1250 Broadway, 27th Floor New York, NY 10001

PENNE NORMA WITH EGGPLANT

If you’re a sucker for a good pasta (like I am), head on over to “Il Paesano Italian Gourmet Food & Wine Bar,” located at 2645 East Oakland Park Blvd, in Fort Lauderdale.

Paola and Vergilio Peixoto, the husband and wife team who own the restaurant, opened their place because they found it “difficult to find the authentic Italian products and a good home cooked meal the way Nonna made it. So they set out on a mission to deliver just that ... A simple fresh, home cooked meal. All the ingredients used are of the best quality and prepared fresh daily.”

While their space is humble and unassuming (and more like a deli, or an ethnic mini-market), don’t let that dissuade or discourage you. There are some outstanding things emanating from that kitchen.

On the day of our visit, one of the featured items on the menu was “Penne Norma with eggplant and tomato” ($21.50).

This Sicilian recipe was supposedly inspired by a Bellini opera (“Norma”). But putting all that (melo)drama aside, eggplant is undeniably the “star” of this dish.

While the recipe is simple: a tomato sauce infused with garlic and basil, deep fried eggplant, and topped with grated ricotta salata (salted ricotta cheese), you’ll be amazed at the earthy, smoky explosion of flavors. We scored it a pretty respectable “B+.”

Points were lost because some found the $21.50 ask a bit pricey, while others whined about it being a bit too oily and cheesy. Overall, I thought it was an outstanding dish, and it’s certainly worth a try. (I have no hesitation recommending it to you.)

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