Noodles Panini

Noodles Panini is all about meatball madness these days. Its Aunt Marion’s meatballs were recently been voted the best in Fort Lauderdale – or more precisely, the No. 1 among contenders in an October charity competition. The plump, saucy specialty bested 10 others, including entrees from Johnny V, Bova Prime, da Campo Osteria and Anthony’s Runway 84. The prizewinners are named for owner Brent Lahaye’s aunt, who created the recipe. Have them paired with a salad, swimming in tomato sauce or stuffed into a panini. And if you can’t get enough, take home a quart.

Prices at Noodles Panini are cheaper than at many restaurants on Las Olas, but service varies. On a girls’ night out,  our charming server was accommodating and well-paced; another night our meal got off to a slow start but picked up.

Ambiance: Despite its touristy address on Las Olas Boulevard, the 10-year-old café has the breezy atmosphere of a neighborhood hangout, with contemporary exposed ceilings and cozy, dark wood. When the 30-seat restaurant gets crowded, quarters are tight. If the weather’s balmy, we prefer sitting on the patio, decorated with twinkling lights and greenery.

What Worked

  • An appetizer of three sublime, soft and light meatballs plated with perky baby greens
  • A delicious mix of baby greens in a lemon-kissed vinaigrette tossed with roasted pumpkin seeds
  • A chopped salad of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow peppers, salami, almonds and Gorgonzola
  • Simple bowls of bombolotti paired with broccoli rabe, loads of garlic and chile peppers
  • Excellent chicken piccata with a light lemony-butter sauce, capers and penne
  • A panini with imported prosciutto, grilled artichokes, baby greens and
  • Flavorful, albeit a bit fatty, house-roasted beef panini served on delicious focaccia with a rich Gorgonzola spread, onion confit, Dijon, mayo and baby greens
  • Generously sliced house-made carrot cake with cream cheese icing studded with walnuts
  • House-made light, creamy tiramisu