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FAREWELL LA BUSSOLA, HELLO CARAMELO IN CORAL GABLES.
La Bussola, a stalwart stronghold of fine Italian dining in Coral Gables for 17 years has closed. The building's owner, Elizabeth Giraldo (La Bussola's former owner), has leased the 2,600 square-feet space, and sold most of La Bussola's assets - from kitchen equipment to the well-furbished wine cellar -- to Caramelo. Slated to open mid-August, the 200-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant is being re-designed by interior design firm Gisela Martin & Associates. "The look is South Beach modern, casually elegant and cozy, with chairs from Spain and a chocolate-colored bar, two private dining rooms and a cigar room," says the new owner, Chef Willy Hernandez. A graduate from Williams Culinary Institute in Patterson, NJ, The Dominican-born chef, well-known from his work at Coral Gables Restaurants like Giacosa, Casa Rolandi and lately, Café Vialetto, describes his menu as Italian-Latin fusion cuisine with lots of low-carb items, local produce and fish. "People really know me in Coral Gables for my risotto and fish," he said. The lunch menu features soups and salads, and appetizers such as Swordfish Carpaccio on a bed of arugula and steamed shrimp with key lime vinaigrette ($12); and Mediterranean Lamb "Pinchos" or skewers on a bed of couscous with yogurt mint sauce ($10). Lunch entrées include the fish of the day; homemade pastas and risotti ($12); meats like London broil with heart of palms salad ($14); Grilled Aspen Valley Lamb filet and mushroom risotto ($15); and chicken dishes like the low-carb honey mustard chicken salad ($10). Dinner appetizers range from Watercress and Arugula salad with walnuts, beets, hearts of palm ($10); and Foie Gras Caribe with caramelized Granny Smith apples and plantain crostini ($20); to Goat cheese stuffed zucchini with tomato coulis ($10); roast quail stuffed with congri and apple-smoked bacon ($12). In addition to Tamarind Chicken ($26); Duck Confit with Port and Vanilla reduction ($28); Black Angus filet ($31) and Veal Chops in morel-truffle demi-glace ($33); Mr. Hernandez serves risott with porcini and foie gras ($25); a medley of homemade Ravioli with lobster sauce ($24); and homemade Lasagna with duck confit, porcini and truffle shavings ($19). Caramelo is open for lunch Monday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m., and for dinner seven days from 6 to 12 p.m., 264Giralda Ave., Coral Gables. 305-445-8783.


BONEFISH GRILL OPENS IN KENDALL.
This is not your regular neighborhood hang out, and although cold beer is served on tap, it is not the beer-guzzling crowd that you can see at Bonefish Grill. The service is in the hand of waiters impeccably dressed in chef whites. In the brand new 5,276 square foot space, an open kitchen, hardwood floors and hand-blown glass lamps impart warmth and sophistication to the sleek dining room with a large bar area and two community tables. The owner is Diego Trotz and the concept is that of restaurateurs Tim Curci and Chris Parker who founded the first Bonefish Grill in St. Petersburg, Florida in January 2000. The menu focuses on a variety of fresh fish flown in daily - with details on the provenance - and grilled over an oak-burning grill, with sauces and sides of hearts of palm, pine nuts, artichokes, goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes, but also offers a vast selection of hand-cut beef, pork tenderloin, as well as pasta, seafood and chicken dishes including Mussels Josephine, Cajun Chicken Egg Roll and Bang Bang Shrimp. All entrées are generous and come with a house salad and a choice of rice, vegetables, pasta or potato. Bonefish Grill is open Sunday through Thursday for dinner from 4:00 - 10:00 p.m., and till 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. South Kendall Square Shopping Center, 12520 Southwest 120th Street, on the corner of 120th Street and 127th Avenue, 786/293-5713.


THE DINER, AN ALL-AMERICAN RESTAURANT OPENS IN SOUTH MIAMI/CORAL GABLES,
where Fishbone Grill, and before that the old Howard Johnson used to be (on US1, across from the UM Mark Light baseball stadium). A great alternative, with parking space, to the Coral Gables/South Miami fine dining scene. The Diner's owners, Haluk Koroglu, Oscar Gaetan and Emilio Calleja, have been in the restaurant business for over 17 years with successful venues such as Mambo Café in Coconut Grove, Snappers and Mambo in Bayside.

The designer is Paco Koroglu -- whose portfolio includes Parrot Jungle. "We tore down Fishbone Grill and made it into a strikingly looking, modern Miami-type 200-seat restaurant with terrazzo floors, rich woods and upholstered booths, an open kitchen, a 24-seat outdoor terrace, and a cozy bar with an ample liquor and wine list with a good variety of wines by the glass. An upscale version of the All- American diner," said owner Emilio Calleja. The chef is Marty Holzberg, former executive chef of Swift House Inn, Middlebury, VT, and a graduate in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales, who brings to The Diner an extensive experience in American Regional Cuisine as well a awards from the American Culinary Federation. The GM is Richard Ralls, former manager at the Cheesecake Factory and Fridays.

The vast menu features Small Plates ($6 - $10) such as Lobster Empanada; Dungeness Crab Louie; Artichoke Fritters and Calamari Vesuvio with a basil pesto sauce. Soups ($5) range from Chicken Noodle with homemade matzo balls to Texas Beef Chili. On the menu, Salads like almond-coated Duck Salads with greens and gorgonzola vinaigrette, are followed by Sandwiches ($7 to $9) like Pan-Fried Grouper Po'Boys; grilled Portobello Club with fresh mozzarella and apple-wood smoked bacon; Angus Beef Hamburgers, and Footlong Hebrew National Frankfurters, among others.

Main courses or Large Plates ($17 - $24) include traditional homemade meatloaf with garlic-mashed potatoes and string beans, Wood-Grilled Hanger Steaks with rosti potatoes and Chianti jus; Slow-Braised Pork Shanks with Le Puy lentils and pork jus; Herb-Crusted Australian lamb chops; Tuscan Brick-Style Grilled Lobster Tail with caramelized corn and shiitake mushrooms; Ahi Tuna, and Salmon cioppino with mussels, shrimps and spicy sausage.

The Diner's signature desserts ($5) are White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie and King of Beasts Chocolate Layer Cake. The Diner is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to midnight and until closing on weekends. 1450 S. Dixie Highway 305-669-2698.



AMERICANA'S AMERICAN CUISINE AT THE RITZ-CARLTON SOUTH BEACH.
In an effort to be accessible -- menu-wise -- to luxury and fun-seeking guests, Americana, the signature restaurant at the recently open Ritz Carlton South Beach, built on the location of the old DiLido Hotel designed by Morris Lapidus in 1953, is serving executive chef Thomas Connel's American-inspired menu.

For lunch, sandwiches ($14 -$22) such as steak sandwich, Americana Burger, Lobster Grilled Cheese (Maine lobster and marinated mozzarella with celery-tarragon spread and green salad), and Grilled chicken Pretzel Baguette, are followed by Main Courses ($19 - $28) including Pappardelle with Spicy Lamb Meatballs, tomatoes and basil; White Pizza with pancetta, caramelized onions and red grapes; and Toasted Macaroni and Cheese. Starters ($8 -$12) feature "Slush Puppy" soup of heirloom tomatoes and fennel with lemon goat cheese; Conch Chowder; Fried Calamari and Porcini-crusted Sea Scallops. Salads ($14 - $20) include Caesar with added tempura chicken or grilled shrimp; south Beach Cobb; and Beef Tenderloin carpaccio.

The Dinner menu includes many items from lunch as starters. Main Courses ($26 - $44) feature items such as Pan-Seared Salmon; Roasted Lamb on Minted Green Risotto; American Kobe Meatloaf and Tenderloin Medallion; Grilled Beef Entrecôte with Artichoke Gratin and Blue cheese Butter; and Pan-Roasted Sonoma Duck with Apricots, Polenta and Orange- Coriander Sauce. Desserts (all $8) range from Grasshopper Pie with chocolate wafer, mint cream pie and chocolate sorbet and Warm Chocolate S'More to Crisp Chocolate and Banana Spring Rolls with Vanilla Ice Cream. Mr. Connel comes to Miami from the Hotel Arts in Barcelona and the Ritz Carlton at Laguna Niguel.

Amidst richly appointed lobbies and mezzanines bearing multi-million dollar art collections with works by renowned artists such as Miró and Lecuona, and casually standing in a pathway leading beach-clad guests to the Infiniti pool deck, the white tablecloth Americana restaurant is Maître d' George Slover realm.



As a most delightful Jazz Trio plays every week from Thursday through Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m., led by vocalists such as Brenda Alford and Nicole Henry, Mr. Slover overlooks an army of multi-lingual waiters attending Americana, as well as the indoor Lapidus Lounge and the oceanfront DiLido Beach Club, where lunch is served ocean or poolside, at private cabanas or at the pool, whilst "the beautiful Tanning Butler, fully clad in designer swimwear… circulates the pool from noon to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday... recommends a range of SoBe Sun Tanning products and applies them at sunbathers' requests, " according to a press release issued by Ritz Carlton. Americana is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ritz Carlton South Beach, One Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. 786-276-4000.


WHITE HOUSE CRISIS: CHEF ROLAND MESNIER RESIGNS AFTER 25 YEARS OF SERVICE
The Bush Administration is faced with one of the most serious crisis to hit the White House in a quarter of a century. Upon turning 60, Roland Mesnier, the flamboyant French chef who was hired by First Lady Rosalynn Carter in the third year of President Carter's administration, decided to hang his toque. Throughout his service years he dazzled foreign heads of state as well as local politicians with exotic creations and eased political tensions between heads of states with personalized cakes for state dinners: a palm tree for an Egyptian banquet, under Mr. Carter; a cookie-dough castle for a visiting Irish president.

According to Alec Russell of the Daily Telegraph, London: "The high point for Mesnier is when his cakes play a part in easing tensions. "Sometimes, between heads of state, there are difficult moments and my dessert can be an ice-breaker," he recalls. "When the dessert comes to the table, they can pull away from their heavy conversation to something lighter - they can have five or 10 minutes of pure joy. You just have to listen to the level of noise when the dessert enters the dining room. You hear people talking animatedly. There has even been applause."
Suspense... Come November, who will bake the victory cake?


THE MEZZANOTTE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
The Mezzanotte Group -Tommy Bilante, Piero Filpi, Marcello Sindaco, and Manuel Cabrera, the entrepreneurs who already own Bellagio, Carpaccio, Bella Luna, Mezzanotte and Carnevale restaurants, are preparing to take over the restaurant in The Sanctuary Hotel on James Avenue in South Beach, as well as Il Fico, the Italian Restaurant on 4770 Biscayne Blvd., in the Design Discrict.



THIS SUMMER'S CLOSINGS: COOKWORKS IN BAL HARBOUR, ARMADILLO CAFÉ IN FT. LAUDERDALE.
Cookworks, the high-end Texas-based cook shop has closed its doors in Bal Harbour, and Armadillo Café, a renowned outpost of Modern Southwest Cuisine made famous by chef/owners Kevin McCarthy and Eve Montella-Smith, has posted their farewell message on the website: www.armadillocafe.com : "1988 - 2004, Those 16 years went by real fast!"

















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