Overall impression: I thought Boca Raton had enough lovely white-tablecloth Italian restaurants. But in January, Segreto opened its doors. What sets Segreto apart from similar restaurants is executive chef and partner Rino Vesuvio's decades-long history in South Florida. For 25 years, his Vesuvio's in Pompano Beach served the likes of Billy Joel and Mariah Carey. I hope he'll one day enjoy the same success in Boca, but at this point in its short life, the restaurant still seems to be in search of an audience. We were one of two parties dining on a Sunday night. It deserves to be busier because much of what's served is very good.
Ambience: While the menu and service may be Old World, the decor is surprisingly hip. Even the framed black-and-white photographs of Italy look new. Wood-paneled walls and elegant ceiling fixtures and sconces complete the picture. Along with a good-size dining room and a bar area, a private room offers seating for up to 40.
Starters: Dinner starts with complimentary bruschetta, zucchini and samples of Parmigiano-Reggiano from the oversize wheel. Antipasto Segreto ($12) lengthens the antipasto course. It's a platter for four with grilled vegetables, prosciutto and fresh mozzarella. Spiedini alla Romana ($12) was good, but I like this dish of bread stuffed with mozzarella with a bit of anchovy. Vongole oreganate ($12) features eight baked clams with seasoned bread crumbs.
Entree excellence: The classic Italian menu has sections devoted to pasta, fish, meat and poultry. All of Italy and American-style Italian is represented. Four of us shared four oversize lobster ravioli ($28) in a light tomato-cream sauce. They were truly stuffed with lobster. I was disappointed with chicken scarpariello ($24), because it didn't have any pickled peppers. The sausage was mild, and the overcooked chicken was cut into bone-in cubes that made it hard to determine if they came from the breast or thigh. Vitello parmigiana ($28) started with a veal chop on the bone that was pounded thin, but then overly breaded. It tasted greasy and soggy with watery tomato sauce. A generous portion of rack of lamb with rosemary and merlot sauce ($36) was very good. So, too, was branzino ($39), which was filleted table-side. You have to love this Old World touch.
Service: What a pleasure to be served by well-seasoned, professional staff — so rare these days.
Sweet! Perhaps dining on a Sunday isn't always a good idea. The ricotta cheesecake ($9) was a bit on the dry side. Chocolate Vesuvio cake ($9) had the same problem.
Liquid assets: Nicely chosen wine list with plenty of economical, by-the-glass choices.
39 SE First Ave., Boca Raton
Cost: Expensive-very expensive
Hours: Dinner Tuesday-Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, menu items on request
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Valet on Friday and Saturday