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Dining scene: From wild boar osso buco to house-made fig jam

Sonic Beach

8188 W. Commercial Blvd., Lauderhill, 954-900-3271,

This South Florida spin-off of the national chain Sonic, American's Drive-In has opened its fourth old-fashioned, yet newfangled location.

The nostalgia of a drive-in with carhop service is accompanied by a sand beach with umbrellas, a patio and 10 TVs inside.

"Situated on West Commercial Boulevard, our new location is a perfect spot for daily commuters and families to take a break from their busy schedules to eat at our drive-in or in our dining room, which features a full-service wine and beer bar," says Eli Levy, partner of QueensFort Capital, which owns the franchisee rights in South Florida.

Highlights are cheeseburgers ($3.79-$5.49), foot-long quarter-pound Coney dog ($3.99), popcorn chicken ($4.99), Carolina pulled pork sandwiches ($4.79) and Frito chili cheese pie ($2.99).

Josef's Table

5030 Champion Blvd., west of Boca Raton, 561-353-2700,

This 2-year-old classy Euro-fusion gem has launched 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday brunch, supplemented by $10 lunch favorites, such as the new vegan Bolognese crafted from squash to resemble noodles.

"We tried to go straightforward and not too crazy, give people something they know," says chef de cuisine Anthony Rodriquez.

Best-sellers, complemented by a myriad of brunch cocktails ($8-$11), are berry-and-mascarpone stuffed French toast made from crème brulee batter ($14), Monte Cristo with house-made fig jam ($13), smoked salmon omelet ($14) and eggs Benedict ($12) with an option to add salmon ($17) or Wagyu steak ($19).

Wagyu steaks ($50 rib eye or New York strip, or $80 for three courses per couple) are also one of Rodriquez's dozen new dinner specialties as part of his first overhaul since Austrian chef Josef Schibanetz exited a year ago.

"I try to honor a lot of what Josef taught me," Rodriquez says, adding that the trademark wiener schnitzel ($28), roasted maple leaf duck ($28) and apfel strudel ($8) are here to stay.

Popular departures are butternut squash ravioli ($12), wild boar osso buco from Texas ($29) and sugar-free key lime tart ($8).

Mussel Beach

501 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, 561-921-6464,

New York restaurateurs have brought a New England flair to the former Rotelli on this bustling street.

"Mussels are a great source of protein and low in calories," says Patricia Mezzancello, owner along with husband, Mark Mezzancello, and Joseph Bilotti, who was a partner in Rotelli. "We wanted our customers to have the options to choose healthier options in such a fast-paced town where people hardly slow down to think about what they are eating."

Signature mussel pots are offered in 14 styles, such as fra diavolo, south of the border or Thai ($18- $20), and shrimp, lobster, calamari or linguine can be added ($4.50-$6). Other hits are deconstructed tuna tacos ($14), Angry Lobster with spicy garlic linguine (market price), Hawaiian rib eye ($29.50) and oatmeal Crack Pie ($7).

"I recognize that in urban areas that there is an over influx of Italian and Chinese restaurants. I wanted to create something that was not saturated," Bilotti says.

The Lemon Squeeze with Absolut Citron, limoncello, triple sec and a sugar rim is the star among the specialty cocktails ($12).

Eye-catching awnings over upscale picnic-style tables on the sidewalk beckon. A ship's wheel bedecks the hostess stand under a dome ceiling painted with an underwater mural. Lunch and dinner are served daily amid an orange-and-blue nautical-meets-tropical ambiance with white-washed rustic columns, wave-walled open kitchen and vintage light fixtures.

Musicians entertain Thursday through Saturday nights.

Luigi's Coal Oven Pizza

307 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach,

"No substitutions, no additions," the menu says for the margherita Napoletana pizza.

That's the rule if you want Luigi Di Meo's signature with fresh mozzarella and basil. (All else is more flexible.)

"We are bringing true Neapolitan pizza. We follow almost all of the strict rules set up by the association Verace Pizza Napoletana," says co-owner Di Meo, 29, who was a chef in Naples. "These rules were created by the master pizza makers of Naples, Italy. The only twist is we use coal and wood as the sole source of heat. Every other ingredient found in our pies are VPN certified: tomatoes from San Marzano, flour from Naples, fresh mozzarella from Naples and homegrown organic basil."

His new location in the former Paddy McGee's just east of the railroad tracks on Delray's premier street is triple the size of his 3-year-old original on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.

Besides other pizzas, such as the white truffle rendition with three cheeses and veggies ($20.95 or $27.95), the menu mainly consists of appetizers, such as the fried sandwich called mozzarella in carrozza ($9.95), salads, panini and a handful of entrees.

Lunch and dinner are served daily under an arched ceiling, as well as on the patio. Walls are a mix of red and brick, and the tile floor resembles rustic wood. Orange pendant lights dangle over tables and the long bar, and two brick ovens anchor it all.

The wine list is surprisingly lengthy and sophisticated, along with 20 draft beers and specialty cocktails ($9), such as the well-balanced Carmela with coconut tequila and lime, named after Di Meo's mother.

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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