Via Luna in Fort Lauderdale: Order Up

This week in Dish, we review Via Luna, the high-end Italian joint in the Ritz-Carlton on Fort Lauderdale beach. Via Luna replaced the much-loved Cero after the Ritz bought the place. The hotel chain brought in a classically trained chef, which sounds promising, but saddled him with an Italian menu focused on homestyle comfort food, which doesn't. Hit the jump for an excerpt of our review and more photos.

Our waiter didn't suggest the meatball appetizer ($12), but with an

Italian concept restaurant, there's no better test. It came out as an

apricot-sized hunk swimming in red sauce with Parmesan and fresh basil

over the top. For this dish, [Chef Christian] Clair, knowing he's no

meatball expert, leaned on his chef de cuisine, Jason Coperine, who got

the recipe from his Italian grandmother. It's a damned fine meatball

too, tender and juicy with a long-simmered sauce in which the vegetables

retain definition. But it's also not the best appetizer; shared among a

table of diners, maybe, but otherwise even this excellent meatball and

red sauce gets old without some ricotta or other counterpoint to break

up the flavors.

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