>R.I.P. Cero / Hello Via Luna!

>A new guido’s in town. And Fort Lauderdale-lites should be prepared for an onslaught. 

The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale recently replaced its beloved restaurant Cero with a brand-new Italian grill restaurant, Via Luna. Cero coincidentally happened to be one of my favorite restaurants in all of Fort Lauderdale, and when I found out via a press release of its closing, I think I took it as hard as when my goldfish, Tigre, died (I’m still claiming he committed suicide over Thanksgiving break). I remember opening the e-mailed press release and struggled to understand why Cero — a restaurant with sauces and combinations that were close to genius — would be replaced.

After dining at Via Luna this week, I kinda sorta understand why. It seems the Ritz needed a change, as PR Director Michelle Payer said. Via Luna offers a beautiful menu of gorgeous seafood items and more that all have genuine flavors. I had a halibut over a pea risotto and jumbo shrimp over linguini with white wine sauce. 

As a card-carrying member of The Clean Plate Club, I appreciate a good, hearty meal. My hat’s off to Via Luna as each plate left my sight with an approval from The Clean Plate Club. I noted to the guests in my party that the prices at Via Luna certainly aren’t cheap (they started around $25 and went up from there). Because of that, I could appreciate the restaurant’s obligation to serve a beautiful dish that’s still filling.

I’ve known Executive Chef Christian Clair for a couple of years now, mostly via my business relation with the Ritz. I pulled him aside before dinner and asked him an honest question: What do you think of the change?

And, he gave me an honest response: “I’m still getting use to it. It’s not my style. But I think it will be good.” 

Chef Christian, it should be noted, is classically trained in French cooking. At this level, though, he can do anything. And do it well. So, while this type of cooking might not be his exact cup of tea, I think that’s the mark of a brilliant chef — one who can do unbelievable things to styles he doesn’t favor.


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