Chef Tommy Valdes at Trattoria Bella Cibo in Margate Makes His Pitch

Executive chef Tommy Valdes sure knows how to shill — the Culinary Institute of America grad and author is making a bid to be on the Next Food Network Star, a fact you'll find plastered all over his Margate Italian restaurant. There's even a life-sized picture of him, looking authoritative, above the hostess stand. Hey, you can't knock a guy for having lofty aspirations. His menu shares the same ambition, even if it sometimes comes across as overworked. Valdes tries to get creative with his dishes, but as with the Boulevard salad (chicken breast, broccoli rabe, pancetta, hard-boiled eggs, roasted peppers — deep breath — straw potatoes, Bermuda onions), tossing in the whole larder does not equal success. Likewise, chicken bella cibo pairs white wine sauce, shallots, and Boursin cheese, but what comes out is essentially a brow-beaten français. Where Bella Cibo works best is as a neighborhood restaurant with a flair for spontaneity — a place where you can bring the kids and listen to jazz on weekends, relax with a bottle of wine along revamped Margate Boulevard, or slurp a bowl of fancified linguine Bolognaise with Ma. Ciao, bella.

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