Trattoria Divina: Simply Divine!
Author: Kent Thune | Photographer: Whitney Boring
Are you looking for an Italian dining experience that is simply divine? If so, you’ll find it in Trattoria Divina. The definition of trattoria is “an Italian restaurant serving simple food” and divina is Latin for divine. But Trattoria Divina takes their divine simplicity to a higher level.
Nestled in Park Plaza, near Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island, Trattoria Divina offers fine Italian dining that is a combination of outstanding food and top-notch service. Inside, you’ll find a space that fits any dining experience you care to enjoy. You can sit with family or friends in the large and open main room, in the quiet and cozy wine room, or in the comfortable space that surrounds the attractive bar.
The restaurant is tastefully decorated with Italian-inspired murals, painted by students of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), most notably an unmistakable replica of a portion of Michelangelo’s brilliant Sistine Chapel ceiling. The art helps to create a unique atmosphere that is warm and inviting.
But as in all the greatest Italian restaurants, the star of the show is the executive chef. At Trattoria Divina, that star is Chef Hugo Lee, who brings his culinary expertise from San Diego. Fortunately, for the visitors and residents of the Lowcountry, Lee was attracted to the quality of life here and made the move from California. “After visiting Hilton Head Island, I knew I wanted to live here with my family,” he said.
If you speak with Lee for more than a minute, it’s easy to detect that his passions are food, family and fun. His culinary artistry goes beyond “farm to table” and becomes “farm to tapestry.” The presentation of the meals is highly detailed; you almost feel bad ruining the art with your fork, at least until you taste it!
Lee is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone. He started his culinary journey by training under the direction of Thomas Keller of the renowned French Laundry in the Napa Valley. His culinary passion became “Italian fused” during his time with Il Fornaio and Trattoria Acqua (Zagat Top 10 Award Winner) in La Jolla, California.
At Trattoria Divina, Lee prepares everything, from sauces to soups, daily from scratch. His house made pastas include Lobster Ravioli, Wild Mushroom Ravioli, Tomato Fettuccini, Linguini, and special pastas based on the season.
As a true testament to Lee’s talent, one of Trattoria Divina’s servers, Paige Rutherford, followed him here from California. “I’ve been working with Chef Hugo for 22 years,” Rutherford said. “He really is talented and he’s a great person.”
It is this kind of family environment that extends to all of the employees of the restaurant and to the passionate and proud owners, Harry Morales and Tami Bream. During any given dining experience, each table is touched by several servers who treat the restaurant’s patrons like special guests in their own homes.
Chef Hugo Lee enjoys a glass of wine with owners Tami Bream and Harry Morales
Hugo’s culinary artistry goes beyond “farm to table” and becomes “farm to tapestry.” The presentation of the meals is highly detailed; you almost feel bad ruining the art with your fork, at least until you taste it!
Adding a whole dimension to the wonderful experience that is Trattoria Divina, Morales and Bream enjoy sharing their love and knowledge of fine wines with their “Primo Martedi,” First Tuesday wine tastings. These tastings, which take place on the first Tuesday of every month, require a reservation, so be sure to call in advance.
As for the dining experience, you’ll start your meal with complimentary Prosecco and the Amuse, which are both special gifts from the chef to wake up your taste buds. While waiting in between courses, you can also enjoy the house baked ciabatta bread and hummus, and you can have the staff open your favorite wine or be adventurous with one of their Limited Reserve selections.
Then you can move on to enjoy one of several antipasti (appetizer) choices, such as Zuppa di Aragosta, which is lobster bisque topped with a golden puff pastry crown, or their popular Calamari Fritti, which is crisp calamari served with a spicy harissa aioli.
The salad choices include a traditional Caesar, the Insalata di Spinici Calda, which is baby spoon spinach tossed with mushrooms, parmagiano cheese, crispy bacon, red onion and warm mustard vinaigrette, or the Insalata Savoiarda, which is organic mixed baby greens, poached pears, gorgonzola cheese, caramelized walnuts and champagne vinaigrette.
The main course choices are even more plentiful and interesting, but if you’ve never been to Trattoria Divina, be sure to try the Arogosta Torta (Lobster Pot Pie), which is an 8-ounce Maine lobster tail and additional lobster meat, baby carrots, organic corn, asparagus, potatoes, and green beans in a steel pot, topped with a puff pastry crown. And it tastes just as wonderful as it sounds!
You’ll also want to try some of Lee’s stuffed homemade raviolis; and if you are a meat lover you’ll like the large-sized Moroccan style lamb, the short ribs served over pasta, the Pork Osso Bucco, or the Saltimbocca di Pollo (free-range chicken breast pounded and wrapped in prosciutto, sage and mozzarella).
Be sure to leave room for the award-winning desserts, including the “Ice Sculpture” Gelato Assortment! If you have special dietary needs, you’ll be happy to know that the restaurant is vegan and gluten-friendly. Just use the menu as a guide, and if you have a special request, let them know.
If you’re not already convinced to give Trattoria Divina a try, you can look at a few of the hundreds of positive comments made about the restaurant on consumer review websites, such as TripAdvisor.com or OpenTable.com. Patrons who have visited Trattoria Divina give it an average of 4.5 stars (out of 5).
One patron said, “Wonderful food and wine list. Prosecco and several dishes were sampled and provided on the house. They catered to every desire. Would certainly recommend to anyone who would enjoy a great meal and great service.”
Another happy visitor writes: “The first Sunday of every trip we make to HH includes dinner at Trattoria Divina—a tradition we wouldn’t miss. The food is exceptional, the service outstanding, and engaging, and the decor and atmosphere all add to a great dining experience. If you’re going to be in Hilton Head, add Trattoria to your short list of the very best places to eat; you won’t regret it.”
So if you want an Italian dining experience on Hilton Head Island that is truly exceptional and unique, you must try Trattoria Divina. The innovative menu, the creative incorporation of seafood in pasta dishes, and the extensive wine selection live up to the simply divine namesake. And the service is just as outstanding as the food.
Trattoria Divina is located at 33 Office Park Road, Suite 224, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928. Reservations are gladly accepted; call (843) 686-4442. For more information, visit trattoriadivina.com or Facebook.com/trattoriadivina.