Bice-Slapped

Palm Beach memories didn't prepare us for this shock.

Antipasti: pizzette, calamari, seafood salad, bresaola, prosciutto with melon, or carpaccio ($17). We opted for carpaccio. And I ordered the crudita di vegetali della Bice ($13), a pretty way of saying "chopped salad." I have a theory that you can tell everything you need to know about a restaurant by its salads and bread; they're a measure of how much attention the chef pays to details (not that he's likely to put his hand to either, but he should have his eye keenly focused on the slaves who do). To follow, we asked for a plate of casonsei di Bergamo (sausage-stuffed dumplings, $26) split three ways, because Bice is known for its fresh pasta. And main courses of the pesce del giorno Livornese ($30; it was snapper); the house specialty, costoletta di vitello alla Milanese (breaded veal chop, $39); and one of the night's specials, gamberoni with mango-arugula salsa (grilled shrimp, $18).

I'm going to cut to the chase. There are only two reasons to spend your money at Bice Palm Beach. One is to celeb-watch during the social season, preferably over lunch. The other is to eat the pasta. Because nothing else we ordered that night came remotely close to the quality of these delicious morsels of casonsei, generous boat-shaped ravioli stuffed with ground sausage, spinach, and potato, drenched in brown butter, and studded with Italian bacon. The waiters came around with ground pepper and grated parmesan and made it even more splendid, if a bit too salty. If a split portion was anything to judge by, a full plate of the stuff is quite enough to make a thoroughly good meal with a glass of wine. Homemade parpardelle; ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and ricotta with sage and poppy seed sauce; tagliolini Bolognese; and gnocchi al pesto organico are also made in-house, all $21 to $24.

The basil, by the way, is the only organic item on the menu — hilariously referred to in two places, as if growing basil organically were the most difficult task a chef could set himself. I wished Bice had taken the same trouble over the expensive vegetables in my chopped salad. That salad could have used an extra splash of olive oil. Carrots, fennel, cucumber, tomato, a hat of thinly sliced purple onions that were far too pungent to be served raw, and a few croutons. Still, it was big enough to feed four.

Joe Rocco

Dad's carpaccio was better; thinly sliced cold beef with excellent parmesan and lots of arugula. But it didn't stand out above the carpaccio served in hundreds of Italian restaurants between here and Sobe, and it was a good sight more expensive.

Our entrées were pretty much a bust. The fish of the day tasted rather like the fish of the week. This snapper was not fresh, and somebody had tried to hide that sad fact by dumping a bucketful of plain tomato sauce all over it, dotted with a few black olives. It was one of the laziest iterations of "Livornese" sauce I've ever seen. "Never order fish on Monday," my mother said, pushing her $30 plate of mush away (when the bill came, the price had risen to $32). My shrimp — although there were only three of them — were great by contrast, plump, moist, and nicely charred, and they tasted fine with the tart-sweet-peppery chopped mango and arugula salsa. That was $6 per shrimp, but at least I could eat without fear. My Dad's parmesan-crusted and pounded veal chop was dry and flavorless, served with cold chopped tomatoes and more of the ubiquitous green. Arugula, arugula everywhere, and not a bite to eat!

I held out little hope for dessert. Deep dish crème brûlée ($9) was slightly too sweet and very creamy, and there was a lot of it. Its texture didn't come close to the crema we'd had at Frankie's Pier 5 lately. The tiramisu ($10) was the gustatory equivalent of one we'd bought from Costco recently and thawed from a box, which is to say, not bad at all.

It was 9 p.m., and the place had cleared out. Spooky! And this beeyotch had had enough of Bice. But next time I'm in Dubai, I'll be sure to check out that squash-stuffed ravioli.

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