3 stars for Italian classics at Ernie’s Chophouse in Lighthouse Point

LIGHTHOUSE POINT: Ernie’s Italian Chophouse chef Gary Wood, left, displays his spaghetti All’Amatriciana while owner Ernie Patti shows off the grilled octopusCHARLES TRAINOR JR/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Ernie Patti was looking for a friendly but upscale Italian restaurant where he’d want to stop every night. So he opened his own. The former nightclub owner (G Willickers, Flix) is on hand nearly every evening to greet guests at 6-month-old Ernie’s Italian Chophouse in Lighthouse Point. He sets the tone for the attentive staff serving classics like the Sunday gravy feast and gargantuan veal chops in the 165-seat venue.

The son of Sicilian and Neapolitan immigrants, Patti serves dishes he watched his mama make growing up in Brooklyn. Chef Gary Wood, whose resume includes 32 East in Delray Beach, Tra Vigne in the Napa Valley and Max’s Grille in Boca Raton, adds his own flair to items like grilled Spanish octopus with limoncello vinaigrette and a special of fresh halibut on a bed of bulgur lentils. Nearly everything is made in-house, even the house-cured olives served at the outset with warm Italian bread to savor while you pick a wine.

Ambience: A dark lounge area bathed in soft blue lights is set at the entrance of the contemporary, minimalist space. Dark wood floors and large leather banquettes add warmth to the sparsely decorated dining room — and, of course, there’s the food. If Italian cooking doesn’t make you feel sunny, something’s wrong

What Worked

  • A 13 by-the-glass wine list
  • Fennel-scented Chivalini sausage stuffed with provolone
  • Broccoli rabe sautéed with olive oil and garlic
  • A wedge of cool, crisp iceberg drizzled with rich Gorgonzola sauce
  • Intense and hearty wild mushroom soup du jour blending roasted shiitake, cremini and oyster varieties
  • Squid-ink black fettuccini
  • Spaghetti All‘Amatriciana with guanciale (dried pork cheek)
  • Four silky, house-made ravioli with wild mushroom filling, a bit of ricotta and a light, sweet tomato sauce
  • A two-plate Sunday gravy dinner that easily feeds two to four
  • Delicious meatballs made with veal
  • Slow-cooked spareribs,
  • Fat chunks of Italian sausage
  • Sicilian-style braciola (beef rolled around a hard-cooked egg)
  • “Gravy” made with San Marzano tomatoes
  • Steaks aged 21 days: 9-ounce filet mignon, 14-ounce New York strip and 14-ounce rib-eye
  • A tender and well-seasoned 10-ounce skirt steak
  • Slightly charred Brussels sprouts
  • Ultra creamy mac and cheese with cava Elli and fontina
  • Terrific ricotta cheesecake
  • Traditional cannoli shells filled with ricotta and chocolate chips


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