Did you know that Wilton Manors has more restaurants per capita than most major cities? The adult population of Wilton Manors is about 10,000 people and there are 24 restaurants on Wilton Drive alone! That’s not even taking into account the four ice cream shops and the candy stor-gasm that is To The Moon!
A is for acclaimed. A is for affable. A is for accomplished. Finally, A is for Angelo, as in Angelo Elia, the Italian-born chef/restaurateur, whose impressive roster of dining establishments includes three Casa D’Angelo restaurants (Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Paradise Island/Bahamas), as well as a growing chain of wildly-popular casual-chic Italian eateries – Angelo Elia Pizza, Bar, Tapas (Fort Lauderdale, Weston, Delray Beach and Coral Springs) and the Angelo Elia Bakery Bar.
It’s spring and that means the beginning of baseball season and I’ve visited two new restaurants. One hit it out of the park and the other struck out. And that’s about as far as I can go with baseball metaphors, so let’s focus on the restaurants.
As Barbie said, “Math is hard!” I couldn’t remember the math term for the equation that comes after squared (a number times itself) and cubed (a number times itself, then times itself again). It’s quartic and that’s the end of today’s math lesson, except for this equation 4 x B =? The answer is delicious; if B equals burgers, booze, beer and brunch, as it does at the two places we focus on today.
For quite some time, Cuba was a tropical playground for Americans looking for a quick getaway. Then came Castro’s Communist regime, followed by an American embargo and suddenly, Cuba was cut off from most of its suppliers. With little in the way of raw materials, the Cuban people made the best with what they had. Old American autos were kept running for years beyond their life expectancy. With limited agricultural resources the, Cuban people were equally resourceful.
No, I’m not suggesting you join me au natural (believe me, no one wants to see me naked), I’m referring to chef Ralph Pagano’s latest venture, The Naked Crab, which recently opened in the B Ocean Resort. Pagano has also opened Naked Taco in Miami and Wynwood’s Naked Lunch.
Is it just me or does it seem as if there are massive apartment complexes popping up all over town? Although the Manor at Flagler Village, on Federal between 5th and 6th Avenues, has been around for a couple of years, I never thought to check out the restaurants there. They just seemed so…hetero. While visiting friends in Delray Beach, we dined at a Mellow Mushroom restaurant, that made me think of the one on Federal, which led to checking out the others in that mall. Although each is part of a chain (or mini-chain), all three offer design-your-own- dish options.
Regina's Farm gets lots of press about providing a unique Brazilian dining experience. Brazilian natives Regina Rodrigues and her husband Elizeu Silva are effusive hosts who produce an elaborate picnic buffet about three Saturdays a month. Each event draws about 150 people and there is a month-long waiting list for the three-course family style buffet meal.
Two new restaurants opened in the area within a few days of each other, representing two distinctly different cuisines; Wok on South Federal in Fort Lauderdale, bills itself as “A new breed of Pan-Asian street food,” while Ethos Bistro, in Wilton Manors offers modern Greek fare. Both are from successful restaurateurs; Ethos is a new outpost of an established Coconut Creek favorite, while Wok comes from Randy Wilcox, owner of New River Grill and Pizza, located right across the street from Wok. One would expect that Wilcox’s venture would be more polished, given his many years in the business, but Ethos opened with polish and finesse, while Wok’s staff was floundering in the weeds on a recent visit.
Don’t tell my husband, but I’m in love with award-winning pit-master Bryan Tyrell, co-owner of the latest Boynton Beach dining destination, Pig Sty. It began as a little gastonomical flirtation when he opened Smoke in Delray Beach, but the food at Pig Sty has me smitten. His way around a rack of ribs and a brisket just makes my heart flutter.
One of the best things about covering the food industry is that there are always so many places giving back to the community. Here’s just a short listing of some upcoming and recent events.
Correction; Piri piri spices are South African in origin, not South American, as I stated in a previous column. I apologize for the error.
Two fast/casual restaurants opened recently and both are off-shoots of established players in the South Florida food scene; one a small family-run operation and the other big player in the Fort Lauderdale restaurant industry.
We have truly become a global village. As recently as 50 years ago, Italian and Chinese food were considered exotic in many parts of this country. In fact, you would have been hard-pressed to find any kind of ethnic restaurant outside of a big city. Now, thanks to the popularity of televised cooking programs, the Internet and the influx of immigrants who have added so much to our culture and communities (take that, Donald!) in the past decades, you can find almost any cuisine from any part of the world.
In typical South Florida fashion, St. Patrick’s Day in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and West Palm was an early bird special, with parades and festivals held nearly a week before the actual date of the Irish celebration. Fear not, even though a number of South Florida Irish spots recently closed; Slainte in Boyton Beach and The Tiled Kilt and Maguire’s Hill 16 in Fort Lauderdale (I swear my review of the place wasn’t that bad!), and your options for celebrating the patron saint of the Emerald Isle are a bit slimmer this year, there are still a number of spots where you can get your fill of green beer and Irish fare.
All right, I may be mixing up my islands with that headline; poke is Hawaiian, not Jamaican, but with poke being the latest food fad, I just couldn’t resist. I should amend that to say it’s trending on the mainland, because in Hawaii, it’s long been a standard dish, as ubiquitous at parties as spinach artichoke dip or potato salad. Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is a raw fish salad, usually served as an appetizer or over rice for a light lunch.
As Manhattan Transfer warbled in the song by Ben Oakland and Milton Drake,
“I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (boy!)”
We’d already planned an overnight trip to Key West to visit friends vacationing there when we discovered two happy coincidences. As soon as we decided to head to Key West, we found out that one of our idols, Ed White, one of the godfathers of the post-Stonewall gay literary movement, was available to meet us for lunch.
Let’s face it; the Hard Rock Casino is not exactly known as a dining destination. Your options there include snack food chains (Ben & Jerry’s, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Kilwin’s) or the Hard Rock Café, where the best thing on the menu is the apps combo (wings, rings, chicken tenders, spring rolls and bruschetta) which are just there to soak up the alcohol. And the less said about the limited menu available poolside, at The Beach Club (a few apps, salads and a trio of sandwiches) the better. That’s okay, you go to Hard Rock to gamble or see a show, right?