There's a new moon rising at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale and it's called Via Luna.
The unpretentious, moderately priced Italian grill takes the place of the Ritz's ritzier Cero, which struggled to find an audience despite generally positive word of mouth. Via Luna will host its official grand opening party in late April, but the 130-seat restaurant is now open with a menu that will be phased in over the next couple of weeks.
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Though the concept may be more down to earth, the setting is still plenty ritzy, with dramatic ocean views from the posh dining room and spacious outdoor patio, and oversized murals inspired by French artist Jean Cocteau.
Menu prices are a good deal less ritzy, at least for a haute hotel, with most entrees under $30 and a surprisingly number in the $25 range. What that puts on your plate are linguine with Gulf shrimp and lobster Fra Diavolo, grilled veal chop with rosemary-garlic wine sauce and yellowtail Livornese. Starters include the always-popular meatball the size of your head with marinara, mozzarella and tomato salad, filet mignon carpaccio, and antipasto and cheese plates.
The by-the-glass wine list is short but impressive, with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Jayson by Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, Paul Hobbs Argentine Malbec and Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon sharing space with a quintet of sparkling wines.