Everything about Novello Restaurant is welcoming. From the spacious, easy parking area to the breezy covered outside patio, and the warm greeting at the door by the owner, Marco Turano. Dean Martin and Tony Bennett tunes play softly in the background and pretty wall sconces emit a low light that makes everything look good. A neat and well-stocked bar on the left side of the room attracts visitors, a large piano sits on the right, and eleven tables straight ahead are ready and waiting for hungry guests. Fresh flowers and candlelight create an ambiance and charm that immediately makes you feel relaxed and at home. As Marco said, “in other large restaurants, you feel like a number.” This is intimate.
“Novello”, which means “New Journey” lives up to its name, having opened in Boca Raton a little more than a year ago. Also, the name promises a new venture into old world tastes and flavors. It’s a family affair with recipes that started with “Nonna”, Marco’s grandmother. His signature dish, “Chicken Novello” is named in her honor. Just as Marco dreamed of restaurant ownership as a young boy, a third generation in the family, has new interest in the business. Marco’s son, nine-year-old Luca, (who is fluent in three languages), delights in helping out at the restaurant.
When it comes to food and wine, Marco knows what he’s doing. He’s been in the hospitality business since the 1980s and garnered experience in Austrailia, England, and Venezuela. Closer to home, he worked in New York in the wine import business.
“I am passionate about the quality of food here.” he said. “We get everything fresh from the market, nothing canned; we use simple fresh, locally sourced ingredients.”
Our dinner began with a rich deep red “Smith & Hook” Cabernet Sauvignon and a complimentary bruschetta brought by our knowledgeable server, Roland, originally from Columbia. The bruschetta was made of crispy little toasted bread rounds topped with freshly diced tomatoes, garlic, and parsley. Next came the assorted appetizer plate that featured an array of taste sensations: arugula salad tossed with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), grilled “Polipo” (octopus), tomatoes & mozzarella, and a unique creation by Marco incorporating sweet dates.
The octopus was first poached, then tenderized with herbs, shallots, spices, and white wine to create texture. Finally it was char-grilled to perfection on a wood fire.
Next we enjoyed healthy vine-ripened tomatoes, and homemade Buffalo Mozzarella presented in alternating slices. Our server Roland was delighted to explain the difference between Burrata and Buffalo Mozzarella cheeses (no cream in the latter.)
Saving the best for last, Marco’s special hors d’oeuvre is a date stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, wrapped in a layer of delicate Prosciutto di Parma and filo dough, and topped with a honey glaze reduction. The contrast of the salty prosciutto and sweet date are guaranteed to drive your taste buds wild.
You can’t visit a fine Italian “ristorante” without experiencing their pastas and sauces. Try Novello’s papardelle pasta that includes your choice of preparation: scampi sauce with lobster and shrimp, marinara, or a fra diavolo for those who prefer some spice. We tasted “Linguine Clams” a delightful and hearty mix of pasta with slivers of garlic peeking throughout, and Little Neck Clams lining the walls of the dish.
Wine with dinner is always a treat and Novello organizes its collection by region. Choose a fine Barbera from Piedmont, a Super Tuscan from Tuscany, an elegent Brunello de Montalcino or a superb 2012 Amarone Classico, “Costasera” by Masi, so delicious you’ll want to crawl inside the glass to get every drop. Pair these fine ‘vinos’ with Novello’s famed “Lombata di Vitello”, a 16 oz. Broiled Veal Chop for something truly memorable. The masterpiece is char-grilled, marinated carefully for three days in a homemade demi glace reduction, then finished with a light blanket of Shiitake mushrooms and Madeira Wine Sauce. This dish is such a winner that the restaurant proudly sells 14 to 16 veal chops on a typical Saturday evening. “They even pick up the bone,” Marco said, so as not to miss a morsel.
Another highlight is Novello’s “Branzino” (Mediterranean Sea Bass.) This house specialty is served in a way that creates a truly unique dining experience. The entire fish is encrusted in Kosher sea salt for 25 to 30 minutes. The salt becomes rock hard and the fish is steam-cooked inside the covering. Here comes the fun part: the fish is brought table-side on a cart and it is hammered open with a mallet. The steam escapes, and the fish is filleted and de-boned. The delicate morsels are drizzled with a bit of olive oil and served to mesmerized guests.
Wait, don’t leave yet – Novello has some exquisite after-dinner offerings, so sit, relax and enjoy Ricotta Cheese Cake, Tiramisu, Espresso coffee or a Limoncello liqueur. Marco summed it up perfectly: “Life is beautiful, come enjoy it. Life with a delicious dinner makes you smile and forget all problems.”