Best Of :: Food & Drink
Great service in a restaurant is about making you feel as though you belong. Some dining establishments have an easier time of this than others. Diners, for instance, would seem the perfect choice to make you feel at home. They are informal, unpretentious, low intensity. But at the palatially elegant L'Escalier, the wait staff manages to treat every customer like a regular -- a regular member of royalty, that is. Dining here is like having your own personal butlers for a few hours. Food is placed on the table, and removed, with the quiet precision of a Swiss -- or Japanese -- watch. A master sommelier advises on wine with the assuredness that you'd like to experience with your stockbroker. Should you retire to the restroom, your chair will be dutifully pulled, your napkin crisply refolded. Service is smooth, sweet, formal, and thoughtful. Most refreshingly, no member of the wait team will ever interrupt your dinner conversation with a chirpy "How is everything?" It is assumed that if anything is needed, you'll let them know. Amazingly, this professional and elegant service is provided without a hint of pretension. Even the best of butlers have a hard time pulling that off.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.