Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Elegant Italian Fare Found at Sergio's

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Elegant Italian Fare Found at Sergio's

Article excerpt

A menu posted at the entrance to Sergio's, in Atlantic Beach, is appealing but not extensive. Nevertheless, several dishes immediately caught our eyes.

A Pavarotti aria played softly in the background and the intimate interior looked like the brick courtyard of a Mediterranean villa, setting the scene for an informal evening of Northern Italian dining. However, when our server told us about the evening's specials, we realized the printed menu is but an enticing preview of an entire continent of creative cooking that comes from the kitchen of Chef Sergio Zucchelli.

Our friendly waitress placed a basket of homemade bread -- Italian and a wonderful thick focaccia topped with olive oil, rosemary and salt -- on the table. Then she recited a long list of tempting specials and patiently explained a few of the entrees a couple more times before we made selections from both the menu and the verbal list.

Potato gnocchi ($4.95) with a choice of sauces headed the menu's appetizer list. Potato dumplings may not seem the most gourmet of starters, but my dining companion grades all Italian chefs by the ability to produce tender, homemade gnocchi. These were served in a luscious, creamy Gorgonzola sauce (tomato coulis was the alternate sauce choice). The gnocchi were large and very light; my partner practically levitated. He was so pleased that he readily forgave our waitress' attempt to remove the plate before the last gnocchi were eaten.

We need have gone no further to declare the meal a huge success -- but we did.

Several appetizers on the printed menu had great appeal -- spinach and veal ravioli ($4.95) and grilled pancetta wrapped shrimp over polenta with tomato basil sauce ($7.50). However, I selected the crab cake appetizer ($7.50) from the nightly specials and was rewarded with a huge patty of nearly all crab containing minced bits of bell pepper and perhaps a little onion. A creamy, stone-ground mustard sauce was pooled around the crab cake. It was delicious.

We each selected the Gorgonzola dressing for the salads that accompanied our meals. The dressing was excellent with the crisp lettuce, but too heavily applied. …

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