Picture Perfect

My companion, scanning the veal listings, chose the dish with the most flowery name, scaloppine di vitello verdi e bianche bellezza. The result: scallops of veal and prosciutto with a green pesto sauce and a beautiful blond bechamel. On one side of the plate were medallions of veal and ham pressed together and topped with green pesto; on the other half, medallions were crowned with bechamel that had been flambeed with cognac, giving it a distinctive fillip. The Italians are famous for dishes layering two different meats, and this one is prominent among the classic combinations.

We also tried one of the seven poultry dishes - petto di pollo fantasia, an extravaganza consisting of thin layers of chicken and veal rolled into crescents and stuffed with medallions of lobster and black truffles, all covered in a light champagne sauce. This "fantasia" was aptly named, and the flavors of the stuffing, especially the truffles, permeated both meats, giving them a mild peppery spark. The roll-ups were as tender as dumplings, and the sauce as light as chiffon. The fellow who ordered this dish had only one complaint, but it was a significant one. He found that in one or two of the roll-ups, the innermost portion of the parchment-thin chicken was somewhat underdone. He would have sent it back had he not already eaten the 99 percent of the dish that was thoroughly cooked.

Feeling like so many stuffed holiday geese, we could barely manage a nod in the direction of the dessert cart, which was laden with goodies such as kiwi tarts, pecan pie, a cake called "seven chocolates," key lime pie, raspberry tarts, and a cheesecake; but only one among us succumbed to dessert. When the cheesecake arrived, however, no one could refuse at least a taste of the creation with tiers of traditional filling, thick fudge, and a topping of pecans.

Then, alas, since all good things must come to an end, the check arrived. We expected a triple-digit figure and were not disappointed. Beneath the total, a suggested tip was written in, and when the credit card slip was returned to the table, the eighteen-percent tip reared its head again - it had been written in on the tip line. Our service was good, but we couldn't help but feel i Paparazzi should have left the matter in our hands rather than telling us how. It would be more straightforward, it seems to me, to put a service-charge notice on the menu.

When dining at i Paparazzi, it would be wise to keep two foreign phrases in mind: mangia!, and caveat emptor.

i PAPARAZZI
940 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, 531-3500. Hours: Sunday - Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m; Friday and Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

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