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Review: Mozzarella lovers, welcome to your new favorite restaurant in Delray Beach


Sardinia, you had me at mozzarella.  

I should be more specific after reading the nuanced Mozzarella Bar menu at Sardinia, the months-old spot in Delray Beach. It lists no fewer than six mozz varieties, from braided treccione to smoky affumicata ($12 to $13). This particular mound of cheese before me was stracciatella, which is that oozy center of burrata. Lift it with a fork and it swoons as you place it atop the restaurant’s rustic and warm house-baked breads.  

Here’s the problem: With all that lifting and swooning, one can dally on the cheese course for so long that one might never get to the rest of the menu. This would be unfortunate. There’s a lot of delicious on this menu.  

An authentic sliver of Sardinia, the Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea, has emerged in this southern Delray strip plaza in subtle but sensational ways. A sister restaurant to Miami Beach’s 12-year-old Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante, the wine-loving spot made its quiet entrance in Palm Beach County last October. It is the handiwork of Sardinian native chef Pietro Vardeu and restaurateur Tony Gallo, who brought the exact SoBe menu to Federal Highway. Then again, why fix what’s worked well?  

With a full salumi menu offering nearly a dozen cured meats and an impressive amount of homemade items, the larger menu here requires a strategy to conquer. Luckily for both adventurous eaters and more traditional palates, it is a diverse menu.  

We found fine dipping opportunities for Sardinia’s bread in a starter bowl of steamed mussels ($14). The dish popped with color, thanks to the addition of diced fresh tomatoes and bright, meaty fava beans. The crusty bread did its part in soaking up the delicate, herb-scented broth.  

Beyond the mozzarella and the mussels, there is at least one other good reason to disregard whatever diet-imposed guilt one may have about accepting that bread basket: The freshly baked bread arrives not with butter but with a ramekin of whipped fontina that’s worth the caloric splurge. It’s a must-have. 

Ditto for the pasta, which is handmade on premises. 

With nearly a dozen pasta dishes listed, it was nice to learn Sardinia offers half-portions of pasta. This makes it all the more tempting to go the shared-plates route here. And while there are plenty of long noodles to sample (bucatini, pappardelle, spaghetti) and short pastas as well (from ribbed, rolled malloreddos to squat paccheri tubes), I found pasta satisfaction in a dish of ravioli. Stuffed with goat cheese and spinach, four large pasta pillows were served in a butter and sage sauce ($13 half, $19 full; pasta half portions range from $12 to $15 half, $18 to $25 full). The sauce was light enough to allow the ravioli filling to shine.  

More robust flavor notes arrived in a dish of gnocchi “verdi” ($13 half, $19 full). These were more like mini gnocchi, petite, greens-infused dumplings served with a hearty lamb “sugo,” a tomato-based lamb sauce that carried smoky pancetta notes. Cooked al dente, the gnocchi proved perfectly dense and toothsome – something to know if you’re seeking melt-in-your-mouth dumplings. I don’t mind al dente, but with a sauce so bold I would have preferred larger gnocchi. These were fava bean size.  

Veggie lovers have options here. We found an intriguing artichoke dish on the starter menu that turned out to be the kind of dish one might enjoy at brunch: baby artichokes baked in sage-scented egg casserole with soft caprino (goat) cheese ($14). It was a pleasant, tasty surprise – an egg dish without the sunny-side cliche.  

For less complicated veggie dishes, Sardinia uses its wood oven to roast asparagus, Brussels sprouts, garlic spinach, beets, broccoli rabe and, yes, baby artichokes (from $11 to $14). The oven is also where six types of pizza and Sardinian flatbread (pane carasau) are fired.  

Heartier appetites will find options on the entrée menu, which lists a range of meats and fish (priced from $24 to $54), including a hefty 12-ounce, bone-in Chicken Parm ($24), a crispy, rich bite that’s served with a minimal amount of red sauce. Four paella dishes, including a vegetarian option and a lamb and mushroom rendition, are offered as well in half and full sizes ($13 to $26).  

You dine here in a polished setting that’s lined with wine bottles (hence the enoteca in the restaurant’s name). The food will transport you far away from the parking lot views. The servers – friendly, well informed on the menu and efficient – will make you feel at home.  

There’s a lot to love about Sardinia. And a lot to eat. It’s a good thing, too – this is the kind of place that will lure you back in.


PALM BEACH POST REVIEW BOX


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