Franco’s brings slice of Italy to horse country

After a recent Sunday afternoon watching polo, we decide to check out Franco’s Italian Bistro in Wellington for dinner. It was recommended by some locals, and we knew the general manager was Christian Weibel, formerly of Bice’s in Palm Beach.

Located in a shopping center adjacent to the The Mall at Wellington Green, Franco’s has a lovely intimate dining room that seats approximately 50 people and a cozy corner bar area. The outdoor seating, with a lovely view of the parking lot, provides an additional 50 seats. With its white tablecloths and closely positioned tables both inside and out, Franco’s has managed to create a bistro-like feel in an unconventional setting.

On this initial visit, we decided to stick with the pizza. It was Napolitan style — thin-crusted and slightly charred. We ordered the pizza margherita, and it was scrumptious. Because the pizza was terrific, and I found out that the chef is from my family’s region in Italy (Salerno), I made it a point to go back for another visit to check out some of the other dishes.
On our second visit, we decided to do a typical Italian three-course meal but family style, so that everyone could share.

For antipasti, we tried the shrimp oreganato and the eggplant parmigiana. Everyone was really pleased with the eggplant parmigiana, which featured baked layers of fried, breaded eggplant, mozzarella, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. The four shrimp were tasty but were fairly small and rested on a thin layer of coagulated butter and oil.

For our second course, we ordered two pastas – penne ala vodka and pappardelle al porcini. The pappardelle was cooked perfectly and done with a delicious, rich, smoky, earthy porcini and truffle-oil sauce. The penne ala vodka was also delicious. The pasta disappeared quickly, and the plates were wiped clean using a traditional Italian custom referred to as “fare la scarpetta” — mopping up the sauce on the plate with a tiny piece of bread. The bread, by the way, was excellent.

The third course was the fresh Florida red snapper ala Livornese, featuring a marinara tomato sauce with olives and capers. The sauce was perfect, but the fish was overdone and slightly mushy. After a few bites, we quickly lost interest in the dish.

Our dessert, homemade tiramisu, did not disappoint. It was luscious and flavorful, with all the right components, such as fresh whipped cream and Kahlua-soaked lady fingers.

Appetizers, salads and soups at Franco’s range from $7 to $15. Entrees are priced between $15 (penne pomodoro) to $29 (pounded veal chop Parmigiana style), and desserts are all $8.

The problem with Franco’s on both visits was the service. It is slow, and the wait staff was somewhat inexperienced. Both times we sat outside, and it was busy – but that does not excuse poor service.

Franco’s Bistro is located at 10160 W. Forest Hill Boulevard, Suite 130, in Wellington, and it can be reached at 561-615-1551. It’s open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays and on Sundays starting at 4 p.m.

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