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Going home for lunch

At dinnertime six days a week, chef Tony Sindaco serves some of the most inventive seafood in town at his nine-table Sea.

But for the past seven months at lunch — noon to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday — Sindaco prepares the Italian soul food of his Pennsylvania childhood. It's an ode to his maternal grandmother, Sara Mangienello.

Sindaco's younger brother couldn't say the "S" in Sara. She became Ara, and at lunchtime, you can have an appetizer-size portion of Ara's Meatballs for just $6. Two to an order, they're made with beef and pork and are served in a puddle of Sindaco's luscious marinara.

The menu is simple, and almost everything is $10 and includes salad or soup. One day last week, it was a simple green salad with romaine and carrots and stracciatella. Basil oil added a nice tang to the broth. But Sindaco serves many of the soups that he's been preparing for years, first at Sunfish Grill, and for the past two years at Sea: conch chowder, shrimp bisque, caramelized onion and mushroom bisque.

The exception to the 10-buck rule is veal marsala, which at $16 is still $20 less than some high-priced Italian ristorantes. The sauce tastes virtually flourless. The top-round veal cutlets are why the word "tender" was invented. Later this fall, Sindaco will add fish to the lunchtime menu, with prices hovering around $14 for a two-course meal.

It's just $8 for a simple bowl of spaghetti pomodoro. Add $2 for chicken or $3 for shrimp. I had a special of the day ($10), rigatoni with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe in a simple white wine and garlic sauce. Sindaco also offers linguine with red or white clam sauce, lasagna and Ara's meatballs and spaghetti.

The cutlet of the day costs $10. It's generally chicken, cooked in whatever classic Italian sauce Sindaco feels like preparing. Eggplant parmesan ($10) is brought to the table steaming hot in its own baking dish. The sauce has the same secret quality, and there's just enough of it that neither the mozzarella nor eggplant gets lost in this preparation.

Desserts ($5) include Sindaco's famous whiskey pound cake and Not the Normal Key Lime Pie, a tartlet that's more creamy than most but still with the right level of tartness.

With so few tables, it's best to make a lunchtime reservation. And with construction in front of the restaurant expected to last until November, park in the free spots out back and enter through the back door. or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.


235 Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea,


Cuisine: Italian

Cost: Inexpensive

Hours: Lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday

Reservations: Suggested

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