Years ago, Riverfront was a bustling plaza filled with restaurants, bars, coffee shops, retails stores, and more.
Then the economy took a dive from the high board.
Briny Irish Pub aside, the deserted mall has been an empty shell of its former glory for years now. All along, we've been hoping to see it restored.
In the next few weeks, the emblematic property is about to see its newest resident; Canale Restaurant & Bar is about to open its doors.
Owner Franco Agostino, a native of Genoa, Italy and former resident of Toronto, has been creating a fine dining Italian concept that will focus on serving high-quality ingredients in beautiful surrounds.
Rather than offer the ubiquitous meatballs and red sauce, Agostino has been working with his executive chef from Piedmont to develop a menu of authentic Italian fare.
Trying to keep the price points under $30, Agostino plans to offer lunch, dinner, crudo, dessert, and bar menus.
Expect to see items like Carolina shrimp crudo, Piedmont raised beef, meats, pastas, and specialty cocktails.
"The menu will be based on using exceptional products," says Agostino. "They say, 'If you have to touch it more than twice, it's no longer food.' We're relying on quality ingredients."
While many have been skeptical of the return of Riverfront for years -- it's been a veritable dead zone for the better part of a decade -- Agostino has been eyeing the space for years.
After hearing a couple of guys from Toronto bought the space, he decided to look into making a deal.
"I'm happy with the deal I've made," he says. "I have no concerns. People have been walking by everyday asking about when we'll open; I feel very confident about the area."
Although Agostino feels secure in the property and the owners investment in it -- he says they spent over $16 million to purchase the land -- he's not there to restore the plaza.
"I look at this as a standalone restaurant," says Agostino. "I'm not there to save the ball or revive the ball. I just want to open a great Italian restaurant in a wonderful setting."
Canale is located at 300 SW First Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-0098, or visit canalerestaurant.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.