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solita 

 

 

SoLita Las Olas

 1032 East Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale       954-357-2616.      

 www.SoLitaLasOlas.com

  fun, friendly with fare ranging from

simple comfort food to more sophisticated cuisine

 

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by Jana Soeldner Danger
 
            SoLita Las Olas is a bit of a chameleon. Early in the evening, it tends to be relatively quiet, with unobtrusive background music and soft lighting; a place for easy conversation. As the night progresses, the music heats up, the noise level increases, the space darkens, and the dining room takes on more of a club-like vibe. On Thursdays, the transformation is complete, and the place becomes a nightclub after 10 p.m.
            Selections on the Italian-style menu range from down home comfort foods like meatballs and lasagna to more creative cuisine that will satisfy more sophisticated palates. There is enough of a mix so that in the earlier hours of the evening, parents can bring kids, who will find dishes to please them, while adults will be able to choose from more inventive fare.
The menu, however, which features mostly classic favorites, is really just a start. Most evenings, Chef Anthony “Radar” Risolio offers a host of specials (we felt like clapping when our server successfully recited all of them). “I don’t like to write things down on a menu,” Risolio says, adding that inventing nightly specials allows him to explore his creative side more thoroughly, and also to focus on the kind of healthier, lighter fare that tends to appeal to today’s dining public. Most dishes make excellent use of fresh, fragrant herbs, and vegetarians will find a variety of choices.
            Restaurateurs  Steven D’Apuzzo and Alan Myers opened the Italian bistro several months ago in the space formerly occupied by Mark’s Las Olas, the more formal and pricey café operated by Chef Mark Militello. But while SoLita is more relaxed and more moderately priced than its predecessor, it is not so informal as to make you feel uncomfortable if you enjoy dressing up for an evening out.
In addition to the dining room, there is ample outdoor seating, where sidewalk tables offer views of pedestrian traffic on Fort Lauderdale’s stylish Las Olas Boulevard. There are two bar areas: the larger L-shaped bar Parlor Lounge with a few tables and the glamorous yet cozy Violetta Enoteca wine bar, a niche tucked away at one end of the dining room.
            On a recent Friday evening, the restaurant was crowded with a mix of ages, guests ranging from young professionals and older groups to families and some of Broward’s well-known society figures.
            An open kitchen off the dining room offers a view of a wood-fired oven and busy chefs preparing food. Tables are topped with simple black cloths and candles. The lighting is dim, but for those who are annoyed by having to squint to read about dinner, there are menus that light up.
 
Appetizers
             We began with the restaurant’s signature starter, Shrimp SoLita ($16), which turned out to be one of the evening’s favorites. The dish is simple yet delicious—fresh, fat shrimp grilled to a light crispiness and tossed with roasted peppers, olive oil and a mildly spicy pesto.
            Eggplant rollatini ($12.50) is an earthy dish with thin eggplant slices rolled in tasty ricotta cheese. Dusky mushrooms, lightly cooked fresh spinach, and roasted peppers add a mix of flavors and textures. In a larger portion, it could be a satisfying main course. A tasty evening special: a traditional version of fresh, tender mussels in white wine, clam juice, garlic, parsley and olive oil.
            The menu includes a selection of pizzas ($14-$16) baked in the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. Ours was a traditional version with a thin, crispy crust, mildly spicy sausage, and tomato sauce.
            Other starters include stuffed pepper ($12); shrimp brandy ($14), crab salad ($14.50); and batter-fried seafood ($13.50).
 
Entrees
            Alaskan char, one of the night’s specials, was lightly breaded, slightly crisp and very fresh with a moist, firm yet flaky texture inside. A simple butter, white wine, and lemon sauce was just the right complement. Cherry tomatoes and a bed of spinach added color and texture.
            Another special, veal scallopini, did not work for me. The two meats were pounded together very thin, with fresh sage leaves between them. The veal was tender and mild tasting, but the salty ham overpowered it. The butter and white wine sauce was good, but like the veal, got a bit lost in the saltiness of the prosciutto.
            Other entrees include whole roasted branzino; grilled pork chop ($28); rib eye ($38); squid ink pasta with clams, shrimp and calamari ($28); gnocchi ($22); pancetta with caramelized onion in tomato sauce; and chicken with sausage and hot and sweet peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes.  
 
Desserts
 
            Both desserts we tried were very good. Strawberry shortcake was the old-fashioned kind that conjures summer days: light, fluffy vanilla cake with rich, creamy filling between the layers, plump, fresh strawberries on top, and a crown of freshly whipped cream. A nostalgic treat, indeed.
            Dark chocolate cake was rich, moist, and riddled with crunchy chocolate chips.  I finished every bite.
 
            SoLita is fun, friendly, and well worth a visit. As the evening progresses, a quiet atmosphere gives way to an increased noise level and more club-like ambiance.  It offers fare ranging from simple comfort food to more sophisticated cuisine, including dishes with a light, healthy focus. The chef enjoys adding a variety of nightly specials to his repertoire.
 
 
 
SoLita Las Olas
  
1032 East Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale       954-357-2616.       www.SoLitaLasOlas.com
 
Cuisine:  an ingredient-driven Italian cuisine
Ambiance: Chic casual.
Wine: Full bar and a balanced wine list
Service: Attentive & professional
Prices:  Credit cards: All 
Hours: Sun-Wed 5 p.m.-11 p.m.; Thu.-Sat. 5 p.m.-midnight