New owners Bill and Kami Johnson have transformed the food of midtown Savannah’s old watering hole for Italian food lovers, Uncle Yogi’s, into a mouthwatering and mind melting Italian American extravaganza of food. And I do mean extravaganza.
The portions are huge – enough to eat on for two people, or at least to take home a generous second meal for another day.
My dining companion and I chose to eat there for the first time during a late lunch, arriving around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and neither of us felt like eating anything else for the rest of the day. This was very impressive as neither of us are what you might call light eaters.
First time out, we ordered the lunch portion of sausage with bell peppers and onions over spaghetti and an order of meat lasagna topped with meat sauce. A hot, fresh loaf of bread was brought for us to gnaw on while we eagerly awaited our meals; offered with a salty parsley and garlic butter, it was the perfect amuse bouche for the meal to come. A house salad of romaine, olive, onion and tomato with house dressing was also offered; the house dressing was good, as promised, if a little tart and cloying to the palate.
The peppers and onions were fresh and crisp, and were combined with a light but flavorful homemade red sauce which was deemed not overly sweet, as many can be. The only critique my date had with the meal was there was not enough sliced sausage in it. I tasted it a few times and agreed that it was a very good dish – one that would be equally well ingested as offered in the sub sandwich form.
The lasagna was hearty and delicious—served in a gratin dish, it was reheated to be sure (I asked, it was) and covered with a generous helping of mozzarella cheese over meat sauce. Layered with ground beef and ricotta cheese, the lasagna was just what I wanted. The meat sauce layered on top is the kind that has been simmered for hours, and the ground beef used in it was as tender as the inside of the fresh baked bread loaves which miraculously kept arriving hot and crusty to our table.
We decided to go back for a second trip to see how the pizza fared before writing this review. We ordered a medium half-cheese and half-sausage & onion pizza to go. Our ruling: it was wonderful, authentic New York style pizza that thankfully brings a taste of the Big Apple to midtown Savannah. The cheese was tasty and just the right consistency, the red sauce piquant, and the ground sausage and onions fresh and plentiful. It was still hot when we got it home and, true to form, three of us dined on it with plenty of pizza to go around.
Delicacy is decidedly not the focus of the menu – strong, filling pasta dishes, tasty pizzas and hearty sandwiches offer many choices for restaurant goers. Owner Bill Johnson spent the last ten year’s working at Vinnie Van Go Go’s, solid experience which has translated wonderfully to his new position at the head of the kitchen at Da Vinci’s; and his wife Kami is a personable and kind front-of-house manager.
The ambiance has not changed much from Uncle Yogi’s time, but it’s almost exactly what you would expect from a mom-and-pop Italian food grille: red and white checkered tablecloths, the ubiquitous red glass table candle, wallpaper scenes of Europe’s best boot, and even a few kids arriving ‘home’ after school.
You’ll find the portions are huge and the staff is very accommodating to special requests. Two requests—to put meat sauce on the lasagna (it comes with marinara sauce) and to have a one-topping pizza with two toppings on one half and plain cheese on the other—were readily accepted and didn’t add any extra cost to the meal.
Overall, Da Vinci’s offers a tremendously satisfying dining experience packed with really good food, a great menu, fair prices and a casual family atmosphere. Savannahians would do well to give it a try.
DaVinci’s is at the corner of Hodgson Memorial Drive and Eisenhower Drive. Call them at 352-1060. Hours: Monday – Friday 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Saturday 4:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Closed Sundays.