Dominican Republic: Wining and Dining for All Tastes at Villa Taina in Cabarete

Cabarete, on the north shore of the Dominican Republic, is one of the world’s premier destinations for windsurfing, kite surfing and regular surfing. Because of its world dominance in these sports, it attracts an international vacationing clientele from all over Europe, the United States and Canada.

Consequently, a broad range of ethnic restaurants has evolved including Italian, German, French, Irish, Mexican, Thai, Arab, Chinese and American. Dining in Cabarete is like dining in fine restaurants in cities around the world except it’s on a beach—which is better.

The not-to-be-missed dining experience is Serenade Restaurant at Villa Taina, Cabarete’s boutique, beachside hotel. The lunch and dinner menu is primarily Italian. The head chef is Italian-born Luciano Merlino from Como in northern Italy. His herbs and spices are mostly from Italy, along with his pasta. Luciano uses only Florentine olive oil, “because,” he says, “it has the perfect balance of flavor and acidity so it comes through in the food, without overpowering.” He has eight pages of appetizers, seafood and meat entrees, desserts, sandwiches, snacks and pizza. Breakfast is a full-meal buffet included in the price of the stay at Villa Taina.

For a light lunch, a guest can start with the chef’s uniquely prepared appetizer of Beef Tartare. He bakes 3-1/2-inch rounds of shredded Parmesan to a crispy texture and layers it with chopped sirloin and tops it with arugula. As he likes to say, “It is a serenade on the pallet.” It can be accompanied with soup from the menu, perhaps a non-Italian selection like Dominican-style pumpkin soup.

For appetizers at a candlelight dinner, Luciano suggests his traditional French Escargot or the Tuna Carpaccio. He makes Gnocchi himself—with a choice of three sauces. Alternatively, there’s Chicken Cordon Bleu, the Pasta with Sausage and Porcine Mushrooms, Penne Arabbiata with a Spicy Tomato Sauce, or fresh, Caribbean Seafood Casserole. Among the desserts is a Zuppa Inglesa. This is served in a tall cocktail glass with layers of Chantilly cream, chocolate mousse and pastry cream laced with cherry liquor. All this is served beachside in the Caribbean breezes.

Villa Taina,,