One of the great things about living in South Florida, and especially about living in Ft. Lauderdale, "the Venice of America," must be the ability to combine two of life's great pleasures: boating and dining. While the rest of country takes the subway, hops in a car, grabs a bus, and occasionally even walks to a favorite restaurant, many Floridians can cast off and claim their table by sea.
A pretty, nautical view can make up for a multitude of kitchen misdeeds, and not every dock and dine establishment would be worth much without its seaside position. But there are a handful of establishments that are as much about the cuisine as the boat ride. Our favorite is da Campo Osteria by Todd English. Just north of the Oakland Park Bridge on the ICW, da Campo Osteria offers celebrity chef Todd English's take on northern Italian cuisine. Deep, comfortable booths with red and brown accents and a copper wood-burning oven are soothingly rustic, while the open kitchen adds a touch of modern excitement to the otherwise serene décor.
Da Campo Osteria serves breakfast and dinner seven days a week. There's a focus on fresh ingredients served with a Tuscan accent. Flatbread pizzas with gourmet toppings like Fig & Prosciutto or Wild Mushroom with Red Onion, Fontina, & Truffled Cheese are fired in the in wood-burning oven, and handcrafted pastas are house favorites. Another signature dish is the homemade mozzarella-prepared tableside! An approachable wine list that's full of familiar favorites means you may be tempted to let the good time's roll. That's okay-leave the boat on the dock and check in to one of Il Lugano's comfortable and spacious suites for an extra special evening. www.dacampoosteria.com and www.illugano.com
Grille 66 and Bar at the Hyatt Regency's Pier 66, just northwest of AIA, between the ICW and Lake Sylvia, in Ft. Lauderdale is a great place to yacht-watch when you're in the mood for something traditional, like lamb chops, and a glass of wine. Feeling spicier? The other half of the menus offers more creative specialties like local seafood paired with Caribbean flavors. www.grille66andbar.com
Another favorite spot is the always reliable Coconuts, just south of East Las Olas Boulevard. Dock space is available on a self-service, as available basis, but this fun spot is even worth taking the car to. An eclectic menu that ranges from Jambalaya to Danish Baby Backed Ribs and Fish Tacos is backed up by straightforward wines at a reasonable price. And the views are great. www.coconutsbahamasgrill.com