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Gaia Ristorante: The Full Story

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As Short Order reported last week, Gaia Ristorante, the latest venture of seasoned restaurateur Tom Billante, has opened at 101 Ocean Drive (Hilton Bentley Hotel)-- which I erroneously cited as the site of Billante's last Ocean Drive venue, ViVi. In fact, Prime Italian has moved into that space, and Gaia is its new neighbor.

There is a whole lot more info about the place to impart to you now. For example, we can say with certainty that there is a "walking menu", which features a laminated piece of paper with two little legs that propel it around the room. No, wait, that can't be right.

Okay, here it is: Chef Gaetano Ascione, from Naples, Italy, will "walk" from table to table, gauge diners' preferences, and customize meals based on his conversations (what Romeo does in his eponymous Gables cafe). Ascione likes to create themed dinners based on one ingredient. In this vein, a meal might be composed of parmesan consommé with ricotta tortellini and rehydrated yellow tomatoes; filet mignon with roasted tomatoes and eggplant; crab cake served with a shot glass of Italian "gazpacho"; and, for dessert, sweet San Marzano tomato jam with fennel salad and biscotti. If you don't like tomatoes, try to remember to mention that to the chef when he stops by to chat.

Appetizers ($10-$28) include marinated Mediterranean octopus with

radicchio and lemon dressing, and Hudson Valley foie gras with lobster,

porcini mushrooms and aged balsamic. Sample pastas ($19-$38) are penne

puttanesca with swordfish, tuna, orange tomatoes, anchovies, capers,

and olives; and orecchiette with oxtail, arugula, sun dried tomatoes

and Parmigiano. Entrees bring meat dishes ($29-$42) like Colorado

herb-crusted rack of lamb with roasted sweet peppers, and  veal

scaloppini with choice of five treatments. From the grill ($32-$51):

tonno (ahi tuna), gamberoni (large prawns), veal chop or prime

sirloin.  Kenya beans with almonds sounds like the most intriguing of

the side dishes.

Gaia serves lunch daily from noon to 5:00 p.m. and dinner nightly from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Reservations:305-672-6624.

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