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Dining scene: From rice balls to pesto mahi-mahi

Sicilian Oven

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

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."

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,

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.

Outside of brunch, look for Honey-Old Bay Wings ($9) and BBQ pork sliders ($10). Burgers ($11) are two-for-one on Tuesdays through the summer.

The eclectic ambiance incorporates a giant mural, salvaged wood, a coffee table crafted from pallets and a wall studded with bottle caps. Playter plans to supplement the front patio with a backyard biergarten.

Dinner is served nightly, plus Saturday lunch, with plans to extend brunch to Saturday.

Cantina La Veinte

495 Brickell Ave., Miami, 786-623-6135

Who says Mexican dining can't be opulent?

Obviously not this chain that has unveiled its first outpost outside of Mexico in the Icon Brickell with more than 220 tequilas and 65 mezcals.

"South Florida certainly has no shortage of amazing ethnic restaurants, but when we looked at this market, what we saw was a lack of a truly authentic, high-end Mexican restaurant," says Alberto Cinta, CEO and co-owner.

Overlooking Biscayne Bay and Brickell Key, the dramatic dining room has a Great Gatsby feel of art deco with a black onyx bar, gold chandeliers and black-and-white marble flooring that blends in hundreds of Mexican handicrafts perched in black cutout shelves against wraparound glass walls reaching up to a soaring ceiling. Wall-size video screens drop down as the night livens. Downstairs, an air-conditioned dining terrace and bar beckon with an even better view, etched glass ceiling, faux ivy covered walls and upholstered chairs and sofas. Around a corner, a delightful gourmet shop and deli sells Mexican pastries, candies and snacks.

The traditional food also surprises with a few twists, such as the Chile Güero stuffed with shrimp ceviche with passion-fruit reduction ($13) and crunchy soft-shell crab tacos served in glasses with the jalapeno sauce at the bottom to pour over the crab or even drink ($21). Braised pork with achiote-orange sauce ($16) stands out in the make-your-own taco section ($14-$24), or you can go big with the 25-ounce dry-aged prime rib eye with sugar cane-chile crust ($95). End with goat cheese-stuffed apple fritters with tomatillo jam ($11).

Lunch and dinner are served daily, except Sunday, which is exclusive to brunch. Mariachi bands perform most nights.

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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