Foodie Find: Café Martorano

The famous Fort Lauderdale hotspot is serving up pure authenticity in the way of both classic Italian recipes and timeless disco music.

Homemade mozzarella served warm with salt and basil.

Café Martorano is serving up pure authenticity in the way of both classic Italian recipes and timeless disco music. The restaurant appears to offer a strictly old-school experience – from the looks of the red velvet curtains, black-and-white wall photos and the clearly hand-made pasta. But that’s belied by the ceiling, from where disco balls and seemingly industrial strength projectors hang. Arrive after 10 p.m. on a Saturday and you’re at a party, but regardless of your reservation time, the great culinary pleasures begin on your plate.

Veal cutlet parmesan

Steve Martorano is a self-taught chef who became dubbed the “Godfather of Italian American Cooking” for reasons that fill the traditional menu and nightly specials. The housemade mozzarella is prepared on site with two types of water and a stretching process leaving it firm on the outside with a soft, fresh middle.  It’s served warm with coarse sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and black pepper. Don’t miss the meatball salad, which is famous for three very good, hand-rolled pork, beef and veal reasons and served alongside ricotta cheese, a long hot pepper. Also to start, there’s an eggplant stack with tomato, homemade mozzarella, arugula, and aged balsamic, and a Sicilian slice also made with the mouth-watering mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil.

Macaroni with San Marzano tomatoes.

Pasta dishes here – macaroni, as listed on the menu – are handmade and topped with fresh ingredients. The Spaghetti DOP – Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, a designation guarantying items are produced in specific geographical zones — is topped with DOC Parmigiano Reggiano, chunky San Marzano tomatoes and basil. The Spaghetti Aglio Olio E. Peperoncino has chili flakes and toasted Italian bread crumbs  but Martorano has favorites and doesn’t mind on the menu pointing out his is Linguine & Clams, which has chili flakes and extra virgin olive oil. There’s also a carbonara with Pancetta, egg, cream and D.O.C. Parmigiano Reggiano and a Linguine Shrimp and & Crab Scampi.

Pistachio cake.

Main course specialties are large, homemade dishes. The Veal Cutlet Parmesan is thick and the meat’s bone is included in the preparation with fresh tomato sauce blanketed with melted mozzarella. The veal cutlet is prepared as a specialty, and chicken dishes include an even elevated take of the traditional in that there’s one with mushrooms, capers and brown sauce and a cutlet parmesan containing house-made and imported cheeses, fresh tomatoes and served with parpadella pasta. On the side, try escarole with bread crumbs or sautéed broccoli rabe.

For dessert, try the pistachio cake. It’s three moist layers held together with creamy icing and the delicate crunch of the nut throughout. Cafe Martorano in Fort Lauderdale is the original restaurant to the Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Las Vegas locations. Steve Martorano is the author of “Yo Cuz! My Live, My Food My Way” and “It Aint Sauce, It’s Gravy: How Good Food Saved My Life.”

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