Smells Like Teen Spiritless

Inattention to proper cooking also ruined a breast of chicken al gorgonzola. Exploding with blue cheese and prosciutto, the poultry was practically parchment. The stuffing mingled beautifully with a Madeira-mushroom sauce, but we couldn't get past the hardened bird, which seemed to repel our knives and forks.

Moderately priced seafood dishes are always a draw for me -- fresh fish and shellfish needn't be expensive, especially in South Florida. But no one wants to save a few bucks only to regret it when the dish arrives. I give Sfizi's calamari marinara main course an A: The squid rings were plentiful, pliant, and a bargain at $10.95. But an entree of salmone alla spagnola was an instant F. The fillet, sprinkled with olives, capers, and chopped tomatoes, was rank and inedible.

Entrees were partnered by pasta, either fettuccine or linguine. The restaurant also offers more than a dozen pasta dishes, all checking in at less than ten bucks. We chose to share gnocchi sorrentina as a starter, but were dismayed by the commercial appearance and flavor of the potato dumplings. Served as a casserole with tomato sauce and an unnecessary quilt of mozzarella, the gnocchi were merely mediocre.

A selection of layer cakes and cheesecakes for dessert -- none of which seemed particularly Italian -- and the option of sipping cappuccino didn't inspire us, perhaps because Starbucks is right next door with freshly baked goods and coffee ground to order. Del Duca might want to lay in a supply of Italian pastries to combat the potential loss of business.

Even more, he needs to pay closer attention to the quality of his fare. If Del Duca aspires for Sfizi (which means "craving") to be more than a pizza joint, he needs to take a look at the dishes his kitchen is producing. Right now the only craving customers might harbor is one to escape.

Sfizi Italian Grill
1118 S Dixie Hwy, Coral Gables; 305-665-8899. Lunch and dinner Monday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m; Saturday from 1:00 to 11:00 p.m. Dinner Sunday from 4:00 to 11:00 p.m.

Stuffed mushrooms
$5.95

Grilled chicken caesar salad
$7.95

Gnocchi sorrentina
$9.95

Chicken al gorgonzola
$12.95

Salmone alla spagnola
$13.95

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