Dining scene: From rice balls to pesto mahi-mahi

Sicilian Oven

21170 Saint Andrews Blvd., Suite #9, Boca Raton, 561-750-9772, SicilianOven.com

This traditional Italian chain, founded in 2008 in Lighthouse Point, has opened its fourth location — its first in Palm Beach County — in the remodeled Boca Village Square.

"Recipes handed down from our mothers and grandmothers lend to the authenticity," says co-owner Andrew Garavuso, whose grandparents hailed from Sicily. "You not only love the taste, you taste the love."

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In fact, some are named after the owners' relatives, such as sautéed Mussels Mario ($11) and The Marie with eggplant and pomodoro — one of the wood-fired pizzas that comprise half of the menu ($11-$21). Eggplant, a hallmark of Sicilian cuisine, pervades the menu, such as in the pasta-free Sicilian lasagna layered with veggies ($13). Other highlights are tennis ball-size stuffed rice balls with Bolognese sauce ($4 each) and fire-roasted shrimp Palermo accompanied by bruschetta and eggplant crostini ($15). Rich, thick balsamic reduction is drizzled on several dishes.

Lunch and dinner are served daily amid a stone-fronted open kitchen, a firewood-stacked bar with granite counter, TVs, polished concrete floor, black industrial ceiling and 1920s-style movie posters.

The owners are striving for 10 locations by 2016. "We want to build up the neighborhood nucleus," Garavuso says. "Once we get them in the door, they're ours forever."

The Stox Bar

21 W. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-999-4464, TheStoxBar.com

Another stock-market concept has debuted downtown in the former The Brick Rock Bar near the similarly themed new Bull Market.

"We wanted to offer 60 cocktails and shooters, and create an innovative concept to invite people to try new drinks at a reduced price in an interactive environment," says co-owner Guillaume "Will" Pajoues, a French native. "Prices are based on popularity and fluctuate with demand in real time with a ceiling price of $8.99 and a floor of $5.84."

The food ranges from salads ($7.99-$12.99) and appetizers ($6.99-$12.99), such as shrimp canapés, to sandwiches ($9.99-$13.99), flat breads ($10.99-$16.99), such as Thai peanut chicken, and a handful of entrées ($10.99-$23.99), such as pesto mahi-mahi.

Lunch and dinner are served daily amid high tops and wine-barrel tables, a mix of brick and wood-paneled walls, an industrial ceiling and a lounge. TVs over an indoor/outdoor bar scroll the drinks' fluctuating prices.

A grand opening party at 8 p.m. Saturday will offer free select cocktails. Happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays offers two-for-one drinks. Nightly promotions include "Kiss Your Date Night" on Thursdays, which awards a couple two free drinks with their dinner if they kiss in front of the bartenders.

Beer Trade Co. Food & Brew

145 NE Fourth Ave., 561-808-7304, Delray Beach

This industrial-bohemian gastropub, which moved into the former Crêpes by the Sea three months ago, has launched Sunday brunch. Well, "Anti-Brunch" to be exact.

"Anti-Brunch is our version of brunch that has all the features of a standard brunch without the formality, cost and typical poor service," co-owner Gene Playter says.

The compact lineup is brewed with a couple of twists, such as crab-cake Benedict topped with beer-infused hollandaise on a white cheddar biscuit ($13) and French toast made with Breckenridge Vanilla Porter ($9). The same biscuits star in the biscuits and gravy ($8), and the omelet packs five cheeses ($6). "Beermosas" ($5-$12) are alternatives to bottomless make-your-own mimosas ($12).

If you hadn't guessed, beer is the backbone here with more than 300 in market-style glass coolers to "grab and chill," as Playter says.