BIG Names

So what's the deal with all the CAPITAL LETTERS? Joining B.E.D., SUVA, and KISS, AMMO has just opened on Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables. Perhaps owners Joel Lopez and Leo Scotto and executive chef Alexis Pimentel (formerly of Giacosa) thought we wouldn't PAY ATTENTION to the cuisine, which includes eclectic combos such as grilled lobster tail with rose petals and a champagne infusion (hey, is this place Tantra?) and ostrich scaloppine with glazed sweet potatoes. WHATEVER. Note to future restaurateurs: We don't need to be HIT OVER THE HEAD. Remember, it's not HOW BIG your letters are, it's how you USE THEM.

•'Tis the season to be Joia, I guess. Despite the conviction of original owner Chris Paciello on murder charges, the South Beach restaurant has managed to hang on to, well, conviction. Now a new chef, Luciano Sautto, and his Northern Italian menu have been unveiled, and so far there seems to be nothing illicit and everything straightforward about the fare: purée of carrot soup; steamed and marinated octopus; spinach gnocchi in a walnut-cream sauce; and Cornish game hen baked with white grapes, brandy, cloves, and cocoa powder. In other words there's no gangsta rabe on the list. Word.

•"I worried about putting it out when it wasn't season," Chef Allen Susser confided the other night at one of the zillion or two functions going on around town. Of course he was referring not to anything flagrant but to his latest tome, The Great Mango Book, which recently was released by Ten Speed Press. As he's been finding out on his book tour, though, Susser has little reason to stress. Mango lovers are consistent all year round, and even though the fruit isn't readily available to test out the 50-odd recipes, it's a good read nonetheless. Susser identifies and details almost 60 mangoes, from the Tommy Atkins to the Turpentine. In addition to the physical descriptions and points of origin for the many species, Susser provides tasting notes, much like wine writers do, and cutting/slicing instructions, so that even mango newcomers can figure the darn fruit out. Still, the chef is probably going to be in big trouble come July. Susser has a policy, formerly known only to South Florida back-yard mango-growers, where he'll exchange bagfuls of mangoes for a complimentary dinner at his restaurant, Chef Allen's. But Susser has made the grand mistake of publishing this practice in the book. So much for a good thing. Now that the general public is aware, you can bet that the Publix fruit section will be bare, and Chef Allen's will be overflowing -- and probably with Costa Rican imposters, no less.

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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick

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