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Avoid the Porch? No sweat!


By all rights, the Porch ought to be a good restaurant. It's in downtown Delray Beach, but just far enough from Atlantic Avenue to provide a walking buffer from the weekend crowds. Set inside a renovated 1907 cottage believed to be the third oldest building in the city, the Porch also specializes in visual charm.

The interior boasts hardwood floors, white wainscoting and an original fireplace with just 34 seats in two rooms. The porch that gives the restaurant its name features an indoor-outdoor bar and seating for 80.

But on a warm Friday night, the front door was left open, causing those of us who dressed for inside dining to feel as if we should have worn shorts and T-shirts.

Owners Pamela Lomba and Heinrich Lowenberg should try sweating through a meal at their 4-month-old, old-timey restaurant. They also operate Cafe Via Flora in Palm Beach, and Rustico at the Log Cabin in Highlands, N.C. They must spend most of their time in their other restaurants, because the Porch lacks management and personality.

The menu is a mundane collection of pasta, pizza and seafood. It's vaguely Italian, and most of it is awkwardly unpolished.

We started with a beet salad ($10.95) made with arugula, spinach, romaine, oranges, maple-roasted pecans, red onion and Gorgonzola. It's tossed with ginger-citrus vinaigrette, which is so cloyingly sweet that it tastes like a throwback to the 1980s, when complicated greens were all the rage. Arugula salad ($13.95) is similarly fussy, with hearts of palm, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and Parm-Reg with lemon dressing and white truffle oil.

I'd read that Il Trio ($14.95) was a house specialty, so I was disappointed in its blandness. It features escargot, scallops and shrimp swimming in butter, lemon, white wine and garlic inside a dimpled escargot dish.

You'd think pizza would be worth trying here, since there are four offerings on the menu. But the simple margarita ($12.95) has a soggy crust and a watery tomato sauce. My pizza-expert friend declared the cheese mediocre and gave it a D rating.

"Watery" also describes Papparedelle ($24.95) with veal mushroom ragout, Parm-Reg and truffle oil. The overcooked pasta wasn't properly drained and therefore absorbed little of the ragout. Similarly watery linguine ($12) was tossed with garlic and oil. Risotto ai frutti di mare ($25.95) starts with overcooked risotto. So it's neither creamy or chewy, and its precooked quality doesn't lead to trusting the freshness of the shrimp, scallops, clams and calamari.

Chicken Under the Brick ($20.95) is a citrus-marinated, boneless, half free-range chicken. It has great flavor, but also an overriding greasiness that quickly turns its crispy skin into unappetizing fat.

Our waitress seemed disconnected and not particularly enamored of her work. It was difficult to catch her attention when we wanted our drinks freshened. She seemed miffed when we asked for fresh water after all the ice had melted because of the humidity. If there was a manager in the restaurant, we couldn't find one.

We were told desserts are ordered from a local bakery, and they have a mass-produced quality, from the multilayered cupcake-size carrot cake ($7.95) to creamy tiramisu ($9.95). Key lime pie ($6.95) has a gritty texture from sugar and is absent any tartness. Chocolate mousse ($7) lacks richness. It was uninspired and boring, like so much at the Porch. or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

85 SE Sixth Ave., Delray Beach


Cuisine: American

Cost: Expensive

Hours: Dinner Tuesday-Sunday

Reservations: Suggested

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Full service

Sound level: Noisy inside when full

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, menu items on requests

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Free lot next door or street

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