Valentino Cucina Italiana

Valentino Cucina Italiana– 620 S Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, (954) 523-5767, http://www.valentinocucinaitaliana.com

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It’s all about fine Italian dining. This is one of those places you hear about when folks gather to speak of great meals they’ve had. Chef Giovanni Rocchio has created a beautiful setting to enjoy his menu, to which he adds daily specials. A unique feature of the restaurant is limited seating at the kitchen bar, where you can view all of the action in the open kitchen. And then there’s Chef Enzo DiPasquale, from Milan, who cooks a special menu of unique small bites, which look as interesting as they taste. Try the Calamari Artichoke Tart appetizer, the Black Bass and the Short Rib entrees. There are truly no bad dishes. Service and decor are in keeping with a restaurant of this caliber and is never fussy or pretentious. Reservations are a must.

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Sea Wine & Dine

Sea Wine & Dine- 235 Commercial Blvd. #105,
Lauderdale By The Sea  http://www.seatherestaurant.com/

I make no excuses about immediately liking Chef owned restaurants. I guess it’s because the Chef preparing the meal has put it all on the line and must produce. Tony Sindaco could have continued to work at fine hotels and restaurants, but he chose the more difficult path.  Sea Wine and Dine is his creation and his work can be tasted there nightly. I often wonder where Chefs like Tony get their inspiration. This Chef is respectful of his past and firmly grounded in the present, unashamed to be his own original classic. When time allows from his duties in the kitchen, he can be seen working the tables, greeting guests and observing how his food is going down. And that food is good.

Having been to Sea several times I noticed that the fish offerings change to keep pace with market availability. Your meal can be ordered from an a la carte menu or one that is prix fixe, which I recommend and gives you a choice of both an appetizer and dessert for the price of your selected entrée. Menu items change often and are posted on two large chalkboard in the dining room, reminiscent of the old-time big city seafood restaurants I used to frequent. For those not into fish there is usually at least one non-fish selection. Now it must be said that ordering fish for me does not come easily, but I totally appreciate this place for the elegant yet not overly fussy preparations that never let you forget, it’s all about the FISH!  So let me walk you through my favorites. Appetizers to look for when available are; Calamari Pomodoro, a light rustic dish with chunks of tomato, shaved garlic and tender Calamari served in a shallow bowl, Cream-less Cream of Tomato Soup, light tomatoey flavor and yes…creamy; a robustly flavored Bahamian Fish Chowder was a real stand-out for me; and finally the Grilled Shrimp which I’ve had on two occasions, each time slightly different and both times delicious. There are about seven entrées on the menu and twice a week these will change. Here are some to look for; Black Grouper Braise with green beans, squash, red potatoes and sliced garlic… great dish for dunking and if you’re like me you’ll leave nothing behind; Broiled Scallops are done perfectly here; Florida Snapper & Herb Crusted Mahi both nicely done. And finally dessert. You really don’t have to twist my arm to get me to eat dessert.  My favorite is the Black & White Creme Brulee with a layer of chocolate covered by classic custard. Sinful, I know, but you’ll eat every bit of it. Check out all the food pictures from Sea at http://on.fb.me/ys9M1b .

If something I’ve said about Sea Wine & Dine has stuck a cord with you I recommend that you call ahead, as seating is limited. And please do say hi to Tony.

© 2012 alanEATS

Crazy About You

Crazy About You- 1155 Brickell Bay Drive, Miami         http://crazyaboutyourestaurant.com/

My dear friend and foodie, Maiko, just emailed me about a restaurant she and some friends ate at the other day. Since I trust her food sense and she seemed so excited about it, I asked her if I could post it here…even before I’ve had a chance to go! I checked out the menu (link above) and from the standpoint of value you can’t go wrong. There are three price points for entrée that includes a choice of appetizer. The food is a mix of Mediterranean with a little Italian and Spanish flavor thrown in. Maiko says, “The choice of menu items is pretty cool and the location is awesome. If you sit outside, there is a dining area with a view of the bay…and a cat to greet you too!” I need to put this place on my Miami to-do-list! Here are a few pix of what Maiko and her friends ate. Shown is The Flash Fried Avocado with chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette; Fish Sliders Duo: Key West fried Dolphin and seared Ahi Tuna; and the sweet and spicy Petit Pork Ossobuco. Maiko suggests a glass of wine with this last dish. Have you dined here? Share your thoughts.