13 American Table
451 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561-409-2061
The owners of nearby Tucci's Pizza, Alberto and Melanie Aletto, have opened this bistro in the former Lilly's New Cuisine.
"We are a New American restaurant featuring local seasonal ingredients, domestic wine, artisan beers and craft cocktails," says Alberto Aletto, who says the 13 in the bistro's name reflects the number of original American colonies. "We also use something called a Josper grill. It is imported from Spain where they are used widely. The Josper is fueled by mesquite charcoal and is a grill/oven built into one unit."
The Josper grills signatures such as octopus with chickpeas and salsa verde ($15) and 8-ounce bavette steak ($24). A handful of sandwiches are mixed into the sharing and main plates, such as pulled pork ($14) and a brilliant chicken-confit grilled cheese with spinach pesto ($12).
The cozy den incorporates tufted brown leather banquette seating on each side. One wall is brick. Willow branches and mirrors accent another wall that has been covered with wrinkled butcher paper and painted olive. Chandeliers resembling rustic bird cages tie it all together. Fans whirl under a covered patio.
Popular cocktails include Whiskey Smashed with bourbon, honeydew, cucumber and herbs ($12). Innovative desserts change frequently, such as banana Nutella pie ($8).
Dinner is served Tuesday through Saturday with lunch expected to start in October.
Estia Greek Taverna & Bar
507 SE Mizner Blvd., Suite 74, Boca Raton, 561-417-5800
The executive chef of this Royal Palm Place spot, which closed in May, has reopened it under his new ownership.
"The quality is going up, but the prices are going down," says Nick Papadimitriou, who is still head chef and works with son, Mike, a triplet. "Everything is fresh and prepared every day."
He retained the appetizer-heavy menu but has lightened the preparations and added a few dishes, such as mussels with white wine, tomato and garlic ($12.95), tuna with basil tomato garlic wine sauce ($18.95), salmon and scallops ($24.95) and three daily specials, such as stuffed feta saganaki in phyllo dough served with grape jelly, sesame seeds and honey ($9.95), a delightful diversion from the typical Greek lineup.
He also preserved the classic blue-and-white ethnic decor of Estia, derived from Hestia, goddess of the hearth, but added drapes, tablecloths, nicer serving ware and TVs showing images of Greek movies and his homeland. The fountain, overhead string lights, a fireplace and trellis are still there to evoke the feeling of a courtyard in a Greek island home.
Belly dancers and bouzouki musicians perform Friday and Saturday nights, and daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. offers half-off appetizers and every drink at the bar.
Dinner is served daily, and daily lunch will launch Oct. 1.
The Garlic Knot
5073 N. Dixie Highway, Oakland Park, 954-671-8400, GarlicKnotPizza.com
This Italian eatery, the first chain location outside of Colorado, debuted in November but delayed its grand opening until this weekend. It is featuring a buy-one, get-one-free dinner special from Friday to Sunday , as well as a large two-topping pizza for $10.99 and the chance to win free pizza for a year. Children can enjoy face painting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Sept. 21, and they are bestowed with balloons on every visit.
"Calzones, strombolis, stuffed pizza and Sicilian is like no other. Fresh meat lasagna and baked ziti will keep you coming back," says owner Alex Giampietro, who works alongside his wife, Jackeline. "Our motto is great food at reasonable prices. A true family-style restaurant . . . "
Giampietro boasts house made dough and sauce, an ice-cream bar and free Wi-Fi. Green high-back booths seat up to six people in the casual atmosphere with wood floors, yellow and brick walls, TVs and New York City photos. Umbrella tables dot the sidewalk.
Appetizers range from $2.75 to $7.75, pastas (including whole wheat) from $7.50 to $9.95 and pizzas (including gluten free) from $8.25 for cheese to $25.99 for stuffed, or by the slice. Specialty pies are named after New York City entities, such as The Carnegie and The Rockefeller.
Lunch and dinner are served daily.
The Biltmore hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., 305-913-3200, Coral Gables, BiltmoreHotel.com
This historic landmark's signature French restaurant searched nearly a year to find its new chef de cuisine.
Gregory Pugin finally has arrived from Le Cirque in Las Vegas. He trained with famous French chef and restaurateur Joel Robuchon, has earned Michelin stars and was nominated for the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year.
Pugin, native of southwestern France, adds twists to classics, such as exquisitely spiraling bucatini pasta around Japanese Kobe oxtail, instead of serving it with more traditional macaroni. Foie gras and truffles abound, but so do tropical flavors of passion fruit, hibiscus and coconut.
It's not hard to discern his mark: a five-course prix-fixe dinner with optional wine pairings as the standard menu for $105. Five categories each offer five choices. A nine-course tasting is $175. Diners can order a la carte, but is discouraged.
Surprises delight throughout, such as mini sides with some of the dishes. Potato espuma with chanterelles appears with butter-poached lobster, and a petite rum cocktail is shaken table side with juice from the roasted pineapple in the companion meringue dessert.
"I want to give different experiences, different dishes, different wines," Pugin says. "It's a good value for the price."
Another different experience: a new cheese cart with tomato jam and truffle honey as a dessert option, which Pugin insisted on.
The richer fall menu launches Saturday with gamey meats. Sept. 21