The real test of a small restaurant is when a large party is to be served. As a group of 12, we were amazed at the quality of the food and the excellence of the service.
One of us had the snapper topped with mushrooms and tomatoes. The fish was cooked to the correct temperature and doneness, and the sauce/topping was light but flavorful. Another had the papperdella – wide pasta with a full-bodied but not overwhelming mushroom sauce.
The mozzarella and tomato salad was perfect – the cheese was fresh with the buffalo type taste, and the tomatoes were flavorful and vine ripened. The homemade bread was excellent as well. Equally as important, each guest was made to feel as if they were individually important, and the service for the large party made it seem like each guest was an individual. This is a real hidden gem
But the truth is that I believe the best restaurants, Italian or otherwise, are not necessarily the ones with the finest Riedel glasses, French- trained waiters and the oldest balsamic vinegar — though that certainly can help — but rather those that give diners a good feeling of welcoming and home. The ones that convey a feeling of conviviality, that entice the appetite not only with fine food but with fine hospitality.
We chose a velvety Amarone that was perfect for sipping with the crusty bread. As for the bread, it would have been better warmed and accompanied by olive oil instead of butter, which, incidentally, is served in fast-food-style foil blocks.
We took some time to look over the simple and compact menu with dishes mostly from central Italy but with some representative favorites from all over the boot. It turns out Lapi is from the Abruzzo.
We also sampled the rappini, known in my family as broccoli di rabe and found it to be just fine. The tender and pleasantly bitter leaves were bathed in olive oil and accompanied by half a dozen garlic cloves sauté ed to a perfect golden brown.
A simple bowl of pasta e fagioli was hearty and satisfying with lots of beans and enough ditalini that was perhaps a bit too mushy, some celery and tomatoes, and the requisite herbs.
Like the other dishes it could have used salt and maybe crushed red pepper to liven it up a bit.
With such generous portions it was hard to think about main courses but they arrived quickly.
The yellowtail snapper, the restaurant’s signature dish, was fantastic. The fish was light and moist and served with the tail rakishly draped off the plate. It was accented with a lovely sauce of tomatoes, garlic and button mushrooms, with a slight hint of white wine. A bowl of al dente pasta was a competent accompaniment.
But the pasta that would bring me back was the spaghetti carbonara which my husband ordered. I don’t know how he always ends up ordering the best thing on the menu. But that is another story!
The perfectly al dente strands of dense pasta were coated with a rich sauce that brought to mind a perfectly poached egg with a vibrant flavor and color of the golden egg yolk enhanced by delicate strips of smoky pancetta and a good dose of black pepper.
Nonetheless, coffees, espresso and American, were uniformly good on their own.
I’d go back to Café Italia in Fort Lauderdale if not for the spectacular food, then for the pleasant and personable service, moderate prices, the relaxed setting and a pasta that inspires cravings just thinking about it.
There was no leg of lamb prepared when we visited, so we took solace in the four gorgeous seared lamb chops Lapi recommended instead. Bathed in oil and garlic, the meat was nearly soft enough to cut with a fork. Chicken Marsala brought a plateful of boneless breasts with plenty of mushrooms in a sauce edging to the sweet and oily side, but the flavors were terrific. The ossobuco aficionado at our table thought was reasonable for the quality and quantity of tender veal slow-cooked in tomato sauce with celery, onions, carrots and red wine — and so did everyone who sampled it.
Visit Cafe Italia for Italian Lamb Chops with Green Beans
For anyone eating out on a budget, the pasta dishes were exceptionally reasonable. I selected the Eggplant Rollatini for my appetizer, and the veal marsala cutlet with mushrooms in a Marsala wine sauce.
Also a side of pasta with a marinara sauce. It was the largest pasta side dish I have ever been served. The eggplant was delicious, and three nice sized slices of veal were so tender you could break them with your fork.
They had a nice selection of Italian house wines by the glass, and the prices were at least half of what you would normally pay in a fine dining Italian restaurant.
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Roast Turkey
- Sweet Potatoes
- Mashed Potatoes
- Cranberry Sauce
limited regular menu also available
Call for Reservations 954-561-3900
Grilled swordfish with fresh tomatoes and mushroom and basil. Stop in this month for this catch.
Farfalle Summer Pasta Salad with olives and peas
Hot Lasagna Trays for up to 12 people wach
Hosting a party? We can provide you with a choice of the following:
Pasta with red sauce, your choice of Pasta
Trays of Sausage and Green Peppers with Onions
Call us we can prepare you food and have it ready for pickup at your scheduled time.