Really, have you seen the size of Steve Martorano? The guy has a reputation as a big
teddy bear, but anyone covered in tattoos and who has biceps bigger than my
waist will keep my behavior in check, even if he's not around. It was
nearly impossible to resist capturing the scene, though, since the new
space was so dynamic and over-the-top. It appeared easily three times
the size of the Oakland Park location, measuring in at 7,400 square feet
and seating 300.
When gamblers are done throwing cards and smacking buttons, all they have to do is head outside, pass a few boutiques, and -- badda bing! -- there's the restaurant to the left. Past Martorano's entry room and bar (which was empty when we arrived at 7 p.m. and filling rapidly when we walked out at 8:30) is a dining area decorated with larger-than-life sepia headshots of Rat Packers hanging on the walls, separated by dozens of 42-inch flat screens. Tables are adorned with the same white tablecloths and white cloth napkins one would expect (an unfortunate reality for those little black jersey dresses that attract lint like a dryer trap), and the only color in the otherwise dark room is primarily provided by the glow of the screens and some blue underlighting at the aforementioned bar and the one inside the dining area.
In typical Martorano-style, there's a scene going on all over, but the silicon- and steroid-enhanced especially seem to gather around the bar in the dining room. Same music as before too, but now The Man's got his own DJ booth footsteps away from the kitchen (we're told his son handles the tunes often). Ask for a stool in front of the exposed kitchen if you're into a different kind of entertainment, as you can watch the wizards make hand-pulled mozzarella and get a general feel for the beehive. But don't sit near the proscuitto shaver if the sight of a disconnected rear pig haunch would ruin your dining experience.
Our server, Teddy, claimed to have been by the chef's side for 16 years now, helping out at all three locations. His dedication showed as he knew what to recommend and how much to estimate our party of three could devour (we ended up bringing home two doggy bags, but only because we oinked out on bread and were saving room for dessert). Teddy also confirmed the rumors about Madonna and her entourage being turned away at Oakland Park ages ago and assured us that the big guy is tight with Ludacris, Alonzo Mourning, and a few other celebs, all the while serving us from start to finish.
As was to be expected, the famed meatball with smooth ricotta was excellent; the fried, homemade mozzarella was perfection with its stringy texture, light coating, and buttery anchovy sauce that was quickly lapped up with warm, crusty bread; and the signature salad with red wine vinegar added just the right bite. We split only two entrées: the linguine with white clam sauce and a chicken cutlet with broccoli rabe and homemade ricotta gnocchi. It's rare to see a pasta plate generously decked out with clams, gaping wide and seemingly begging to be eaten, plus my buddy and I came across more than one entire clove of roasted garlic.
The cutlet plate incorporated what seemed to be nearly an entire chicken. For the record, I'm no fan of bitter broccoli rabe, so I can't say that I enjoyed it, especially since I found it a little too burdened with red pepper flakes, but fans of the stuff would probably be pleased with its preparation. No matter, as I was too obsessed with the pillowy gnocchi to waste much time with the greenery.
We paid for the eats, but Teddy brought us a complimentary red velvet cupcake since we seemed so curious about it (us foodies are tough critics when it comes to red velvet). Truthfully it was a bit dry for my liking, but the cream-cheese icing was truly sinful, and the accompanying vanilla ice cream compensated, for sure. Nothing like a sweet ending to a savory meal.