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Gaia Ristorante: The Full Story

As Short Order reported last week, Gaia Ristorante, the

latest venture of seasoned restaurateur Tom Billante, has opened at 101

Ocean Drive (Hilton Bentley Hotel)-- which I erroneously cited as the

site of Billante's last Ocean Drive venue, ViVi. In fact, Prime Italian

has moved into that space, and Gaia is its' new neighbor.

There

is a whole lot more info about the place to impart to you now. For

example, we can say with certainty that there is a "walking menu",

which features a laminated piece of paper with two little legs that

propel it around the room. No, wait, that can't be right.

Okay,

here it is: Chef Gaetano Ascione, from Naples, Italy, will "walk" from

table to table, gauge diners' preferences, and customize meals based on

his conversations (what Romeo does in his eponymous Gables cafe).

Ascione likes to create themed dinners based on one ingredient. In this

vein, a meal might be composed of parmesan consommé with ricotta

tortellini and rehydrated yellow tomatoes; filet mignon with roasted

tomatoes and eggplant; crab cake served with a shot glass of Italian

"gazpacho"; and, for dessert, sweet San Marzano tomato jam with fennel

salad and biscotti. If you don't like tomatoes, try to remember to

mention that to the chef when he stops by to chat.

Appetizers

($10-$28) include marinated Mediterranean octopus with radicchio and

lemon dressing, and Hudson Valley foie gras with lobster, porcini

mushrooms and aged balsamic. Sample pastas ($19-$38) are penne

puttanesca with swordfish, tuna, orange tomatoes, anchovies, capers,

and olives; and orecchiette with oxtail, arugula, sun dried tomatoes

and Parmigiano. Entrees bring meat dishes ($29-$42) like Colorado

herb-crusted rack of lamb with roasted sweet peppers, and  veal

scaloppini with choice of five treatments. From the grill ($32-$51):

tonno (ahi tuna), gamberoni (large prawns), veal chop or prime

sirloin.  Kenya beans with almonds sounds like the most intriguing of

the side dishes.

Gaia serves lunch daily from noon to 5:00 p.m. and dinner nightly from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  Reservations:305-672-6624.


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