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Best Of 2004

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Restaurant in Palm Beach
The Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort, Palm Beach

It is said that the same yardstick used to critique the arts can be applied to reviewing restaurants: mood, tone, theme, setting, and harmony. The Restaurant's elegant setting is defined by its sweeping arched entrance, which is flanked by palm trees, a fountain, and tropical flowers. Once indoors, you'll find a refined tone set by colored marble in shades of creamy beige, columns of textured stone, breathtaking floral arrangements, and hand-painted silk Chinese murals. A classical mood is provided by the pianist's mellifluous notes floating from the Champagne Lounge at the far end of the room. And the epicurean theme orchestrated by Hubert Des Marais is a brilliant take on Southeastern regional fare, which includes influences from the Deep South, Caribbean, and South and Central America. Marais' tendency is to start with such stirring preludes as a salad of Florida lobster with mango, avocado, plantain, and essence of truffle or seared foie gras with starfruit johnnycakes and scotch-bonnet mango caramel, then segue into larger, richer, more luxurious movements, like char-grilled veal chop with crispy foie gras potatoes and deep morel reduction or his signature guava-braised short ribs of beef with truffle-scented cress salad. A light seafood interlude of yellowtail snapper with watermelon relish, lemon thyme, and tangelo sauce shows off the maestro Marais' versatility as well as his surprising knack for being utterly original. An underlying theme is the reliance on local products like passion fruit, mangoes, goat cheese, Okeechobee frog legs, and Indian River she crabs. A big, brassy wine list hits all the right notes. The meal rises to a crescendo with the soufflé overture, soon after which the crowd offers its accolades and files out contentedly. Readers' Choice: 32 East

2800 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, 33480
MAP
561-533-3750
Best Expensive Italian Restaurant
Primavera Restaurant

Top Ten Reasons Why Primavera Is Better Than the Italian Restaurant You Go To:

10. You can't fool all of the people all of the time -- Primavera's been around since 1985.

9. Wait staff isn't snobby, nor is it informal to the point of saying things like "Fuhgeddaboudit!"

8. Roasted pepper antipasto comes spiked with curry.

7. Do the owners of your favorite place have cool names like Primavera's husband-wife team of Giacomo and Melody?

6. Innovative culinary combinations like zucchini-crusted rack of lamb with Marsala date sauce; grilled salmon with pink grapefruit and merlot; pasta with fagioli.

5. Romantic ambiance can lead to amorous payoff that makes pricey bill seem a bargain.

4. Extensive wine list reasonably priced.

3. Two words: homemade pasta.

2. Frank Sinatra once ate here.

1. Because we say so, and we're experts.

830 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Oakland Park, 33334
MAP
954-564-6363
Best Pizza

It's no secret that Louie Louie's pizzas win awards all over the place. Wouldn't it be clever to be come up with someplace new? But that would be like dumping your life partner because you lost ten pounds. The secret of the success of these pies, which don't even headline the menu of this Las Olas classic (now also located across Las Olas and on Delray's Atlantic Avenue), is the way the kitchen makes so much go such a long way. Served piping hot, the homemade mozzarella and tomato sauce blend with the extra virgin olive oil on the delicate margheritas and heartier Neapolitans so authentically that you feel like you'll get smacked in the back of the head if you talk with your mouth full. Not that this is our local version of dinner at the Goombahs. The vegetarian toppings and healthy pies and the grilled rosemary chicken pizzas take the selections into new territory with great style -- much like Garbo tackling laughter in Ninotchka. Perfection on a platter.

Best Inexpensive Italian Restaurant
Zuccarelli's Italian Kitchen  Readers' Choice: Il Mulino

The Olive Garden doesn't serve tripe. That's OK, but it also doesn't offer fresh pork or beef braciole, chicken scarparielo with homemade sausage and mushrooms in lemon sauce, pignoli-crusted snapper over spinach, and more than 40 types of pasta dishes -- and that's not OK, which is one reason why those seeking moderately priced, robust Southern Italian food are far better off at Zuccarelli's. Another reason is that the meatballs aren't made en masse but rather in the caring hands of the Zuccarelli family -- papa Ralph, mama Frances, and daughter Olimpia -- and Chef Buddy Kratz. They also make the sausages, mozzarella cheese, pastas, breads, and desserts and have been doing so for 23 years, much to the gratitude of a fiercely loyal clientele -- most of whom the staff here knows by name. This rustically attractive restaurant puts out some outrageously delicious pizzas too, and there's hardly an item on the absurdly extensive menu that costs more than $20.

1937 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, 33409
MAP
561-686-7739
Best Pizza by the Slice
Times Square Pizza

As you eat your way through this maniacal world, exposing the recesses of your mind, you might condemn the budded tongue as a forgetful little muscle. Not so. It is a passionate appendage that betrays our animal lust for the simple things in life, and once it's introduced to the unfathomably delicious slice ($1.75) at Times Square Pizza, your heretofore complicated life will revolve around the corner of Oakland Park Boulevard and Federal Highway. Gold-chained, strong, silent types slave at the ovens in this 8-year-old New York-style eatery, then deliver your slice right to your table. No frills. No chatter. Just slice. What's their secret? Is it the perfectly heated ovens or the high-quality Grande mozzarella cheese? Don't pluck the mystery; just obey the buds. Oh, by the way: It's a sweet spot to hit on your way home from the beach.

2304 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33306
MAP
954-566-7772
Best Caribbean Restaurant
Caribbean Choice Restaurant and Bakery

More than 300,000 South Floridians describe their primary ancestry as non-Hispanic Caribbean or West Indian. That's a good thing, because it means there are plenty of places to get really good West Indian food. Heck, you could throw a rock almost anywhere within Broward and Palm Beach counties and it would probably fly through the window of a Caribbean restaurant. Well, wind up, Dontrelle, and cast your stone toward Caribbean Choice Restaurant and Bakery in West Palm Beach. Owner Don Smith brings his island flavor from Jamaica via the Bronx and serves up Caribbean favorites such as beef patties, jerked chicken and pork, and roti. And if you're in the mood for fish, escovitched snapper and steamed kingfish are on the menu as well. Add pigeon peas and rice and you've got good times. Whether dining in for a quick sitdown meal or eating on the run, every wanga gut (big eater) this side of Kingston can get his or her fill.

2845 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, 33412
MAP
561-682-9014
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Best Restaurant in Palm Beach: The Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort, Palm Beach

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