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Martini’s Tuscan Grill & Bar offers high hopes for dining in suburban Boynton Beach

The open kitchen features a brick oven.

A new Italian eatery in suburban Boynton Beach has some interesting menu offerings and a fairly priced wine list, but the kitchen is inconsistent.

By Alan J. Wax

My optimism was high as we sat down for our first visit to the recently opened Martini’s Tuscan Grill & Bar in Boynton Beach.

The well-lit, modern dining rooms were not overly noisy. Tables were well spaced. The menu was broad with interesting specials, and the wine list seemed fairly priced. My hopes were up for what I thought could be an oasis in the dining desert known as suburban Boynton Beach.

Martini’s exterior at night.

Side dining room and open kitchen

As we perused the long menu, which included classic Italian restaurant offerings, a variety of pastas and personal pizzas, and also a number of wood-grilled items we munched on some of the best focaccia I’d ever sampled, accompanied by eggplant caponata (unfortunately sugary).  I was especially surprised to see a somewhat unusual special, porchetta, a savory roast of rolled and stuffed pork tenderloin.

But a second visit to Martini’s, open since November in The Fountains Shopping Center at Jog Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard, showed that the kitchen can be inconsistent. (The place, according to a public records search,  is owned by Martin Servido, whose restaurant credits include the Brass Monkey Tavern and the now-closed Couco Pazzo, both in Lake Worth.)

We arrived for our first visit without reservations having read online that reservations were not accepted for parties of fewer than eight.  Not so, we were told by the hostess, who added that the manager who instituted that policy was gone. Nonetheless, we were seated almost immediately.

The side dining room (there are two, plus outside dining) overlooked the open kitchen, where bright-orange flames licked the roof of a wood-burning oven. The room, well lit and decorated with faux distressed wood, was full, but the sound level was conducive to conversation. The other dining room, done mostly in black, is dominated by a long bar.

The menu is a la carte, although entrees are served with pasta or green beans and fingerling potatoes. Prices, though, are fair. A cup, actually a small bowl, of Italian wedding soup, was just $4 and a mixed-green salad with a tangy balsamic dressing for $6 could easily have fed two. Pasta start at $14 and entrées at $17. In additional to the lengthy menu, there’s a list of daily specials, which on our second visit was made redundant by a painful recitation by our server.

The wine list covers almost the full back side of the menu and there’s a decent selection of by-the-glass offerings.  An Italian merlot on the list, however, was out of stock. Instead, I opted for a glass ($9) of Carpineto Dogajolo, a fruity, so-called baby Super Tuscan wine that blends Italian sangiovese grapes with cabernet sauvignon and other grapes. It proved to be a happy choice. (The wine retails for about $13 a bottle). On our second visit, we shared a bottle of fruity and floral Prunotto Roero Arneiss, which at $39 was about double its retail price.

Martini’s Arthur Avenue Classic pizza

Porchetta special

Chicken francese, an off-menu order

Buoying my expectations on our first visit was the original cheese pizza, called the Arthur Avenue Classic ($10 without toppings for a 12-inche pie), which we ordered instead of appetizers. The bright red pie arrived at our table with just the right amount of sauce and cheese and a nice sprinkling of oregano. The pizza crust, like the focaccia, was crispy and light as air.  It was tempting to finish it all, but a manager stopped by our table and suggested we take some home to save room for our entrees. We listened.

Veal parmigiana

Italian wedding soup

The Italian wedding soup, a chicken broth studded with small meatballs, lots of shredded spinach, and bits of what appeared to be pearl barley, lacked a traditional ingredient, carrots. Not that carrots would have helped. it was a bit bland and needed some grated cheese to add additional depth of flavor.

The porchetta ($21), ordered on my first visit, consisted of two slices of the roast with al dente green beans and nicely cooked fingerling potatoes on the side. The meat was boldly seasoned, but could have been more tender.

Veal parmigiana ($22), a benchmark I use for Italian restaurants, was a huge, albeit tender, slab of meat atop just-undercooked al dente spaghetti bathed in a sauce that tasted mostly of tomato paste, all topped with caramelized, melted mozzarella.

The fish filets in a mahi-mahi francese special ordered by a dining companion were undercooked and arrived resting on a bed of under-cooked pasta swimming in an overly lemony sauce. She opted not to return the dish.

On both of our visits, my wife ordered her go-to dish, chicken francese ($18), an off-menu item here. (Martini’s does chicken piccata, a similar preparation.) On our first visit, the chicken was extremely tender, but the sauce tasted of raw flour.  On our subsequent visit, the sauce was pronounced as perfect, despite being ordered at the same time as the aforementioned mahi-mahi francese.

Settling the check here may have been the most memorable part of our visits. The check arrives printed with an QR code, which when photographed using your smartphone takes you to a site where you can choose your tip, enter your email and then click on the Apple Pay button. Your receipt is sent via email. There’s no server disappearing with your card and you’re done in an instant. Alas, I wish our overall experiences here were as memorable.

Martini’s Tuscan Grill & Bar

6655 Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach, FL 33437

561-734-1866

martinistuscangrill.com

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