Hot Plates: Merly Bermudez at Prime Italian

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For your Monday-morning enjoyment, meet Merly Bermudez, a dead ringer for Penelope Cruz and the sexy bartender at Prime Italian. The 28-year-old Colombian beauty is known for pouring potent cocktails and serving steak to bar patrons at the upscale South of Fifth eatery. Guys, don't order the tuna tartare if you want to impress Merly.

New Times: What is the sexiest item on Prime Italian's menu?

Merly Bermudez: The short rib risotto. It's hearty and rich. It sums up Italian-American cooking in one dish. I like a man who has an adventurous palate. If a man comes to the bar and just orders tuna tartare, I will definitely bust his chops for that and try to get him to order a steak.

NT: How often are you hit on? How do you handle lecherous customers?

MB: I am hit on all the time, by men and women! I'm a flirt, but there's a limit to what they can say and do. I like being behind the bar, though, because they can't touch you. Ultimately, if people are spending money, I'm making money.

NT: Describe the scene at Prime Italian.

MB: It's crazy fun. There's a mixed crowd of the hip, SoBe clubbing scene with older couples and athletes. We have a lot of regulars.

NT: How do you unwind after work?

MB: There's a lot of adrenaline flowing after an eight-hour shift. I always tell myself I'm not going out after work, but I definitely need a drink. I get together with my co-workers and head to a local bar. I like to drink Krome vodka.

NT: Have people told you that you look like Penelope Cruz?

MB: I've been hearing that ever since she became a star. I also get Salma Hayek. I take it as a compliment. They are both beautiful women. I hope to meet them one day.

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