Years ago downtown Fort Lauderdale's Riverfront went from bustling plaza to veritable ghost town. Aside from the always busy Briny Riverfront Bar and Restaurant, the large space has stood mostly unoccupied for quite some time.
The emptiness, however, is just starting to fill up.
After months of delay, Canale Restaurant & Bar opened its doors to the public earlier this month.
Set in the former site of Suite 100, the indoor/outdoor restaurant offers upscale modern Italian fare overlooking the New River.
Italian (by way of Toronto) native and lifetime restaurateur Franco Agostino aims to give Fort Lauderdale a real taste of his homeland. His goal is to incorporate traditional flavors with modern cooking techniques.
Canale offers lunch and dinner menus with a selection of simple fare prepared with high-quality ingredients.
The lunch menu is separated into several sections. Starters include classics, like beef carpaccio with parmesan and Cipriani dressing ($12). Another staple is the caprese with heirloom tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and pesto Genovese ($12). Less common options include, Insalata di Salmone, orange, fennel, and asparagus salad tossed in a Florida citrus dressing topped with basil marinated salmon ($12). And the original Calamari Canale, pan seared calamari with capers, white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil ($10).
Pizza and pasta are also featured during the day, with choices like the margherita pizza ($9 and prosciutto e rucola pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, arugula, and prosciutto di parma ($11). Linguine alle vongole ($14), little neck clams, white wine, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and butter is Canale's take on the universal linguine with clam sauce. Rigatoni matriciana, a pasta served with onions, peperoncino, guanciale, and pomodoro is also available at dinner ($11 during lunch/$21 for dinner).
Lunch entrees include light selections like il Merluzzo, pan seared cod, caramelized onion, and heirloom tomatoes in rosemary dressing ($14). La piccata di vitello ($14), tender cut veal scallopini, lemon, and capers in white wine is one of the clean and simple meat options.
Dinner offers a more extensive selection of dishes. Numerous carne (meat) entrees are presented, such as oven roasted basil-encrusted Colorado lamb loin with caramelized cippolini onion and star anise ($30); and grilled certified Piedmontese beef with asparagus, baby carrots, and red wine ($28).
Homemade pastas are one of the specialties. Selections include tagliolini neri all' aragosta, tagliolini with black squid ink, lobster, and spicy tomato sauce ($26); and spaghetti alla chitarra with lamb ragu and peas ($22).
Happy hour was recently introduced to the program with half-priced appetizers and $5 specialty cocktails from 4 to 7 p.m. on Mondays though Fridays.
Canale is located 300 Sw 1st Ave in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-0098, or visit canalerestaurant.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.