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Café Martorano, Fort Lauderdale

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Jimmy Smits, May/June 2005

Hold on to your seat. Rarely will you find a dining experience like Café Martorano, a family-style Italian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While you are watching great old gangster video on seven, wall-mounted, flat screen TVs with the likes of Robert DeNiro or the Sopranos, you will be entertained by music from some of America's great stars—from B. B. King and Diana Ross to Frank Sinatra.

Orchestrating the Vegas-style show is owner/chef and DJ Steve Martorano. This impresario simultaneously runs the kitchen where, without the aid of a net or a menu, he serves some of the tastiest, Philadelphia-styled home cooking you'll ever enjoy—from cheese steak subs to meatball and salad platters to incredible pasta dishes, which the restaurant likes to say are served with sauce, not sauce served with pasta. But don't think on any given night you can just order your favorites. Chef Martorano is always in charge of the food, and he decides what he's going to cook that night based on what's freshest, or what he wants to cook. He might even decide to put pizzas in front of you. But you sit down, and magically food comes to the table. And keeps coming and coming. And those are just the appetizers. By the time he starts sending over his main courses, you've already had more food put in front of you than you normally get at any restaurant anywhere.

Then, at some unknown moment, the strobe lights come on along with disco ball lights. Attractive patrons begin dancing in the aisles, between tables or up on the bar counter, beautiful women putting on a show you'll long remember. The scene is not to be believed! And the whole time, the food keeps on coming out from the kitchen. There's also a well-selected list of wines to marry with the great dishes.

Unfortunately, no reservations are taken and the line outside can be long. Sometimes appetizers are sent out to those in line. Either way, it's worth the wait. Make friends with the maitre 'd, Allan, the wine director, Anthony, or better yet, get on the good side of Steve himself. I promise an evening you'll never, ever forget.

Call 954-561-2554.

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