Romance on the Rocks: Cabo’s Captivating Sunset da Mona Lisa

Irresistible Restaurants in Cabo

Literally carved into a cliff overlooking the azure waters of Cabo San Lucas and unending stretch of beach with breathtaking views of Cabo’s famous arch at Land’s End, Sunset da Mona Lisa is one of the restaurants in Cabo we cannot resist on our travels to this magnificent Baja peninsula.

El Arco after Sunset - Cabo San Lucas
El Arco after Sunset

Dubbed “One of the Top Five Coolest Restaurants in the World” by the International New York Times, one visit here is all it takes to be convinced this accolade is well-deserved.

Ambience at Sunset da Mona Lisa

Everything about this place indulges the senses. First there’s the setting. Linen-covered tables strategically set on Mediterranean-style terraced levels between rock outcroppings reward diners with sweeping ocean views. Once seated, we watched awed faces of new patrons as they were escorted to their tables by Mona Lisa’s friendly hosts. Though inside seating is available, it’s not used very often. And we can understand why.

Views from our table at Sunset da Mona Lisa
Views from our table at Sunset da Mona Lisa

Muted lighting from wrought-iron lampposts scattered among the tables and candle-lit walkways provide an ambience of warm serenity and romance. Soft Italian music playing in the background enhances the mood. Ocean surf crashes on the Sea of Cortez below. The iconic El Arco (arch) in the distance and water vistas that seem to go on forever are incomparable.

Sunset da Mona Lisa Sunset View
Sunset da Mona Lisa Sunset View

Sunsets here are incredibly spectacular, hence the name. It’s no wonder so many engagements, weddings and special events take place at Mona Lisa.

The Food at Sunset da Mona Lisa

The menu, though not extensive, provides ample choices of creative offerings. Incredibly knowledgeable waiters describe the menu items, including how each is prepared. Christian, our server was pleasant, jovial and considerate. Our special evening began with a glass of sparkling Prosecco as we perused the menu. Waiting for sunset, the Prosecco whetted our palate for what was about to become an unforgettable culinary experience.

Christian suggested a newly added off-menu special appetizer, Baja shrimp stuffed with mozzarella cheese and arugula, rolled in a phyllo dough crust with two dipping sauces; one a traditional pesto, the other black olive. A glass of California Sauvignon- Blanc served as a perfect accompaniment to this tasty hor d’oeuvres.

Baja Shrimp Appetizer - Restaurants in Cabo
Baja Shrimp Appetizer

Next came a surprise visit from the chef, Paola Della Corte who hails from Caserta, just outside Naples in southern Italy. Paolo has been the executive chef of Mona Lisa for three years. What he brings to this magnificent restaurant is not only a love and passion for Italian food; he brings true inspiration born from Italian tradition.

We happen to know something about that tradition after living in Naples for three years. It was fun reminiscing with Paolo about his beautiful homeland, incredible marketplaces and its intoxicating sensual Italian cuisine. Prior to his arrival in Cabo, he’d worked in several award-winning restaurants in London, the Amalfi Coast, and with renowned international chef Joel Robuchon at Ristorante Atelier Saint-Germain in Paris.

The Entrees

As a serious seafood aficionado, it was only natural for me to choose the Branzino, a locally caught sea bass. Crisped to perfection, the moist, buttery fish was served with a wine and pea-puree accompanied with whole-shelled clams and perfectly paired with a Ronco del Gelso Italian Chardonnay.

Branzino (Sea Bass) Entree at Sunset da Mona Lisa
Branzino (Sea Bass) Entree

My husband, a lover of meats selected the Stinco D’ Agnello all’Italiana, a tender, juicy, perfectly-seasoned lamb shank confit, slow-cooked for 18 hours and served with roasted fondant potatoes, fresh spinach and lavender baked apricot. Simply put, both entrees were superb culinary masterpieces.

Stinco D' Agnello all'Italiana (Lamb Shank)
Stinco D’ Agnello all’Italiana (Lamb Shank)

As an added surprise, Chef Paolo also sent out a traditional southern Italian dish we had just spoken about- Penne all Arribbiata, a Neapolitan spicy red pepper infused pasta dish which literally translates to “angry pasta”. It was wonderfully authentic, and in our minds we were back in Bella Napoli for a while.

The Service at Sunset da Mona Lisa

Miguel, one of the restaurant’s managers acting as “waiter captain”, made his way to every table throughout the evening, smiling and charming diners while answering menu questions. Miguel offered subtle suggestions while ensuring guests were happy and well-taken care of.

When he visited our table we briefly discussed Cabo, travel, food, family and life in general. We loved his keen insight as he wisely commented “The world, you know is actually pretty small when you get down to it, and people have more in common than they have differences”. Profound statement indeed and one that made us feel even more welcome. To toast that, Miguel brought out a very special sweet late-harvest Italian Gewurztraminer, capturing the moment to perfection.

When the dessert menu arrived, we were certain our bellies could fit no more, but Miguel insisted (if only for a bite), we try two of the restaurant’s signature creations. We gave in to Souffle al Chocolato Manjari, a classic chocolate soufflé served with a Sambuca foam and coffee with vanilla ice cream and anise. In addition we indulged in Millefoglie E Meringa, a light pastry filled with Chantilly cream, berries and meringue served with a raspberry sorbet. It was divinely delectable.

Millefoglie E Meringa Dessert at Sunset da Mona Lisa in Cabo San Lucas
Millefoglie E Meringa Dessert

The Sunset

Sunset, I must add, is always a special occasion at Mona Lisa. Diners stop whatever they’re doing as restaurant staff carries out an ancient tradition of striking a metal gong, then blowing into conch shells as the sun disappears into the horizon, giving thanks for yet another beautiful day.

Summons to Sunset - Restaurants in Cabo San Lucas
Summons to Sunset
Sunset da Mona Lisa - restaurants in Cabo San Lucas
Sunset da Mona Lisa

Wine…food…and romance. We can’t imagine  coming to Cabo San Lucas without spending a memorable evening at our special Sunset da Mona Lisa. It’s just too incredible an experience to miss.

Dining at Sunset da Mona Lisa
Dining at Sunset da Mona Lisa

The late Italian film director and screenwriter Frederico Fellini once said that “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Sunset da Mona Lisa proves time and again how true this is. It’s no wonder the restaurant has been referred to as the most spectacular place on Earth

Noreen L. Kompanik
Noreen L. Kompanik

Noreen L. Kompanik is a registered nurse and freelance writer and photographer based in San Diego, California. Fortunate to have lived overseas as a Naval Officer’s wife, she has traveled extensively and her many Italian and other European adventures have sparked her passion for cooking and wine tasting.

A member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Association, Noreen is a frequent contributor to several online and print publications. She shares her latest adventures, photos, and published stories on her What’s In Your Suitcase? Facebook page. Her stories reflect her love for travel, history, adventure and family.

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