant? We're in the middle of Ecuador! Why would Celebrity Cruise Lines take us to an Italian restaurant for dinner? Because it's good--really, really good.
Not having much time from our late return after our visit to Mitad del Mundo, we freshened up quickly. Thankfully this trip was meant to be casual so we didn't have to dress up much. We met again in the lobby with the other 90 or so Celebrity guests and boarded our buses once more.
It was a short trip to the restaurant where we were to eat. Our buses stopped on a side street and we walked down a smaller alleyway to a gate. Once through the gate there was a collective ahhhhh. We had entered the subtly lit garden of Carmine Ristorante.
The converted mansion had at one time five bedrooms but everything inside had been remodeled to include many different dining venues as well as several lounges. Some of our group headed up to the second floor dining room while others of us who didn't mind a little cool evening air, opted for the covered patio area that had space heaters to chase the cold.
The menus were simple with a couple choices for appetizers, several entrees and of course a couple of dessert choices. The full menu at Carmine's offers much more but we were a group of 90 or more descending on the restaurant all at one time. They handled all the commotion with grace and efficiency.
Carmine himself helped out by taking our orders. He was an amazing man--outgoing and energetic. Throughout the evening he not only supervised his kitchen but greeted every single guest in and out of the house. He spent time with some folks from New Jersey and swapped stories of his adventures in New York City's restaurant culture.
Our appetizers arrived quickly. I had seared tuna which was heavenly, done perfectly so that it was tender and almost melted in your mouth. Bob enjoyed a Caprese salad of mozzarella cheese and fresh sweet tomatoes. In our basket of breads there was one that we fell in love with--a foccacia that was buttery and with just the right amount of garlic.
Carmine had tried to talk me into a shrimp filled ravioli as I ordered but I am such a mushroom lover that I wouldn't be deterred. I don't know what the shrimp might have tasted like, but the mushroom was everything I could have wanted in pasta and fungi both with a delicate buttery sauce drizzled over the top.
While my mushroom ravioli was excellent even more so was Bob's sea bass which he graciously let me taste. The fish was done to perfection, tender and seasoned lightly to bring out the flavor. Unfortunately we did not think to take pictures of our dishes but you can find pictures of the food Carmine usually serves at his website: Carmine, Gastronomia & Arte
As we awaited our dessert, I couldn't imagine how it could get any better. Our plates were delivered with two light cream puffs that were topped with a
warm rich chocolate sauce. Ecuador has some fine chocolate and I'm guessing Chef Carmine takes advantage of it. Since I can't eat ice cream, I passed my scoop over to Bob who was doubly delighted at that point.
As we were finishing, Carmine made the rounds again to be sure his guests were all happy. I leaned over to Bob as we watched him interact with everyone and said facetiously, "It's a shame he doesn't like his job." This man was not only a wonder in the kitchen, but he was an amazing host. He invited us to look around the restaurant more and see all the venues that included a couple of large rooms for small groups where they could dine privately.
If you happen to be in Quito, save room in your budget for an evening at Carmine's. You won't be disappointed.
Our evening ended early as we were expected to assemble in the lobby of the Marriott at 6:30 a.m. to fill out forms for entering the Galapagos and then make the hour long journey back to the new Quito airport for our flight to Baltra.