All That Live Must Dine

This has been a common occurrence. Arthur Goodman, co-owner of Rascal House on North Miami Beach, says his restaurant sustained some damage in the parking lot, but service is back and running. How much food had to be discarded? "Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth," he claims. Prior to reopening last Saturday, Rascal House delivered scores of deli sandwiches to the devastated areas of South Dade, a deed that deserves a heartfelt "Mazeltov!"

Andrew even humbled Mark's Place, that summit of New American creativity due west of Bal Harbour. The exterior had recently been painted white -- the storm turned it yellow. But no matter: Mark Militello's doors opened last Saturday with a menu that, while modest beside the encyclopedic menu habitually offered, put a brave face on the situation and, as always, excelled.

Further south, in Coral Gables, with uncertain dates for restoration of electricity and greater property damage than in North Dade, dining was more a dice roll than a jelly roll. Nino Pernetti, the debonair owner of Caffe Abbracci and Caffe Baci, had taken the precaution of donating his supply of comestibles to the nearest shelter (the Hyatt Hotel). Abbracci reopened first, on Thursday, with an abridged menu still fairly replete with elaborate Italian cuisine. Among the pastas, there's a tortelloni gorgonzola, agnolotti with tomato-and-basil sauce, and fettuccine al salmone; you can also order some of Abbracci's regular standouts, such as grilled paillard of veal, veal chop tricolori, and swordfish with balsamic vinegar. Pernetti believes that both Baci and Abbracci should be back in full swing "very soon."

The list goes on and on, obviously. For now, though, better to get those gastric juices flowing and seize the day at your favorite eating arena. The dividends -- cultural, psychological, and spiritual -- are too numerous to count.

And finally, I'd like to suggest that, as a tribute to a life-changing event, these hallowed feeding grounds adopt some new innovations: Gourmet Diner should consider including some of the fine dishes of Lejeune's native Belgium (waterzooi, for example). Maybe Mark's Place should bring back some great desserts from yesteryear (Ana's strawberry bread pudding). How about some of that epoch-making salmon-dill cream pasta at the Armadillo? God knows, if Nino Pernetti could be persuaded to send Abbracci's horrible birthday music (which includes John Williams's galloping theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark) on an extended sabbatical, then Hurricane Andrew will truly not have been in vain.

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