Lola’s Seafood Eatery
Nick & Johnny's Osteria
Mario’ Ocean Avenue
Sunset Bar and Grill
BurgerBar, by Chef Allen by Vicki Slotnick
Donald Ross Village
Palm Beach Gardens
OK, this review is going to be rather short and sweet, as reviews go...Burgerbar is super! Come and get it, or, as the menu front says: EAT!
On a recent Thursday evening, four of us hungry animals arrived expecting to grab a burger and sit outside in peace and quiet. Were we ever wrong! The joint was jumping, inside, outside and all around the town. But considering the crowds and amped up vibes of the venue, we were, in fact, seated within a few minutes, close to the fountain and as far as we could get from the maddening crowd. After waiting for a few more minutes, suddenly we had a great waiter named Joe, and a manager hot on his heels, just to make sure that we were happy.
Once we gave our orders to Joe, it was not long before we were satisfying our bellies with some great eats. You should go online and peruse the menu...your mouth will start watering soon enough. Here's what we had. Laura had two different kinds of sliders, you know, those cute little burgers on cute little buns. Well, she chose from a list of 5 different kinds: braised pork belly served with a mango jam, and shrimp with spicy corn relish and arugula.
In a word, "fabulous"! Rodney's cheeseburger with American cheese [not English cheddar?] arrived perfectly medium rare and, in a word, "mah-velous". Eddy's shrimp slider, excellent, and my burger came pink on the inside, crusty on the outside, well done sautéed mushrooms and fresh avocado slices, on a multigrain bun also just the way I ordered it. One bite and the juices came running down my arms! And forget about not eating the bun, all those delicious juices seep into the bun and you cannot not eat it!
The burgers come with wonderful fries, but we wanted to try the tarragon vinegar fries as well, gluttons that we are. They were a bit of a disappointment: the vinegar dominated the flavor; the fries tasted tart and soggy.
To sum it up, the selection of burgers is excellent, and not just beef...tuna, turkey, chicken, Portobello mushroom, lamb, and buffalo. There's a whole lot of other interesting stuff to try as well: unusual snacks and sides, awesome looking salads, 5 different treatments of wings [we'll have to come back soon and try some of those], soup, chili, beer battered pickles [wow!], the list goes on and on. EAT!
Casa Mia reviewed by Vicki Slotnick
337 East Indiantown Road
Ok, this review is going to be briefer than most of my past reviews because I don’t, in all honesty, feel as enthusiastic as I have felt about many previously reviewed restaurants. Some of you may have read a glowing review in The Palm Beach Post from January, 2011. I too read it and, as a result, was very anxious to try Casa Mia. I must say that, in general, I was somewhat disappointed.
The ambience was ok, nothing to write home about, the service was friendly and they all seemed to want to please. They offered an outdoor dining option, but the weather was too warm to be comfortable outside that night, so...in we went.
Now, on to the food...a caprese classic salad had good fresh Florida tomatoes and basil oil, but the mozzarella was not buffalo. But if you have never experienced the difference between cow’s milk mozzarella and the soft and sweet “clouds” of buffalo mozzarella, you may not notice the lack of taste and texture in the cow’s version. Their Casa Mia salad, mixed greens with a few other uninspired vegetables and raspberry vinaigrette, was, however, declared fresh and generous in size. Hubby and I shared penne alla mediterranea. It was a blend of fresh tomatoes and basil, mozzarella and calamata olives.
The waitperson did not tell us when we ordered that it was an uncooked sauce. Consequently, it came out room temp to cool. To me, it did not present with much flavor and I asked them to heat up my portion. Still not much excitement no matter what I sprinkled on it. We also split a branzino al forno. Now that was more like it! Branzino is a Mediterranean sea bass, delicate and moist, which I absolutely adored here, and I order it whenever I see it on a menu.
L. ordered a veal chop with a wild mushroom sauce, not on the menu, but offered that night. I tasted a piece of her veal and found the one little taste a bit tough. The sauce, although it looked wonderful with a beautiful color, was rather tasteless. That said, it was cooked just the way she liked it. H.’s vitello al limone was very good according to him. Again, my opinion of his veal was that it was just ok and the lemon sauce was bland.
R. had to send back his chicken Milanese because, even though ordered without any garlic, sure enough, the crumb coating was loaded with the dreaded flavor. When are chefs going to “get it”? There are other flavors in this world. Anyway, it was replaced by vitello al limone which he declared “ok”. There were a number of wood fired oven pizzas which we did not try nor see so I cannot comment. There is a lunch menu as well as a take-out menu, but, again, no comment.
We tried two desserts: a piece of ricotta cheesecake was flavorful, but too cold...oftentimes, when foods are served too cold, flavor and texture will be sacrificed. However, I will concede that ice cream can never be too cold!!!! R.’s tartufo was very good: a dark and chewy chocolate shell enclosing a pistachio ice cream filling. (That should be cold!)
Prices are reasonable, with antipasti, salads, soups, individual sized pizzas in the $6.00 to $10.00 range. Primi piatti, pastas, ranged from $10.00 through $17.00. Secondi piatti, (entrees in this country) on the regular menu ranged from about $15.00 through $20.00.
So, would I go back to Casa Mia? Frankly, I’m not running...
Rhythm Cafe by Vicki Slotnick
3800 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, 833-3406
Come on in, the casual dining at Rhythm Café is fine! But, have an open mind about what the place looks like from the outside, as well as inside. It was a drug store in the 50's and the chef/owner has very faithfully kept the retro, funky, and very kitschy (much of it for sale) atmosphere throughout the room, including the original counter.
The menu opens with a full page of do's and don'ts for their diners. The menu is actually quite extensive, and quite eclectic. They offer a great selection of appetizers, correction, tapas-tizers. Our table of six chose to share two for starters. First was the cheese on fire, a.k.a. Saganaki, a dish of Greek origin with Kasseri cheese, set on fire with brandy, then extinguished with lemon, and served hot and bubbly with little warm, fresh pita bread wedges. I almost died and went to heaven with that alone. Good thing I didn't, because there was much more heaven-sent food to come. What was billed as "The Best Tuna Tartar Ever" really could have been. Finely chopped meltingly smooth raw tuna was lovingly tossed with a ginger-y lime-y dressing, a perfect foil for the very fresh tuna, and was served with crispy little French bread crostinis. There were other tapa-tizers that could have been ordered as tapas sized or entrée sized. That night's fresh fish included hog snapper, swordfish, and steelhead salmon. L. and I both ordered the hog snapper but with different preparations, six different treatments and all of them sounding very interesting. I am one of those no-garlic-within-five-miles-please kinds of people, so my hog snapper was prepared with an herb bread crumb crust. It was baked just right for that kind of fish, moist and tender. Each mouthful was soft and sweet on the inside and slightly crispy-crunchy on the outside at the same time. It was accompanied by a lemon beurre blanc sauce, a perfect counterpoint to the fish, and a choice of wonderful vegetable sides, the lightly glazed carrots being my personal favorite. YUM! H. had the hog snapper also, but treated in a Mediterranean way called "Arti Heart". The fish of his choice was oven roasted and strewn with a sauté of artichoke hearts, scallions, and sun dried tomatoes. Then it was topped with a lemony butter sauce, and served with his choice of side dishes of the day. Oh joy! D. and E. had blackened salmon with string beans and spinach, over which the two of them swooned. R., the meat eater, had the filet mignon, a gorgeous center cut of tenderloin perfectly prepared medium rare with a silky sauce au poivre. Despite the fact that I am not much of a carnivore, I could not resist his generous offer of a taste. It was amazing.
On to desserts. We all shared: key lime pie that was a perfect balance of sweet and tart, so incredibly smooth in my mouth, and the crust was as flaky as it could be. There was a warm apple crisp with homemade cinnamon ice cream. Sorry, my words cannot describe it! There was a peanut butter pie with chocolate sauce. Not my thing so I will quote the menu on this one: "a light peanut butter mooseyish filling in a fan-freaking-tastic crust of chopped peanuts and chocolate chips". The Rhythm Café also makes an interesting array of homemade ice creams and they even have real hot fudge! Beverages include all manner of good things with the exception of hard liquor. Soft drinks, several waters, beers, wines for the start, wines for the middle, and for the end, and wines such as ports and dessert wines are offered. Bob, our waiter and a thirteen year veteran of the restaurant, was very helpful, very patient in response to all our requests, and pleasant throughout the entire meal. Here is another restaurant to try!
Entre Nous by Vicki Slotnick
Located on the SW corner of US 1 and Northlake, 863-5883.
This is a wonderful little "hole in the wall" restaurant in a part of town one would never expect to find it. There are only 6 tables in the place. It's quiet, as in the opposite of frenetic, romantic with candles on the tables, and a great place to go with a few good friends and be able to have a conversation! The food is wonderful, a little bit of everything with a contemporary twist to every dish. Our waitperson was very knowledgeable about the menu and attentive. I had the best tuna tartare appetizer I have ever had anywhere, raw yellowfin tuna on sushi rice with a sweet soy and wasabi aioli. As I was not ravenous, I decided to have another appetizer rather than an entre, a contemporary version of stuffed potato skins. The skins were topped with prosciutto and goat cheese and topped with a white truffle oil, at once crispy and soft, tangy and smooth, and wonderful, not to mention more than enough to be an entrée. My husband had a marvelous center cut rib veal chop with a red wind reduction and served on a bed of truffled risotto. That, too, was amazing! Another friend had the yellowfin tuna tataki, sesame crusted and very rare. She proclaimed it wonderful as well. We did not have desserts as we were more than satiated. But coffee was made at the table in those charming little French press coffee servers. I can't wait to return and maybe try the crispy duck and the rest of the menu!
NONNA MARIA RESTAURANT by VICKI SLOTNICK
529 NORTHLAKE BOULEVARD
I am very fickle…I have found my NEW favorite restaurant in this area! We used to take our family to Nonna Maria in the mid 90’s. The food was okay and the portions were more than huge! More restaurants came into the area and we tired of the old Nonna Maria. We returned a couple of months ago, after hearing that the restaurant had changed hands in 2003. It was sold to Francois and Judy and was no longer just an Italian restaurant, but much more and much better. They bill themselves as “Italian with a French twist”. We have been there three times in the past couple of months, and each time, just when we think it can’t get any better, it does!
This most recent visit we are greeted very hospitably by Judy the chef/owner’s wife, and she seats us promptly. The dining room is a cute smallish room, not decorated in any particular fashion, just pleasant in a non obtrusive kind of way. A waiter promptly and efficiently takes very good care of us. There is a fairly nice wine list, and our drinks arrive quickly. Good, crusty country Italian bread comes out quickly as well, and we devour it with butter or a very nice olive oil, as we peruse an extensive menu. We are hard-pressed to choose…everything looks and sounds so good! R. began with a wonderful creamy wild mushroom soup, L., E., and I started with the arugula, watermelon, and feta salad with citrus vinaigrette. The arugula was fresh and peppery, just the way arugula should be. The watermelon cubes were sweet, and the feta was tangy. The citrus dressing just pulled the different elements of the salad together so well. Another time we visited, one of our friends had French onion soup which she loved. The first two times I was at Nonna Maria I had the braised short ribs of beef over risotto with a Chianti reduction. It was sublime, so tender and sauced perfectly, and I thought that I would have it once again, or someone else would have it and I could snag a bite. But I decided to try something different this time and so chose the yellowtail snapper francese. E. had that also. It was served over spinach and sauced with lemon, white wine and butter. The fish was moist and the sauce was perfectly seasoned and balanced. L. had the veal saltimbocca. I had a taste, and I will probably have that the next visit…it was a perfect combination of the tender veal, prosciutto, in sage and wine reduction served with sautéed broccoli rabe. R. Had linguini Bolognese. The very meaty sauce was slightly spicy, in a good way, maybe from sausage. One taste of that and perhaps when I return, I’ll order that! It seems to me that Chef/Owner Francois really knows his way around the kitchen, in particular, his sauces.
There are many appetizers, pastas, meat, fish, and seafood entrees that will surely fill the bill for even the pickiest eater. Desserts do not disappoint either. If they do everything on the menu as well as the items that I have already tasted, this place is a keeper.
Entree prices run in the $18 to $25 range, but in addition to the ala carte menu, Nonna Maria offers a prix fixe menu of three courses for $28.95: appetizer, entrée and dessert. The portion sizes are not reduced, (in fact, they are sometimes even too large, no kidding! Practically every selection that is on the ala carte is also offered on the prix fixe…you can trust me: it’s a great deal.
Hours are 4:30 to 9:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday, private parties and catering are available, and reservations are taken.
Lola’s Seafood Eatery by Vicki Slotnick
4594 Northlake Blvd., just west of Military, 622-2259
Here’s to another winner recently opened right in our own backyard! Down at the other end of the small strip (housing Joseph’s Classic market) is a really good place to grab lunch, fast if you want. You can grab dinner too, but don’t expect fine dining. Just expect great seafood and stuff. We “grabbed” lunch one Saturday afternoon, vowing that we’d eat lightly since we had reservations for some fine dining that evening. You may be able to eat lightly, but not me...I had to taste and finish everything (on my plate as well as on my friends’ plates). OK...you walk in...the place is decorated in the “clean and functional” style. You get on line. You read the menu signs overhead just like in the fast food joints, you give someone your order, you sit down at a clean and comfortable table, and then that’s where the similarity to a fast food joint ends. In no time at all, you’ve been served this really good food!
L. and her daughter shared a couple of plates: fried belly clams which they declared were wonderful. If you order the basket, you get wonderful cole slaw, bottleneck fries, or salad and a dipping sauce. You can have your fish or seafood in a cone if you prefer, with only the dipping sauce. They also shared a LOLA’S salad with sweet sea scallops, baby mixed greens, Italian tomatoes, corn salsa, dried cranberries, “crispi” noodles, and topped with an orange basil vinaigrette (more about that vinaigrette later). C. said the scallops were as good as any she’s had anywhere: sautéed beautifully browned on the outside and soft, sweet, and moist on the inside. J. had the lobster roll sandwich, one of four New England favorite roll sandwiches on the menu. It was served on the traditional bun, grilled, with the bottleneck fries and coleslaw. It was loaded with large chunks of very fresh lobster meat and a delicately seasoned mayonnaise, so good in very traditional Cape Cod way...the best I’ve tasted in years. I had the soft shell crab salad on arugula, with walnuts, feta, corn tomato salsa, “crispi” noodles. Wherever the menu said “corn tomato salsa”, that meant fresh corn kernels and fresh ripe tomatoes. I asked for my salad with the orange basil vinaigrette. What a good idea! After having this delicious slightly sweet, green, slightly viscous dressing on my salad, I then proceeded to dip everyone’s leftover bottleneck fries in said dressing/dipping sauce! The fries were wonderfully crisp and well seasoned and they were absolutely divine dipped into the dressing.
Needless to say, it’s hard to get the flavor of the place with one lunch, but there is a nice selection of other stuff to try at another visit...a large selection of fried seafood, several sandwiches including fish tacos, a raw bar selection, the aforementioned rolls, a very nice variety of salads, even a few hot entrée of the sort you might want at dinner time, sweets such as beignets, crème brulee, and brownies. To top it all off, they have imported and domestic beers, and wines by the glass, the bottle, and even champagne splits. They even have a few different brands of bottled water for those of you who don’t drink the 2010 Palm Beach brand of filtered tap water. This one’s a “we’ll be back”!
SUNSET BAR AND GRILL by Vicki Slotnick
2500 BROADWAY at 24TH STREET, WEST PALM BEACH, 832-2722
Walking into this place gave us a really good feeling right away. It’s warm and woodsy, homey, quite funky, and very casual. There are loads of colorful oil paintings on the walls all by the same figure artist, Debra Kerly who once lived in the neighborhood. Had I been inclined, I would have bought more than a few! We were shown right to our table…the only round table for six nestled in a cozy corner and away from the maddening crowd (but which was nowhere to be seen that night)! The place is very well kept and clean for an old building and you have to experience the ladies room!
Sunset Grill is open Tuesday through Friday for lunch starting at 11 am, and Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, starting at 4 pm. They have a bar at which one can have a meal as well as an outdoor patio. The lunch menu has a nice variety of homemade soups, salads, and sandwiches, but we were there for dinner. The menu makes a point of telling us that all salad dressings are made in house and there are daily specials. I suppose that you have to eat pretty early in the evening to rate a “sunset special”. Remember, dinner begins at 4 pm. Each day brings another specially priced “come on” to get you in the door including live music on Saturday nights.
We shared a few appetizers, one standout being a special that evening of sacchetti in sage and brown butter sauce. The “pillows” of cheese stuffed pasta were sublime in texture…pillows is the only word I would use. It reminded me of a so, so, soft down pillow. The part that disappointed me was the brown butter and sage sauce…not enough of that nutty brown butter and crispy fried sage to taste like anything much. Oh well… Eddy had a very pretty and crispy fresh house salad and other Eddie had a grilled veggie gazpacho, which he pronounced a 9 out of 10. We had a hilarious ten-minute dissertation about the bread (after all, bread is the staff of life!) Then there was a revised rating on the gazpacho: ”outstanding”! Other Ed kept refilling his martini with olives. They have served him about 12 olives already.
Eddy’s red snapper arrived with a ginger cilantro sauce. Most entrees were served with a nice variety of vegetables; Laura had black and white sesame seed-crusted tuna, served in a big hunk. It was ordered very rare, but came over-cooked. There was a grilled mahi-mahi that Elaine did not love…she was eyeing Eddy’s snapper. I had sunset crab cakes, tasty but very mushy, mostly filler. (I was searching hard for some jumbo lump crab, to no avail.) There was another 5-minute discussion on the vegetables and the bread. The baby green beans were tasty but too soft and more grey than green…was it from being roasted or over-cooked???? The carrots were “baby, cut by machine to look like baby carrots, but not really babies. You know, you’ve seen them in plastic bags in the super markets. Rodney’s duck was beautifully crisp, lean, a tad dry, and a beautiful mahogany brown with a yummy sweet sauce on the side.
There was a nice variety of house made desserts. We shared a couple of excellent desserts. The chocolate bread pudding was awesome. My plan included only one bite (need I say more?) A gold brick sundae was unremarkable, however. Prices were reasonable. Service was very good. The consensus on the place averaged about an 8.5. You be the judge.
Cafe Sapori by Vicki Slotnick
205 Southern Blvd.
West Palm Beach, FL 33405 805-7310
Visiting Café Sapori is a must! It starts out great, especially on a rainy night, because you don’t have to get wet even for a moment. You drive into a port cochere and navigate a covered walkway into a room that is hospitable, but at the same time, not-at-all-stuffy. There is a large and inviting front room for private parties tucked behind a long bank of beautiful, faceted glass French doors.
A tasty assortment of interesting breads arrived with menus immediately, and our waiter took our drink orders right away as well. The menu is quite extensive for an Italian restaurant. Even four anti-garlic foodies had a good selection, unusual in many Italian eateries in South Florida. For an appetizer, hubby and I shared a full size order of pappardelle in a light, but meaty, veal Bolognese sauce as an appetizer. Laura’s salad was beautifully presented, fresh, unusual, just wonderful! It had shaved fennel, fava beans and orange segments and was lightly anointed by citrus vinaigrette. Rodney’s prosciutto di Parma over melon was just as good. The melon was nice and sweet, counterpointed by the not- overly-salty imported prosciutto.
Entrees devoured by the 4 of us included snapper livornese which was fresh and well seasoned with the requisite tomatoes, olives, to name just a few ingredients. Eddy and I shared a Mediterranean sea bass which was very similar to branzino (our absolute fave). It was grilled simply, accompanied only by juicy grilled lemon and olive oil and served over evenly and lovingly diced vegetables, a mélange of carrots, zucchini, and potatoes. In a word…sublime!
The menu lists separate sections of tapas, salads, antipasti, soups, focaccia and pizzas, and that’s before you even get to the fresh pastas, dried pasta, meats, fish, vegetables etc, etc, etc! Really, an excellent assortment… Laura shared her dessert with us, an apple almond tart. That was not my cup of tea, a bit too mushy for my taste, but there were several other great sounding desserts on the menu, albeit no room in our bellies.
To sum it up, Food was fresh, imaginative, well prepared, and delicious. Prices were in the upper-moderate range. We’d go back in a heartbeat, BUT, not on a Saturday night. You guessed it: a high noise level of people obviously enjoying the experience was the only downside to this otherwise perfect restaurant!
PROSECCO CAFÉ By Vicki Slotnick
4580 PGA Blvd. Palm Beach Gardens
I gotta tell you, hubby and I had not been to Prosecco Café in quite a number of months. We were getting a bit tired of the menu as it was not progressing to something beyond our expectations. Anyway, after many moons, we returned a couple of weeks ago, and then again a few days after that. And, we’ll go again very soon. Something happened along the way, while we weren’t looking, and the menu and concept and the preparation and the service and the ambience, [you can eat outside as well as inside] and the I-don’t-know-what-all-else got so much better!
Since its name is Prosecco, they offer a selection of at least 4 Prosecco cocktails, 9 or 10 white wines, 9 or 10 red wines and more than a handful of craft beers. Happy hour is from 4 to 6 pm when selected wines are $5.00 per glass. There are specials every night such as Wednesday night tapas, burgers, and martinis for $5.00. The daily list keeps going on and on with every day or night featuring some other well priced special.
Then you’ve got this wonderful selection of cold and hot tapas and small plates, all very interesting and all reasonably priced for the amount served, and for the sheer deliciousness and inventiveness of them all. We’ve tried the prosciutto di Parma and homemade fresh fig jam, yum, one element a great counterpoint for the other element. The bourbon braised short rib slider on the bar menu is amazing. The goat cheese croquette served over a piece of grilled French bread spread with the aforementioned homemade fig jam is one of my personal faves [already!]. Prosecco has some great salads, even one featuring quinoa, can you imagine that? There are a bunch of great sandwiches and burgers of different proteins, including a chicken waldorf salad on panini-pressed muesli bread, clearly the best bread around, [and I do love my bread]. This is a good time to tell you that Prosecco makes all their own breads and pastries, not to mention amazing gelatos, [try the dark, dark chocolate gelato…you’ll thank me! While you’re at it try their buttery, multi-layered, not-overly-sweet rugulach!
They do have grilled entrees as well that sound good but we haven’t yet tried, and a daily selection of fresh fish, served with a choice of 4 different sauces and all served with crispy potato cake and roasted asparagus. There are other sides that sound yummy as well. Give them a try!
BRICKTOPS - by Vicki Slotnick
375 South County Road,
Palm Beach 561-855-2030
This one's going to be a short, but sweet, review!
The atmosphere is welcoming, lively, contemporary, but not ridiculous. There is a wonderful inside/outside bar and plenty of dining tables around the bar on the outside. At the same time, the tables are separated from the street by a low wall and all is covered from the elements overhead. When it gets a bit cooler we will want to sit out there for sure!
The wait people could not be more hospitable or well trained! We asked for a table away from the maddening crowd and were taken to a perfect booth in a back corner where we could actually have conversation! Imagine that! Granted...it was not yet in season. The service is prompt, quite attentive, and very accommodating to some of us folks with dietary restrictions.
The menu leans in favor of simple but very well prepared selections. Whether you are in the mood for comfort food that "takes you back", or healthful contemporary food, or almost anything in between, you will find something to your liking. Some of the menu items we tried and loved...The baby back ribs, small in rib size, but big on meatiness and flavor; simply grilled Scottish salmon...simply wonderful; Palm Beach salad with crab, avocado, shrimp, eggs...great; kale and quinoa salad...texture and taste excellent. We have been to restaurants that prided themselves on using garlic in every dish where certain folks could not find anything to eat that wouldn't wreak havoc with their tummies. Or there are those of us who may have to be gluten free...there's a menu/app for that! The kitchen staff and the servers handle those issues, and more, with ease.
Bottom line...BRICKTOP'S is one of our new and absolute favorites! Here's a little bonus, by the way, The Quadrille Bridge into Palm Beach is reopening very soon! Try BRICKTOP'S and let me know what you think!
MARIO’S OCEAN AVENUE - by Vicki Slotnick
225 East Ocean Avenue,
Lantana, FL – 561-582-3013
Mario’s occupies a place where a popular Asian restaurant “lived” for many years and attracted lots of locals. Now it’s Mario’s turn and they seem to be doing it well.
We arrived right on time for our reservation at 7pm, the sun was still shining during this very warm mid-summer’s eve, and were seated promptly at an outside table under a large awning and with a ceiling fan very nearly right over our heads.
Ahhhhh… Cute little crusty rolls [NO GARLIC PLEASE!], butter, and olive oil came promptly as well, and hubby and friends dug right in.
After drinks, we ordered, and proceeded to get good and hungry! The appetizers came out and I suddenly realized that I had not ordered any appetizer. Oh man, by that time I my stomach was growling so loud you could have heard it in the next zip code!
Laura had already warned me that everything is delicious, but made to order and that there would probably be a wait. There was nothing to do but grin and bear it and anticipate the expected really good food to come. Laura and Eddy’s shared appetizer, pappardelle with Bolognese sauce, came and it looked and tasted marvelous, rich and meaty with plenty of flavor. Translate, only Parmesan cheese required! The portion was more than enough for them to share as an appetizer. So they and their stomachs were already feeling happy.
We waited quite a bit more time and our entrees came out exactly an hour and a half after we sat down. Oh blessed food in front of me!!! I ordered my version of their pasta scampi…gluten free penne with shrimp; hold the garlic, onions, and gluten. By the way, for those gluten-intolerant diners with among us, they also offered gluten free pizza. There were plenty of yummy herbs and olive oil in the sauce to make me happy; the pasta was al dente with three very plump and perfectly cooked shrimp atop. Oh joy…they did not have to wash my plate afterwards!
Laura and Eddy shared veal Milanese that was, they declared, excellent bargain at $28. The veal was tender, the arugula and tomato salad topping was very good, and they were oh so happy. The portion, again, was generous even for sharing with neither able to finish! Rodney’s veal Milanese [without the salad garnish] came with raw spinach underneath, not exactly what Rodney expected. Seems like there was a bit of confusion with the ordering, but he, too, declared the veal very good, tender and tasty.
We were all finally more than satiated, so we didn’t try any desserts.
. Bon Appetite!
RISTORANTE SANTUCCI - by Vicki Slotnick
610 Clematis Street
West Palm Beach
My first impression of Santucci, from the moment we walked into the restaurant, was one of clean, crisp, cool, efficient, and simple elegance….everything white, including the floor, the tables, the linens, the chairs, the glassware, the flatware, the dishware, all geometric but graceful.
The gentleman who greeted us was not rattled at all when I announced that we were six people, not four, as it was on the reservation book. [Ooops, I forgot to add the third couple that decided to join our party just a few days before.] He was very gracious and didn’t bat an eye when he led us to a table for six.
The artistry of the menu itself is as clean and contemporary as the table settings; and the food, [oh the food too [!] is presented in that same fashion. Stunning would sum it up. Right off the bat, wonderful, just out of the oven triangular chunks of ciabatta studded with fennel seed arrived, along with long rectangular plates of olive oil drizzled with balsamic reduction. Just for a visual…the oil and balsamic plates looked a lot like contemporary paintings that you might see at Art Basel in Miami priced at $300, 000.
Let’s see, I will have to choose just a few of the wonderful selections we sampled…the table shared crispy Calamari Fritti accompanied by two dipping sauces, marinara and creamy tartar sauce, garnished with a lovely insalata mista dressed lightly in fresh lemon juice and olive oil, so simple but so delicious. Since I don’t eat the calamari, I confiscated the salad garnish all for myself and I felt like the lucky one. Eddy and I shared a pasta of our choice [including gluten free if need be] with Ragu di Bologna as an appetizer, excellent…just the right amount of well executed sauce with just a hint of a sweet spice…maybe cinnamon? We then shared Branzino Acqua Pazza the filet steamed in a fresh-diced tomato sauce. This was accompanied, on a side plate, by a rectangle of fried polenta and sautéed spinach. The branzino was exceptionally fresh and just about melted in our mouths. We all shared a very warm and fresh-out-of-the-pot zabaglione, served in a tall stainless stemmed martini “glass”. It was divine…I could detect a subtle hint of the Marsala wine.
Our first visit was very quiet, a weeknight in late June, while this visit was quite noisy as it was a full house on a Saturday night even in late August. In spring, fall and winter it should be lovely to dine outside under their protected colonnade. All in all, I give Ristorante Santucci 3.9 stars out of 4! How’s that!
Nick & Johnny's Osteria - by Vicki Slotnick
14133 US Highway 1
Phone - 561-318-5466
Hold onto your hats folks, we've got a winner here! We were welcomed with open arms by Susan...don't ask me what her title is although I can tell you for sure that she does, indeed, care. She took the time on the phone to answer my questions about whether the restaurant could deal with my particular food allergies. Yes, they could and did very successfully. It was Friday night the end of March [still high season] but we were able to get a table on very short notice at 6:30 pm. The "pizza side of the restaurant" on the right was already buzzing, but we sat on the "dining" side, which at that hour was not yet full. Our server was very attentive [sorry, I don't remember her name]. She too, really seemed to care.
The menu... there was a nice variety of appetizers in addition to many we have not seen in Italian restaurants in a long time, such as spadini, sautéed chicken livers, [can you believe?], and clams casino. Soup or salad comes gratis with each entrée. We didn't love the soup, which was a bit thin and lacking in flavor and texture, but we had ordered a salad a la carte so we remained optimistic. Our arugula salad could have served 3 to 4 people easily, and was wonderful. It was chock full of very fresh crispy arugula, sweet and ripe sliced strawberries, sliced crunchy apples, walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese, all wrapped up in raspberry vinaigrette. I could have stopped right there even having shared it with hubby. Adding some suggested protein choices to the salads would easily have made entrees for 2 people! Of course there was a nice selection of pasta entrees, also served with soup or salad. FYI excellent gluten free pasta is available...I should know, I've tried them all! Then, chicken or veal entrees done several different ways are offered. Hubby and friend each had their own Veal Russilino. It was excellent with a well-executed Marsala sauce under veal and spinach topped with crispy prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms, melted mozzarella. Add half of that to our doggy bag that has only just begun! I had fork tender chicken with crispy prosciutto in a creamy, parmegiano-cheesy sauce. OMG, so rich and delicious, add more than half of that to complete our doggy bag. Other menu offerings include several seafood entrees, beef, pork, lamb and more. Desserts, if you can find space, are freshly baked and presented by your server.
Oh, mustn't forget...I've heard that their crab cakes are not to be missed. Oh again, there's a whole "other" side to Nick and Johnny's...its pizza restaurant, which has so much more than just pizza [gluten free also available]. They offer appetizers, sandwiches served with fries, and a handful of salads. There's no need to get all dressed up at Nick and Johnny's. The atmosphere is hospitable and comfortable. And, we were able to hear each other speak even when the room was full...how about THAT for a reason, in itself, to pay a visit!!! By the way, the afore-mentioned Susan stopped at our table a few times to make sure we were happy. NICE... Nick & Johnny's is a "be-back" place for us.
Cafe Cabana - by Vicki Slotnick
1201 US Highway 1
North Palm Beach
I know, I know, I can hear you saying, "Yet another Italian restaurant?????" And yes, you are right. But this one's not just another Italian restaurant... I've been there twice in the past couple of months and twice they didn't disappoint me, or my dining partners.
To start with, when you make a reservation, if you want to be able to have conversation and a dining experience, ask for the left side dining room and try to dine before the nightly entertainment begins. If you would prefer to hang by the very attractive bar and enjoy live nightly entertainment, and if you prefer a more "happening", noisier atmosphere, ask for seating on the right. There is outside dining as well, and the work being done to the entire center is creating a much-needed improvement to that outside dining. The inside was redecorated after the previous tenants left, looking chic with interesting indirect lighting, very comfortable too, with several oval banquette tables that easily accommodate six people. Needless to say, there are all sorts of other seating options as well, including for private parties.
We were promptly seated, our drink orders were taken just as promptly, and received good bread to dunk in garlic filled olive oil. A busboy followed in rapid succession with the cheese grater. Yay, love that sharp and salty imported and aged Parmegiano Reggiano! Read the menu carefully... there are plenty of selections from a variety of categories: Antipasto, Insalata, Salumi (not available the two times we were there, and I don't know why), Pasta, Carne, Vitello, Pollo, Pesce, and finally, Dolce. Without going into each dish which each of us had, I can tell you that we all were very happy with our food, although our selections tasted better than they looked. Not bad, but not stunning either.
The management stresses their use of local producers and purveyors. They take advantage of being so close to the Atlantic Ocean in their very fresh fish and seafood. They also offer gluten free and vegetarian options. Our server was efficient, cheerful, and really aimed to please. All in all, I could not find anything to lower my good "marks" for Cucina Cabana.
PHO 16 [AUTHENTIC VIETNAMESE CUISINE] - by Vicki Slotnick
2905 North Military Trail, Suite E
West Palm Beach
Please don’t let the ‘cuisine’ word in the name fool you. It does not connote fancy. What it will do is tell you that this is really good Vietnamese food, though far away from its geographical roots, and in an unfancy location. The atmosphere is really utilitarian, but clean, you can get away with wearing almost anything you want here, the service is fast, and most importantly, the food is great.
Vietnamese cuisine employs fresh whole herbs, noodles [both wheat and rice], at least five kinds of proteins, and generous portions; read, you’ll be full long before you will ever go broke. I have a lot of favorites here…the egg rolls [that may be called spring rolls elsewhere] are far superior, in my book, to typical Chinese egg rolls. These are delicate in taste and texture, with a thin, crispy wrapping, and it doesn’t need to be dunked in sauce to make them taste just perfect. The spring rolls, [often called summer rolls elsewhere], are chock full of shrimp, cucumber, mint, mung bean sprouts [much tastier and sweeter than soybean sprouts] and thin rice noodles in a soft rice paper wrapper. YUM! And oh, the Vietnamese pancake! It is a crispy very thin omelet/turnover, hard to describe but very easy and delicious to eat. Oh, I almost forgot, do leave room for the Korean BBQ short ribs, for sure!
The Pho in the restaurant’s name refers to a soup that has a beef base broth and then is filled up with goodies such as the aforementioned proteins, herbs, veggies and such. Everything but the kitchen sink can be had in there, so choose wisely… there may be a few things you would pass on. Personally, I prefer the chicken based broth with my choice of throw-ins. Move on to the rice vermicelli noodle bowl with such veggies as: mung bean sprouts, mint, pickled carrot, peanuts, and scallions. I love the pork or the shrimp in my vermicelli bowl as well. Then I dump the entire bowl of sweet “fish” sauce over the entire noodle mix, and toss well, and then… we all just dig in our chopsticks and knock ourselves out! I hope you like PHO 16 as much as I do. Your feedback is always welcome.