La Veranda is old-school Italian and proud of it. No fusion or foam; no way. For 36 years, diners have been coming to this Pompano Beach restaurant for classics like mussels posillipo in a briny broth, eggplant parm smothered in mozzarella and grandmotherly pasta e fagiole.
Running a successful restaurant for more than three decades is a feat in fickle South Florida. Franco Antimucci boasts that the menu hasn’t changed much since he and business partner Gianpiero Daverio opened La Veranda in October 1976. Sure, prices have gone up, but they’re still reasonable, especially when you consider that entrees include a house salad (with excellent creamy Gorgonzola dressing), garlic bread and a side of spaghetti, potatoes or vegetable.
From its lacy tablecloths to its formally dressed servers, La Veranda captures an earlier era. But what truly makes the place stand out is the setting, one of the most romantic in the county. When we walked into the canopied courtyard with its brick fountain and twinkly lights, we felt as though we had stepped into the veranda of an Italian villa, not off busy Atlantic Boulevard.
Antimucci, a native of Rome, and Daverio, born near Milan, started out with just 14 tables. They expanded after purchasing the lot next door, and can now seat 200 with a room for private parties and a small bar. Fireplaces add to the warmth of the cozy dining rooms.
Servers were gracious from the start, refilling our basket of warm bread and managing water and wine glasses. The wine list (a small book of wine labels) offers 25 choices starting at $24. Our server suggested a $28 bottle of fruity Terrazze Della Luna (“terraces of the moon”) pinot noir that was perfect for dinner under the stars.
We shared several appetizers, including a simple but refreshing standard of prosciutto with fresh, juicy cantaloupe, a fine play of sweet and smoky. Save some bread to sop up the sea-salty juices in the mussels posillipo, brightened by tomatoes, white wine and a hint of garlic. Tried-and-true clams oreganata, scungilli salad and stuffed mushrooms are also on the appetizer hit parade.
Few places do right by chicken cacciatore, but chef Giuseppe DeRubertis turns out a delicious, traditional version cooked on the bone. A half chicken is cut into five pieces, cooked with lots of red and green bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes and onions, and served with spaghetti. It’s also available with Italian sausage.
Salmon marechiaro brings a nicely cooked, Scottish-raised fillet flanked by quintets of clams and mussels and dotted with capers, all in an ultra-light broth of tomatoes and white wine. A friend devoured red snapper franchese that was better than most.
A tender, 14-ounce, broiled pork chop was topped with sautéed mushrooms and vinegar peppers and plated with steamed broccoli and disappointing potato wedges that could have been crisper.
We finished with tiramisu that was a little bitter and lovely, house-made ricotta cheesecake that was an old-fashioned taste of Italy, just like La Veranda.