The goods: The Ritz-Carlton on Fort Lauderdale beach is now home to classic Italian cooking with Via Luna, the new restaurant inhabiting the old Cero space. The 27-year-old chef de cuisine, Jason Coperine, looked to his Sicilian grandmother's recipes for menu inspiration, infusing red-sauce standbys with a contemporary spin.
Ambience: The Ritz-Carlton's dazzling dining room is probably the swankiest on Fort Lauderdale beach. The oceanfront room is lit with five crystal-embedded chandeliers and outfitted with caramel leather chairs and curvilinear marble floors that mimic ocean waves. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame beach views and salty breezes waft over ample patio seating.
The grub: Regional Italian cuisine with a generous helping of steaks and chops. Prices are on par with the plush setting, with starters $8-$18, pastas $15-$28 and mains $20-$34.The jumbo meatball is listed as an appetizer, but you could make a meal of the 8-ounce sphere of pork, veal and beef held together with milk-soaked bread. There are five pasta dishes including a spaghetti pomodoro and a nutmeg-spiked rigatoni bolognese. Fish dishes include yellowtail snapper and a hearty salmon enlivened by chipotle chile butter. There's plenty to satisfy carnivores, including a 12-ounce veal rib chop served with a slightly boozy rosemary-garlic wine sauce. Pastry Chef Jordi Panisello uses recipes passed down from his Barcelona-born grandmother for items likes Nutella beignets made with Sambuca-infused dough. The pizzetta de mela, crispy pastry layered with apples and topped with house-made vanilla mascarpone gelato, is big enough to share.
Verdict: Sparkling ocean views, massive meatballs and homey Italian food get ritzy at the Ritz.