What's happening in food and dining around South Florida.
Mancini Modern Italian
401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 150, Fort Lauderdale, 754-200-8602, ManciniLasOlas.com
This time, restaurateur Jack Mancini — a seasoned pioneer on Las Olas — has jumped to the other end a few steps off the main drag in the former Rossopomodoro.
"I chose the new location due to it being in the epicenter of the downtown Fort Lauderdale night life. I'm embarking on my latest venture with more zeal than ever," says Mancini, who owned Mancini's for nearly a decade and M Bar, both to the east.
Alfresco tables and an indoor/outdoor bar with yellow bar stools on the sidewalk catch the eye. Inside, a 10-seat crudo/pizza bar and two communal high-top tables await. Natural elements such as reclaimed wood beams, wood floor and white Carrara marble juxtapose trendy chandeliers and LED lighting, European touches and a wood-burning oven imported from Florence — all punctuated by yellow and blue.
The contemporary Northern and Tuscan dinner menu encompasses crudos, salads, antipasti, pizza, a dozen pastas and a handful of entrees. Signatures are tuna crudo ($14), table side hand-pulled mozzarella with roasted vegetables ($15), papardelle with rabbit ragu and truffle espuma ($26) and roasted branzino with eggplant caponata ($29).
"There is an evolving trend in Italian dining providing lighter, fresher quality ingredients that speak for themselves. The presentations [here] provide a clean and simple, yet sophisticated approach to America's favorite cuisine — Italian," Mancini says.
Lunch is served weekdays and dinner Monday through Saturday, with plans to launch Sunday brunch in March.
Frank & Dino's
718 S. Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach, 954-427-4909, FrankAndDinos.com
Only a year old, this Rat Pack-themed Italian restaurant has already expanded into two spaces next door to showcase a lounge with live music Wednesday through Saturday. The renovation also added six tables and doubled the size of the bar into a square outlined in blue LED lighting, dramatically altering the overall look and feel.
"It enhances the environment by moving the entertainment into a separate space for a more relaxed dining experience," co-owner John Williams says. "Those patrons who simply want to enjoy the chef's creations now can do so in a more quiet, comfortable space. All this while not losing the wonderful entertainment we have."
The lounge and even a new martini are named after Little Mike, managing partner Carlo Vaccarezza's horse who won the country's premier turf races in 2012. Little Mike's memorabilia decorate the wood walls of the lounge, which features jazz, blues and Sinatra-style trios.
"I think Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and that entire era blend with horse racing," Vaccarezza says.
With the extra space come extra offerings. Say cheers to the Ol' Blue Eyes martini with Absolut Berri Acai, triple sec and blue curaçao ($12) and the Breeders' Cup with Stoli Chocolate Razberi, Godiva white chocolate and raspberry puree ($14).
Several creative appetizers have debuted, including prosciutto-wrapped jumbo shrimp sauteed in Grand Marnier and orange sauce ($21), fried seaweed-wrapped oysters ($19) and pasta purses filled with mascarpone and sweet pears in gorgonzola sauce ($15, appetizer; $29, entree).
39 SE First Ave., Boca Raton, 561-465-2888, SegretoRestaurant.com
Segreto translates to secret in Italian. However, executive chef/partner Rino Vesuvio's Italian cuisine is well known, evidenced by the celebrities, such as Billy Joel and Mariah Carey, who dined at his former 25-year-old restaurant, Vesuvio's, in Pompano Beach. He even cooked for Ronald Reagan in 1978 in New York City.
This new fine-dining spot in Royal Palm Place infuses classy touches, such as complimentary bruschetta, pan-fried zucchini, hunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano and aged balsamic vinaigrette as a welcome. Table side service includes deboning, as well as sauteing vegetarian pastas in grappa before tossing them on a super-sized cheese wheel to infuse the flavor.
Vesuvio keeps it light for waistlines by using ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, tomato and basil instead of relying on butter. Favorites on the extensive Southern and Northern menu, with plenty of seafood, are sole Francese in white wine ($26), bucatini or rigatoni amatriciana with prosciutto ($20), veal chop Milanese ($36) and double-cut pork chop ($26). Nearly a dozen pastas (from $19 to $26) are available in half portions for $11. Don't miss the heavenly old-school ricotta cheesecake with a splash of sambuca ($8.50).
The traditional selections served nightly match the refined ambience with black-and-white photos of Italy on maroon walls juxtaposed by contemporary cloud-shaped chandeliers, white chic curtains and changing LED light on the bar.
Insider tip: If you like fish, ask the chef to prepare it in a delectable fennel sauce, sometimes a special.
Buca di Beppo
801 N. Congress Ave., Boynton Beach, 561-737-2393, BucaDiBeppo.com
This casual international chain, which translates to Joe's Basement and is owned by Planet Hollywood International, has opened its ninth Florida outpost in the former Ruby Tuesday at the Boynton Beach Mall.
And this one does not lack the usual quirky, kitschy decor and upbeat atmosphere with offbeat photos, strings of multi-colored lights, red-and-white checkered tablecloths, cardinal table and rooms themed to wine, posters and Frank Sinatra. A Pope's room is filled with souvenirs from the Vatican, a bust and photos of various Popes.
Family-style portions of traditional Northern and Southern are served for lunch and dinner daily, organized by appetizers, salads, pizza, entrees and 25 pastas. Wine and signature cocktails, including white and red sangria ($6, glass; $22, carafe), complement bestsellers such as lasagna ($19.99, $29.99), spaghetti with half-pound meatballs ($19.99, $29.99) and veal saltimbocca with lemon-butter sauce ($25.99, $35.99).