A Child Was Born in Hoboken

Happy holidays with greens and red sauce

All this is the good news. I'll tell you right now, I love this place, and I plan to go back, but not necessarily for the food. I'm going back for the convivial atmosphere and the reasonable prices, the excellent service and the cheap wine. When I want incredible food, I'm going next door to Kitchenetta.

This is not to say that our meal at Pistola's was inedible or served cold or really botched in any way. It's just that nothing was outstanding. Some of it was quite good. My recommendations are as follows:

Get the fried mozzarella ($9.95), big puffs of delicious creamy fried goodness served with marinara sauce; it drew raves from all. The pasta fagiole ($5.95) is a hearty, healthy bean and tomato soup, piping hot. Escargots on toast ($10.95), the night's special, were plentiful and garlicky and made an instant convert of one of us who had never tasted snails. We also really dug the penne Pistola ($14.95), pasta tossed in cream sauce with sun-dried tomatoes and vegetables, infused with an interesting, smoky flavor. Our resident gnocchi expert gave her dish of gnocchi, which she ordered with tomato sauce rather than basil pesto ($14.95), a B minus; she could taste no potato in the dumplings, but she liked the piquant sauce. Veal ($17.95) and snapper limone ($16.95), both with a smooth lemon, butter, and wine sauce, were flavorful and cooked perfectly, but the snapper tasted (to me) like it had seen better days.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

Kitchenetta

2850 N. Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33306-1426

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Wilton Manors

Details

Kitchenetta: 2850 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Open 5:50 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Call 954-567-3333.
Papa Pistola's: 2980 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Open daily 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Call 954-630-9388.

To skip: The bruschetta, which is made, weirdly, with canned tomatoes ($7.95). The antipasto misto ($9.95): pickled vegetables from a jar, and little else — a couple of pieces of salami, a single round of mozzarella. My lasagna ($17.45) was a disaster — pasta sheets swimming in tomato sauce with a bit of ground beef, ricotta, and no texture at all, more like a lasagna soup. I was disappointed; it's been several decades since I've been at a weight where I could actually risk ordering lasagna, and I wanted the splurge to be worth it. As for the desserts ($4.95), like the mud pie or the cappuccino truffle, forget about it — they look and taste as if they were made in a factory. And Pistola's stale, dry bread was some of the worst I've ever been served in a restaurant.

We didn't get to the risotto or the pizza, so you're on your own with those. Don't get me wrong — this is definitely a restaurant where you can do well for yourself if you know what to order. Stick to the pasta, chicken, and meat dishes, order the night's specials, drink lots of wine, put your feet up, and sing along to Come Fly With Me. You know the words.

The next night, we went over to Kitchenetta to check out the Sunday sauce. Kitchenetta is everything Pistola's is not: sleek and modern, done up in artfully distressed metals, mod tangerine and shades of lime and vanilla, glass doors that open onto a patio, and a flat-screen TV showing Vittorio De Sica's classic The Bicycle Thief. Their cheapest bottle of wine is $26 for an Estancia Pinot Noir; the most expensive is a Piedmont Barbaresco from Angelo Gaja for $215. The place serves a traditional Sunday family meal, macaroni with tomato and meat sauce, once a week from 3:30 to 9 p.m., and all dishes are priced for either individual or family portions.

New Times wrote up Kitchenetta briefly right after Vincent Foti opened it last year, with a promise to return after it had worked out some kinks. So here we are, on a chilly night, shivering in the ice palace. Everything gleams and echoes off the polished surfaces — this is a place to lounge around looking mysterious, not for an intimate tête-à-tête, and on cool nights, you'd better drag out the furs. Conversation is held at many decibels, which tends to focus you on the food ("Try this! It's divine!"). Fine by us. We arrived starving and in short order had procured the night's special appetizer, a plate of almost transparently thin grilled eggplant slices ($12), along with the most delicious homemade mozzarella I've ever tasted — the effect is like chewing slightly salted cream. And chopped tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil. Ooooh my God! A round of flatbread came out from the wood-burning oven, puffed up like a presidential aide's ego, with those wonderful half-burnt bubbles, drizzled with more olive oil, sprinkled with coarse salt and rosemary. We felt like we had the world on a string.

A glass of Regaleali Rosso from Sicily ($8 — there would be no bottles tonight), a round, woody red wine, went perfectly with three fat risotto balls ($12) sitting in a shallow pool of marinara. I should have asked for extra marinara — all their sauces are made with the less acidic San Marzano tomatoes, so they're mellow and earthy. The risotto balls were a melt-in-your-mouth concoction of risotto, mozzarella, peas, a little onion, and prosciutto, the risotto perfectly cooked, its outer coating crunchy, warming, filling. Really unimprovable.

My Sunday sauce arrived ($19), al dente rigatoni and tomatoes, a spicy-hot sausage, a fist-sized meatball, one rib, and shredded pork roast. If you've had appetizers, order this to share, along with a couple of sides; it's a hefty plate of food. Maybe because our side dishes were so spicy — like the escarole, beans, and red pepper ($12) — the red sauce seemed bland. Only the sausage, with its salt-and-pepper yin-yang, truly went to work on the taste buds. The big meatball was tender but too mildly flavored to generate much excitement — as if it hadn't cooked all day in sauce. The rib was a little on the tough side. But dense and chewy pork roast contributed to making this plate a textural triumph.

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