What's happening in food and dining around South Florida.
620 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale 954-523-5767, ValentinosCucinaItaliana.com
Despite generating a huge buzz after opening his chic, contemporary Italian spot in August, Giovanni Rocchio still wasn't content, so he hired chef de cuisine Daniel Tackett to "bring Valentino to the next level," he says. "Different styles, same flavor profile."
Don't worry. Rocchio still is handcrafting his stunning pastas, while Tackett focuses on entrees, such as lamb loin with red quinoa, almonds, black trumpet mushrooms and pea puree ($38). It's an example of the type of molecular technique he occasionally uses to achieve unusual textures but restores the presentation so it doesn't actually look deconstructed – a balance of traditional and radical approaches.
"I want it to be familiar and comfortable," says Tackett, who worked at the likes of Alto in New York City. "I tend to use the same flavors and overlap them in different notes, building layers with subtlety that pops in your mouth."
His other highlights are black sea bass with broccoli, fregola pasta and saffron mussel emulsion and branzino with romesco puree, fiddlehead ferns and zucchini (both $38).
Tackett isn't the only chef from New York whom Rocchio recently hired. Pastry whiz Juan Espinoza is adding desserts such as vanilla yogurt panna cotta and budino of dark-chocolate mousse and hazelnut cream (both $12).
Mixologists have their own updates: Red Chill with tequila, gin, blood orange, jalapeno, St. Germain liqueur and What a Pear with pear-infused cognac, ginger extract, pear purée and Champagne (both $14).
817 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-467-1998, TheGratefulPalate.net
A few months after acquiring its liquor license and launching a cocktail list, this cozy upscale restaurant has debuted a round of new selections.
Start with a twist on a classic — fried fresh mozzarella stuffed with artichoke pesto with balsamic glaze ($16), or perhaps Asian duck meatballs ($9) and bison sliders with crispy pancetta, pepper-jack cheese and avocado aioli ($10).
"Our menu is internationally inspired, so I'm always looking to incorporate different flavors from around the world," says executive chef Hector Lopez. "The new dishes keep in tune with this philosophy, offering a sense of adventure but still being approachable."
From the Mediterranean comes pan-seared sea bass with lemon-pepper beurre blanc and eggplant escabeche ($28), from Italy, osso buco with blue-cheese polenta and caramelized fennel ($28) and from India, tandoori veal lollipops with curry shoestring fries and pear tzatziki ($27).
Save your last bite for the Indulgence, a layered tower of mango sorbet, coconut ice cream, passion-fruit curd and brûléed meringue ($10).
Grateful Palate evolved to dinner-only after opening as a market, deli and lunch spot five years ago.
Lucille's Bad to the Bone BBQ
This down-home stop in Regency Court plaza has put the finishing touches on a makeover that began after the New Year.