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Dining scene: From chilled shellfish to slow-simmered sirloin

Lobster Bar Sea Grille

450 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 190, Fort Lauderdale, 954-772-2675,

Yes, it's as dramatically striking and grand as anticipated with a big-city feel. A place to see and be seen, indeed.

From the Atlanta-based Buckhead Life Restaurant Group comes this melded sibling of Boca Raton's Chops Lobster Bar and City Fish Market in the former Jackson's Steakhouse.

You'll still find a lineup of aged prime steaks on this corner ($28-$54), but seafood prevails with international and local whole fish prepared Mediterranean style and Nova Scotian lobsters — both priced by the pound. Don't skip over the chilled shellfish, sashimi, ceviche and tiradito, though ($14-$29).

"[Our] dedicated purchasing staff has procured just-caught relationships with sources in Cyprus, Crete, Portugal, Spain, New Zealand and Iceland. Fish is air-freighted . . . ," says I. Pano Karatassos, president and CEO. "All the fish . . . is less than 48 hours out of the water."

Other standouts are puff-pastry buttery escargots ($12, $22) and Chilean sea bass Bangkok jeweled with sweet tomato jam ($34).

A white-marble seafood showcase, a touch from City Fish Market, bridges the contemporary U-shaped bar with chandeliers resembling lighthouse lenses to the elegant dining room that feels like a pristine Parisian subway with warm white tiled walls and arches studded with diamond-shaped chandeliers — a flair from Chops. Up front, choose inside or out for a hip blue-and-silver lounge vibe.

Lunch is served weekdays and dinner nightly.

Caffe' Il Gusto

901 S. Federal Highway, unit 1480, Hallandale Beach, 954-544-2407

Restaurateurs from Italy have debuted this red-black-white addition to The Village at Gulfstream Park that serves three meals a day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"It is an authentic Italian cafe-restaurant offering its guests high-quality homemade typical Italian dishes in a modern ambience with a casual setup during the daytime and an elegant setup with candlelight during the dinner time along with specials," says Irina Semeniuc, co-owner with husband Marco Presciutti and other partners.

Breakfast ranges from parfaits and bagels to egg sandwiches ($3.95) and omelets ($3.95-$7.95). Later in the day, you can sample antipasti, such as a platter of Italian cured meats, bruschetta and mozzarella ($24.95), ciabatta sandwiches, such as mortadella with pistachios and fontina ($7.95), and house made pastas, such as pappardelle alla Bolognese ($13.95) made with slow-simmered sirloin and veal ragu by the chef from Calabria, Italy. Pair with wine or beer.

A pastry chef from Rome crafts delights such as profiteroles ($6.95) and tiramisu ($6.95) to complement the 18 flavors of gelato ($3.75-$4.75).

Musicians entertain on the patio Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

You can even take home a taste with you; imported Italian products are for sale, such as black truffle salt and Sicilian pasta.

Bella Amici Pizzeria

14859 Lyons Road, #134, west of Delray Beach, 561-270-3025,

First-time restaurateurs have brought this traditional Italian baseball-themed eatery to the new Delray Marketplace next door to their new Grind Café across from Frank Theatres on the corner.

"Many of our customers have told us they have not had a pizza like this since moving from the North," says co-owner Howard Molder. "Many places that tell you their product is made with New York water use a frozen dough, and then there are others who say they have a system that changes our local water to simulate northern water. Well, Bella Amici uses the same water the best restaurants in New York use, as the water that we use to make our dough is actually shipped down from New York."

A front-runner of the pizzas, which start at $14, is the 16-inch seafood pizza with shrimp and clams ($30) available only on weekends. Chicago deep-dish 16-inch pizza is coming soon for $21. Favorites among the not-too-doughy calzones and strombolis ($9-$13), pastas ($14-$16) and hero sandwiches ($8-$9) are fried mozzarella ($8), fried calamari ($10) and mozzarella tomato salad ($6.50).

Lunch and dinner are served daily amid gold-yellow walls juxtaposed by a shock of red in the back with oversize photos of New York and Italy. Stadium seats from Wrigley Field, Shea Stadium and Marlins Park bedeck the front and back, and baseball-topped salt-and-pepper grinders adorn the tables. Once you order at the counter and sit down — perhaps on the wraparound patio — it becomes full service.

Salt Life Food Shack

2660 N. University Drive, Coral Springs, 954-340-7258,

This appealing marine-themed spot with blue-and-green tones has revamped its menu for the first time since opening a year ago.

New selections appear in line with the Latin-Asian flair, such as the crunchy chicken Thai bowl with yellow curry coconut cream sauce ($14.49) and the wood-grilled rain forest shack fish with salsa verde, black-bean orzo and plantains (market price).

"We expanded the taco section and changed it to a 6-inch taco with five varieties," co-owner Bill Leahy says. "They're selling really well."

The tweak makes them easier to eat, he says. The tacos are ordered individually with choices of cornflake-and almond-encrusted chicken, grilled skirt steak, sauteed shrimp with bacon, fried fish or grilled mahi-mahi ($4.29 to $5.49).

Sushi has proved to be popular, so two rolls have been added: smoked salmon with bacon, asparagus, cream cheese, eel sauce and wasabi cream ($7.49) and rockin' lobster in soy paper with mango, jalapeno, wasabi fish eggs, sriracha and cream cheese ($9.99).

Summer specials run through the end of this month: 1-pound lobster boil ($16.99), 1 pound peel-and-eat shrimp ($12.99) and crab boil ($15.99).

Daily happy hour has expanded from 3 to 7 p.m. with half off 16 draft beers and select wine and cocktails. The "End of Summer Party" returns Aug. 16 with the Box of Rocks band performing at 8:30 p.m.

Email news to or send to John Tanasychuk, Sun Sentinel, 500 E. Broward Blvd., Suite 900, 9th floor, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33394.

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