Last week I introduced some of this year’s Golden Spoon recipients and remarked on how budget friendly most of them were.
This week, we look at some more new places, two of them smack dab in the middle of Wilton Manors.
Golden Spoon for Outstanding Italian Restaurant
Mamma Mia Bistro
2043 Wilton Dr.
One look at the website address will tell you, this mother/daughter team aren’t slick businesspeople. What they do well though, is make Italian comfort food. Mama Lory cooks in the kitchen, while daughter Fredericka tends to the tables. A limited menu offers a choice of 4-5 dishes, usually a pair of entrees, an appetizer, and soup, salad, or dessert. The spare, but the impeccably clean dining room is like eating at mama’s house on Sunday afternoon! What I said then: “Mamma Mia is … an Italian bistro, not a gourmet restaurant … 100% handmade fresh pasta.”
Golden Spoon for Outstanding Sandwich Shop
2822 E Commercial, Fort Lauderdale
Chicagoan Tom Azar stepped back from his high-stress job as Chef de Cuisine at legendary chef Emeril Lagasse’s Miami Beach location. Not wanting to return to Chicago’s frigid winters he decided to open a classic Chicago-style sandwich shop. Sandwiches are the stars of the menu, with eye-popping (and possibly jaw-dislocating) favorites from Chicago including Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef.
The Italian beef is a Chicago classic, similar to a French dip, in an Italian seasoned au jus. It is traditionally served with roasted sweet green peppers or spicy giardiniera (spicy pickled veggies) on an Italian roll. For an additional $3 you can make it a combo with Italian sausage thrown on top (very Chicago, where more is more).
What I said then: “… specializes in scratch-made condiments, sides, and desserts, all of which are packed with a punch of flavor. Let’s start with the soups, there are only two options; chicken and andouille gumbo [served with potato salad or steamed white rice] or shrimp and sweet corn chowder.”
Golden Spoon for Outstanding New Spot on the Drive
2041 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors
We stopped in at Smile Empanadas just a day or two after it opened its doors, and we were reminded why we love living in the “Gayberry” we call Wilton Manors. First, everyone is so friendly, the server at the counter couldn’t have been more perky or helpful. Smile is the dream of Axel, an Argentine entrepreneur, who wanted to meld the traditional flavors of Argentine empanadas with American taste. In addition to traditional Argentine fillings such as spicy creamed corn, savory mushrooms, and guava and cheese, you can get fillings inspired by American fare, such as cheeseburgers, BBQ pulled pork or chicken, creamy cheesy spinach, a Margherita pizza, or a vegetarian Impossible filling.
What I said then: “I was skeptical that an empanada place was opening where an empanada place couldn’t make a go of it. I can see why the folks from Smile decided to move forward. Their empanadas are so much better than the ones from the previous business. They are light and flaky and stuffed with plenty of filling.”
Golden Spoon for Outstanding Dining Event
Taste of the Island
Nov. 14 @ Richardson Park
Although the highly anticipated event sells out every year, after my first visit several years ago I vowed never to go back. The vendors' samples were minuscule, and the place was so crowded that it wasn’t enjoyable. Well, all that has changed. This year’s event showcased dozens of the area’s top restaurants and food purveyors serving up generous tasting portions (sometimes a bit too much to be honest) and plenty of wine and spirits merchants offering sumptuous sips (and bottled water as well), all held under the stars at beautiful Richardson Historic Park & Nature Preserve right on Wilton Drive. Ticket sales were limited, so even at the height of attendance, it was still comfortable to move around and easy to get a sample from most vendors. A miraculous turnaround.