By Han Okcuoglu
IL Tartufo restaurant recently opened its doors in Parkland, located north of Hillsboro and 441 and just next to Malbec Grill.
For those who recall, this is the same IL Tartufo that used to be located in Chima Steakhouse’s premises in Fort Lauderdale until 1998. According to the owner, Chef Luciano, he left the restaurant and spent 25 years traveling the world, teaching the art of cooking to other restaurants.
I wasn’t too thrilled to find out this was Italian food since that’s not in short supply, but by the end of the meal, we all agreed this was as authentic as it gets.
The spot is very tasteful but not large, with a section by the hostess stand reserved for imported Italian goods like Parmesan Truffle cream, which you can buy as you leave. Our waiter, Adriano, was attentive and had that sing-song Italian accent that just got us hungrier and hungrier listening to him say cheese names.
Most of the food was fantastic. We had a party of six and ordered a lot based on his recommendations. For starters, they had a seasonal butternut squash soup of the day, with a touch of cream and crispy parmesan cheese bits sprinkled on top. Black truffles mixed in cut through the sweetness for a very pleasant taste.
The Bruschetta E Tartare had a bed of fresh tomatoes that were almost pickled with lemon and basil (almost pickled in a great way for someone like me who enjoys a bit of tart or sour). It was really wonderful, with soft bites of the steak contrasting with the crunch of the bread and the arugula and shaved cheeses bringing it all together.
One of the specials was the giant tortellini shells with duck confit in a butter sauce. It was the best duck dish we’ve ever had. It was so delicate and velvety inside, with a hint of sweet carrots and earthy flavors complemented by this slight lemon zest and herbs on the shell itself. Incredible. We asked Chef Luciano if that could make its way to the main menu, but he explained he couldn’t since it takes him a long time to prepare both the oversized shells and the high-quality duck.
The homemade ravioli was packed with imported truffles and ricotta cheese, with a brown butter sage sauce, and it was very good. It felt like it was missing something (maybe tomatoes for some tanginess?), but nonetheless, the quality of every dish started to jump out quickly.
I ordered the cacao e pepe made in the cheese wheel with pecorino cheese. I would have preferred a bit hotter and gooier, as I noticed they left it in the wheel a bit too long. I also prefer the pasta less al dente. But once they shaved black truffles directly onto my dish, my problems disappeared. It was still very enjoyable.
The Genovese (like most dishes) had homemade pasta. There was a red wine ragu with slow-cooked beef tomatoes, onions, and scoops of Buffalo ricotta cheese. Traditional and well done.
We also had lasagna with pesto besciamella and imported chanterelle mushrooms. Adriano had to point out there was no meat in the dish since most customers expected that. It actually worked out better and allowed the really tasty pesto to be the center of attention.
The desserts were divine. They had a lemon sponge cake that just fell apart and had notes of vanilla—definitely my favorite. The chocolate bomb lava cake was happily destroyed in front of us as Adriano poured heated chocolate and collapsed the chocolate bomb, revealing ice cream. Crunchy cookies waited underneath.
We expected this to cost way more than it did, with most dishes we ordered being between $20 and $32.
In a plot twist, Adriano revealed at the end that he was the manager and liked to serve to stay close to what was happening on the floor.
He mentioned the goal for early next year is the first weekend of the month they would like to start a tour of Italy, where they pick a region of Italy and create some special dishes with a wine pairing.
Eventually, Chef Luciano wants to start a nine-course meal with wine pairings that continue year-round. We will try to get to both of those and report back when they do.
- Han Okcuoglu is a curious foodie, Turkish-American and resident of South Florida for over 35 years. He graduated from FAU with a degree in Information Systems Management. He also writes food reviews on various websites and social media groups. He loves to see new restaurants and mom and pop shops Fleet the attention they deserve and flourish.