Here are a few restaurants with varied cuisines that at one time or another you should visit. I’ve rated them as either “GO” OR “CAUTION.”
GO: Peter and Suzie Donovan’s The Grille on Congress is a keeper for lunch or dinner. The homemade biscuits that are served tableside are a terrific starter. I liken the dining spot’s fare to that which made New York’s Gloucester House so famous in the ’70s. But in the 21st century, you can’t beat the drinks and the extensive offerings from chef Patrick Bouffard, which includes a 28-ounce “big ass” T-bone steak, pistachio-crusted snapper, scrumptious barbecue baby back ribs with the chef’s own special sauce and penne pasta with vodka sauce. That’s just a sampling of a menu that is tailored to meet the demands of the most demanding diner.
Besides dinner, the lunches are terrific, especially on Thursday, when the special of the day is an incomparable French dip sandwich. If you’re not into cocktails, the Donovans have constructed a wine list that will satisfy every palate and pocketbook. The Grille on Congress will be a change of pace for your taste buds. (5101 Congress Avenue, Boca Raton; 561/912-9800)
GO: For lunch, we take you to North Boca’s Renzo’s Cafe and Pizzeria, which features – according to chef Gordon Ramsay – the best pizza in Florida. We will drink to that and throw in the Italian sub that is over-the-top “great.” All the sandwiches and pastas from the kitchen at this quaint bistro are very good, as are the prices. (6900 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton, 561/997-8466)
GO: Arturo’s Ristorante features a prix fix luncheon menu at $22 that you can’t beat. The minestrone is chock full of fresh vegetables and is a meal in itself. The restaurant’s cannellone is the “best” I have ever had. The dish is a pasta filled with a mixture of veal, beef and chicken that is baked and then topped with a yummy cream sauce and parmesan cheese – it’s to die for. Right behind this dish is a ravioli bolognese and lasagna that are simply delicious. You must try the desserts, which include tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake, flan, cannolis, etc. All are homemade by the resident pastry chef, Elisa Gismondi-Tufano. That’s just a sampling of the delicious Italian fare that has been featured at this restaurant since 1983.
GO: For light Asian fare, try Lemongrass Asian Bistro in Boca Raton’s Royal Palm Place. The restaurant features a blend of sushi and pan-Asian favorites. Its seafood – fresh salmon, tuna and yellowtail sushi – make it stand out from all others of its kind. I love the shrimp tempura and the pad Thai at this hip and friendly restaurant. (101 Plaza Real South, Boca Raton; 561/544-8181)
GO: One of the best chefs in Boca is Arturo Gismondi, who has put his restaurant Trattoria Romana on Boca’s culinary radar. It features Italian classics and specials that are uncommon. For starters, the beet salad can’t be beat. For a pasta dish, I recommend the rigatoni bolognese – it’s very good. The laundry list of daily specials will have you mesmerized as your server assiduously describes them. I can’t do it justice to describe them here, so you must go to the restaurant and experience your server describe them. It’s a real experience.
Plus, Trattoria Romana has recently expanded, adding a bar area that is quite cozy, meaning more space for dining. You’ll be missing a real gastronomic experience if you don’t put this establishment on your go-to list. (499 East Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton, 561/393-6715)
GO: Gary Rack’s name is not new to Boca Raton. His Coal Mine pizza, now Table 42, has been a hit for years. So how does he multiply his restaurant expertise? He opens Rack’s Eatery + Tavern on Plaza Real in Boca’s Mizner Park. The restaurant is beautiful – hip and contemporary, featuring great service and entrees, such as a crab and shrimp-stuffed snapper with lobster mashed potatoes, fiery Buffalo-style calamari and a wood-grilled roasted chicken that will make you forget the one your mom served. For starters, the onion soup is the real deal and the deviled eggs are quite a change of pace from the usual appetizers. And I gotta tell you that the tuna tacos are to die for. I can’t wait until I devour another plate of them. (402 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, 561/395-1662)
CAUTION: Marcello By Rino Vesuvio in Deerfield Beach (formerly Marchello’s for years) needs some time to get established. The bar and the restaurant are beautifully done, but the service and the food was not up to par. We’ll give it another try in the months to come and get back to you. (718 South Federal Highway, Deerfield Beach; 954/427-4909)