Robert's Dining Reviews



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ZUCCARELLI, Pompano Beach, FL:  A great place for a family feast

When we visit our grand children in South Florida, we often head to Zuccarelli in Pompano Beach to have a family feast. You sit and, almost immediately, fresh from the oven garlic rolls arrive at the table. Ask for plain rolls if you don't like garlic. These may be the best I have ever tasted. A widely varied menu offers pizzas, pastas, veal, chicken in the traditional manner plus specials and great seafood dishes. The portions are generous, the taste is terrific and the prices are family friendly. The staff is friendly and efficient as well.

MAESTRO, Winter Park, FL:  Like being in Naples (Italy, not Florida)

Recently opened on the south end of lovely Park Avenue, Maestro Cucina Napoletana will transport you across the sea to vibrant Naples, Italy. The menu may be somewhat limited but, each dish is lovingly prepared from really authentic pizzas hot from the "Monster Oven" to traditional and hand made pastas and desserts. Start with a antipasto of marinated grilled veggies, cheeses and salami then, order several dishes to share (the prices are very reasonable). Ample wine list selections pair well with the food... ask for a suggestion. Dine inside or out, depending on the weather. Restauranteurs Rosario Spagnolo and Antonio Martino bring great regional food from the Campania to Park Avenue... Well done, Ragazzi!

NONNA MARIA, N. Palm Beach, FL:  A good restaurant keeps getting better.

Nonna Maria is called an "Italian restaurant with a French twist." The food is excellent, well prepared and presented. The wait staff seems to know what they are doing and they do not rush you if you want to linger. You have the option to order Ala carte or from a three course prefix dinner (the best value). Appetizer, entree and dessert for $32.95 with a slight up charge on a few items. You can choose from anything on the menu. I had beef short rib in a Chianti reduction on a bed of risotto, preceded by escargot and followed by Tiramisu. Others in our party had veal piccata, grilled salmon. One dessert choice is an old fashion banana split... Looking at others in the room, it must be the favorite dessert. Oh, the wine list is small but good with some special wines at a reasonable price.

TABLEAU, New Orleans, LA: Another Brennen Group restaurant hits all the right spots

Easter Brunch at Tableau. Excellent table and an Ala carte menu. We noticed that the menu stated the time for Happy Hour. On Easter Sunday? Never... boy, were we wrong. They honored the $5. drink price with a couple of "Dark & Stormy" cocktails. The brunch selection is paired down. Even though it was limited, the selection was excellent and the food was well prepared and well served.

Mr. B's, New Orleans, LA:  beat all expectations

Easter weekend Saturday night in New Orleans with no dinner reservations... not a good thing. Mr. B's was nearby our hotel, the JW Marriott. We walked over to the restaurant at prime time - 7:30 PM. We asked if we could get a table. They said the wait would be 20 - 30 minutes. We were seated in less that 15 minutes. Great table, exceptional wait staff and, the food was outstanding. I had an appetizer of charred pork belly with a fig jelly reduction and spinach salad. It was only eclipsed by the entree of shrimp and grits. The large shrimp were wrapped in bacon and lovingly seated on a field of the best grits I have ever tasted... creamy with the addition of marscopone and heavy cream. The rest of the table had equally delicious entrees. The wine, a Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon was a great match and only $30. a bottle. So, you never know when you go without a reservation. Mr. B's delivered.

THE WINE ROOM, Winter Park, FL: A great place to "taste."

Interested in developing your wine taste ability? The Wine Room on Park Avenue is the place to go. Buy a tasting card and avail yourself to what seems like hundreds of self-serve wines from around the world, neatly organized into types and regions. Have an ounce, two ounces or more. Have a great time and, if needed, refill your card to extend your tasting adventure.

BOSOHEROUS, Winter Park, FL: You will be transported.

We are semi-regulars at Bosphorous on Park Avenue. Aren't we lucky to have so many choices in Winter Park? The cuisine is amazing and very authentic. We have a hard time getting away from the Chicken Sis Kebap. It tastes so good. The array of appetizers, entrees, desserts have you staring at the menu for a long while. Cocktails are inventive. The wine list is excellent... you can even have a flight of Turkish wines. And, there is an ample selection of draft and bottled beers from local and world wide brewers. You can dine alfresco or inside the restaurant as we usually do (we like the AC). Stop and make a reservation then walk the avenue to work up an appetite before you dine. Enjoy something different for a change.

ENZO'S on the LAKE, Longwood, FL: Simply stated... One of the best!

When a restaurant has been around for close to 40 years it must be doing something right. Enzo's on the Lake is Central Florida's most consistent dining experience. The lovely lakeside setting and sculpture gardens offers visual stimulation while you enjoy some of the most unique dining you will ever experience. It's an upbeat, european atmosphere with a talented, well trained wait staff who makes you feel like you are having dinner with family. However, mommy never made food like this... from the freshest fish, including Dover Sole, to imaginative pastas, steaks, veal and daily surprises, Enzo's never disappoints. The wine list is well chosen from bottom to top and the cocktails are expertly prepared. Start with an antipasto of homemade delights and then explore the culinary offerings. You will not be disappointed.

CITRUS CLUB, Orlando, FL: Always a great experience

I may be bit prejudicial because I have been a member for over 30 years. However, we never get tired of the experience of joining with friends for a cocktail or a special dinner. Citrus Club remains one of the few places in Central Florida where you can expect, and are treated to, courteous upscale service and gourmet level food preparation. Executive Chef Reiner Drygala and Food & Beverage Manager Adam Williams oversee a well trained staffs in the kitchen, dining room and lounge. As a wine consultant and host of, I appreciate good wine service and we get just that, whether dining or simply gathering with friends in the lounge. Always a top experience.

LA BOHEME, Orlando, FL: Taste and service rate five stars

We have been to dinner at The Boheme a number of times over the past few years. The restaurant is elegant without being stuffy and the wait staff is attentive without being intrusive. The quality of the food is equally elegant, tasty and well presented. The location in downtown Orlando is easy to reach both for locals and visitors. Did I mention the wine list? It has carefully selected wines at affordable prices designed to match the flavor profiles of the menu. Great for a special occasion. The lounge is lively with top piano music to enhance your experience.

CORAL SPRINGS DINER: Family diner beats expectations

Chickpeas... I could take 'em or leave 'em until I tasted the "courtesy bowl" brought to the table before we ordered. They were marinated in olive oil and vinegar with onions and, they were the best chicks I have ever tasted. That's a good start to a family dinner. The menu is large and varied as you would expect from a local diner (Coral Springs, FL). Mary had tuna salad and chicken noodle soup. I has a broiled 1/2 chicken with homemade stuffing - a little sweet for my taste, broccoli and a sweet potato. The portion was large (it could have been a small turkey). It was expertly cooked. Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside. It made a great chicken sandwich the next day. The grandson had tilapia, the granddaughter had grilled cheese... as usual. Sorry, no pics this time. I was too busy picking on the chickpeas.

DUVAL'S, Sarasota: The Happiest Hour

While on vacation with family, on Sarasota Florida's Lido Key, we decided not to cook-in on Tuesday evening. We looked for a good place to go for Happy Hour and discovered Duval's on Main Street. This was our first visit and we were not disappointed. Martinis and Manhattans were featured for $5.00 and domestic beers were 2 for $5.00. Bar Bites were $2.00 off and we tried a few: Crab & Shrimp Cakes (outstanding), Rib-eye Spring Rolls, Calamari, and Codfish Sliders... all well prepared and presented. Our bartender, Amelia, was gracious and a lot of fun. The decor is nautical with a urban flair. We enjoyed it so much, I think we will go back to Duval's for dinner on Friday nite.

OSTERIA La BOTTE, Vagliagli:  Close to perfect

While staying at Castello Sevole, our hosts Guido and Nobuko took us to Osteria la Botte in the hamlet of Vagliagli. We dined on a multi-course meal that was as near perfect as the restaurant's atmosphere. Guido brought a selection of his great Sangiovese based wines which paired perfectly with each course. It was a long, relaxed evening and the husband and wife owners of the restaurant could not have been nicer. She is a professionally trained chef and it shows. If you are near Siena, you should find your way to Vagliagli and experience Osteria la Botte.

DIEVOLE in Tuscany: Take a break in Tuscany

What a great place to stay while near Siena. The accommodations are luxurious, comfortable and make you feel like you are home. A great bar is next to the check-in and serves wine, cocktails and lite bites. For a more formal experience, Dievole's restaurant is top drawer. We enjoyed a multi-course dinner with some excellent wines made on the premises. The Dievole wine brand means quality. You can tour the cellar and enjoy a tasting. What more could you want... comfort and convenience served with great food and wine. Oh, I almost forgot about breakfast... amazing!

LA ROUTE DU SEL, near Saumur: Experiencing the dining pleasures of the Loire Valley.

What can I say? The restaurant was exceptional. A lovely setting, the best food of our trip to France. Friendly service and great wines made for an unforgetable evening. If you are ever in the Val de Loire, don't miss the chance to dine at "La Route du Sel" near Saumur. A fabulous selection of wines from the region including sparkling, still whites and luscious reds from Bouvet-Ladubay.

LA GALERIE, Blaye in Bordeaux: When in Bordeaux, don't miss La Galerie in Blaye.

Blaye is a lovely river town or the right bank. La Galerie is a lovely stop for for an evening of tapas or something more substantial, served up in a trendy gallery where the wine is as innovative as the artworks and cuisine. Les and Clarissa own and operate la Galerie as well as Villa Saint Simon, the place to stay in Blaye. They will take your Bordeaux wine adventure to a new level and introduce you to some of the best values available. If you are lucky, La Galerie will be hosting a musical a Soiree when you are in town. Go for the art. Go for the food. Go for the wine. Go for the music. It's a GoGo experience.

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