Best Inexpensive Italian Restaurant - 2009
Carolina's Coal Fired Pizza and Pasta - CLOSED
The Roman gods smiled on Delray Beach and dished us up one of their famous mythological hybrids: not a centaur or a satyr but an Italian restaurant set in an old Florida Key West cottage, complete with tin roof and breeze-ruffled, wraparound porch. Let's call this amazing chimera a trattorishack. The scent of night-blooming jasmine through open windows mingles with smoke wafting from Carolina's chimneys, a vapor redolent not of pit barbecue but of coal oven pizza. Genial, bespectacled owner Enrico Esposito brought the recipe for his pie crusts from his mother and grandmother's Neapolitan restaurants, along with their versions of meatballs in fresh marinara sauce ($9.95) and baked clams oreganata ($10.25). Pair Esposito's vinegar-tart chopped salad ($8.50) with a two-glass quartino of Italian Sangiovese or baby Amarone ($11), delicious with oven-baked bread sticks dipped in the EVOO and fine balsamic set out on every table. Pizza Carolina ($16.50) requires nothing more blissful than fresh mozzarella and handfuls of torn herbs; handmade cheese ravioli ($14.95) begs only for a dusting of fresh Parmesan. Like so much soft applause, the rustle of palms outside seals the bargain.