La Cucina Veneziana: A Bit of Northern Italy in Fort Lauderdale

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During a weekday lunch the perpetual click-click-click of Fabio Cracco beating eggs to sauce pasta carbonara doubles as background music at La Cucina Veneziana.

On a Friday night he holds the door for little grey-haired ladies as the restaurant empties. Each one receives a kiss on the cheek followed by a wide smile and a slight bow as they make their way toward their cars.

The Venice-born chef and owner of the pocket-sized restaurant easily moves from cook to server to host. He gleefully explains the day's specials as though they were his own children.

He serves northern Italian dishes, many he grew up cooking alongside his parents in Venice. All'anitra ($17.50) is the perfect example. The pasta and duck ragout begins by slow-cooking a whole bird in its own fat until the meat falls from the bone, no less than four hours. The juicy, delicately flavored flesh is tossed with only spaghetti and Parmigiano Reggiano.

He arrives at 6 a.m. six days a week to bake the day's focaccia, a crust of which always accompanies pasta dishes. The desserts are also made in house. A "Torta della Nonna" can be filled with anything from lemons to seasonal berries and is sprinkled with a dusting of powdered sugar. Once it's gone, it's gone.

Yet the best part of every meal is Fabio himself. His delight in describing the day's specials is only matched when you order one. A moment later he's gone, off to greet another table or back to the kitchen to cook your meal.

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