By Tracy Block
The goods: Taking the helm in an open kitchen alongside a copper wood-burning oven boasting the monogram "TE" is three-time James Beard award-winning Chef Todd English. With the success of his Olives eatery chain and collaboration with Eva Longoria at Beso in L.A., Chef English has finally migrated south with the opening of da Camp Osteria in Fort Lauderdale’s il Lugano Hotel & Residences. "I’ve been coming down to this area for years, it seemed like a natural move for us," Chef English said.
The Northern Italian, 72-seat bistro pays homage to Chef English’s Tuscan roots with rustic décor, smoking wood floors and subdued lighting. The open kitchen evokes comfort and curiosity while sofas lend a cozy vibe to the lounge and bar area.
The grub: Start with the tableside mozzarella, which arrives on a cart clad with fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, olives, olive tapenade, honeyed walnuts, marinated marsala raisins, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Menu items include flatbreads, pastas and grilled entrees and range from $8 to $40. "It’s all about the local ingredients, we’re going to cook locally as much as we can," Chef English said. For those who relish savory and sweet, order the fig and proscuitto flatbread, a blend of hearty sweetness and salty slices on a canvas of thin, charred crust. For a heated kick, the linguine vongole with pancetta and chilies. Carpetbagger oysters are another house specialty.
Desserts include a warm chocolate hazelnut budino — graced with a molten Nutella center, chocolate-mint gelato and chocolate Rice Krispies — and honeyed ricotta doughnuts, a rich creation featuring honeycomb gelato, spiced hazelnuts and Valrona chocolate sauce.
The verdict: You might be wondering why Chef English didn’t comform to trendy South Beach with his newest gastronomic trattoria. Quite simply, he’s no conformist.
da Campo Osteria in the Il Lugano Hotel & Residences, 3333 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-564-4400. Breakfast daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and dinner daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
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