You have to admire the thought that went into naming Delmario's, a title that immediately conveys both the restaurant's theme and the Del Mar location.
Rather less thought went into the menu, which is an adequate but uninspiring survey of the sorts of Italian dishes that have been served in Italian-American restaurants for decades upon decades. By way of compensation, Delmario's lists many of them at prices that are difficult to believe, including a mix-and-match list of pastas and sauces with prices from $4.50 for a choice of linguine, rigatoni, spinach fettuccine or several others in marinara sauce, to $5.75 for the pasta of choice in clam sauce.
This restaurant opened several years ago as a spin-off of the far grander Remington's, which occupies space in another building in the same complex on Jimmy Durante Boulevard. Delmario's is, in several respects, a sort of poor relation of its parent establishment, which makes a specialty of costly but immense servings of fine meats and seafood. Patrons in search of the restrooms must trek to Remington's, since Delmario's does not provide them on the spot.
The cooking is reasonably well executed, however, and this fact coupled with the prices leads to a popularity that makes reservations advisable on most evenings.
The table settings include small bowls of piquant pepperoncini and giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables), which can be happily nibbled in tandem with the crisp bread sticks offered in a basket.
The appetizer list includes a goodly number of things breaded and fried--artichoke hearts, baby squid, mushrooms and eggplant among them--as well as a dish of tortellini in prosciutto-spiked cream sauce, a marinated shrimp cocktail and a serving of Italian sausage with peppers. This is the sort of list that one will order from if something strikes the fancy, but there is nothing compelling here.
Among the soups and salads are a minestrone that goes rather heavy on the beans and light on the veggies, and has an almost creamy texture (it is good if understood as bean soup rather than minestrone), an antipasto plate and a Sicilian salad of Roma tomatoes and onions. Caesar salad appears occasionally as a special, and the kitchen assembles a fairly uncomplicated, authentic, refreshing version of this ubiquitous but much-abused classic.
The entree list offers parmigianas of chicken, eggplant and veal; the veal is pounded to a thinness that makes it rather hard to find amid all the breading and melted cheese, but it also is tender and the dish has a good flavor. Rigatoni in marinara sauce and a medley of simple, steamed vegetables garnish the plate. Other choices in this category include veal piccata , chicken with peppers, sauteed sea bass, lasagna and cannelloni.
Pasta sauce options number a "fresco" that the restaurant seems to treat as a house special and is composed of fresh Roma tomatoes seasoned with garlic, onions and herbs; plain and creamed pesto, and a diet-defying sauce made of cream, butter and Parmesan, reduced and stirred until thick, unctuous and rich. The meat sauce--evidently just the house marinara extended with snippets of meat--was forgettable when sampled recently, a comment that applies equally to the pair of pasty meatballs ordered on the side for an additional $2.75.
A certain fantasy enters the menu at its conclusion with the mention of triple-layer caramel fudge cake with hot caramel sauce, which at $4.75 costs more than some of the pastas. It is not made on the premises, however. The sole dessert prepared in Delmario's kitchen is the chocolate cannoli, in which the chocolate is less noticeable than the intense, delicious flavor of cinnamon.
DELMARIO'S 2010 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar
Hours: Dinner served nightly
Cost: Entrees $4.50 to $12.95; dinner for two with a glass of wine each, tax and tip, about $25 to $50