A lonely fire flickers in the night, punctuating the vast expanse of Brazil’s southern plains. A spitted side of Nelore beef roasts over the flames; from that famed beast and this timeless fireside scene, Nelore Churrascaria takes its name, recipes, and spirit.
Nelore Churrascaria’s chefs draw inspiration from the gauchos of South America, piling plates high with carvings of 15 spit-roasted meats. The spirit of the southern plains remains alive and well in the dining room, where wrought-iron chandeliers and a dark hardwood floor evoke rustic elegance as a warm breeze filters in through the front doors. Veggies, fine cheeses, and pastas fill more than 40 basins at the salad bar, whose glistening glass protects the trays from grazing cattle and errant horseshoe tosses.
Living up to your dad's legacy can be tough when your dad was George Steinbrenner's go-to guy. Malio Iavarone often hosted "The Boss" during his tenure as the Yankees manager, serving him steaks at the original Malio's Steakhouse on South Dale Mabry. Today, Malio's son Derek works to produce similar hype at a new, swankier location in Rivergate Tower, where the one-word difference in the venue's name—"Prime" hints at the USDA Prime beef cooked within—belies the recipes’ faithful adherence to tradition.
Each steak, from the New York strip to the filet, receives a simple yet meticulously scattered dash of salt and pepper. Couples can even go all-out with a 40-oz. prime porterhouse for two, admittedly a more filling romantic dinner than catching and swallowing each other’s blown kisses. Aside from tender cuts of beef, the menu at Malio's boasts lamb and veal chops as well as lobster tails and Chilean sea bass cooked several ways, including blackened, Theresa-style, and pan-fried.
Like the patrons who like their steaks rare, Malio’s Prime Steakhouse seems enamored with the color red. Broad red columns stand between the windows overlooking the waterfront, and framed works by Joe Testa-Secca—Art Professor Emeritus at the University of Tampa—hang over the crimson semicircular booths. The reds from a list of more than 200 wines complete the motif.
Yuki Japanese Steakhouse satisfies wanderlustful taste buds with a tantalizing spread of authentic international fare in a family-friendly dining environment. Set sail toward appetizer island with the seaweed salad ($5) or head straight for dinner bay with the beef katsu, a breaded culet fried to a crunchy crisp and served with rice and vegetables ($17.95). Fresh sushi options include the Mexican roll, curled up with fried shrimp, smelt, avocado and mayo ($5.50), and the Rainbow roll, which cleverly combines the flavors of seven different types of fish with refracted ultraviolet light ($8.50). Harrowing hungers find a three-course solution with the filet mignon and scallops-teppan dinner, served with soup, salad, veggies, and rice ($21.95).
Dale Del Bello remembers everything about his first hibachi experience. While stationed in Korea as a part of the Air Force National Guard, Dale and a group of friends visited Tokyo on leave. They followed a traditional route among his fellow service people, which took him to a hibachi restaurant. Immediately he sensed that he’d stumbled upon more than just dinner. The chefs’ showmanship fascinated him as they seared meats and vegetables on their tabletop grills, allowing guests to sample forkfuls directly off the 600-degree surface. After returning to Buffalo, New York, in 1971, Dale opened his first Arigato location, attempting to recreate what made that dining experience so remarkable. Since then, he has distilled the authentic experience into something that families can enjoy without traveling abroad, establishing Arigato restaurants throughout New York and Florida and staffing them with more than 60 chefs from Japan.
Surrounded by 8–10 diners, these chefs act not only as the restaurant’s culinary creators, but also as showmen and magicians of sorts, dexterously slicing ingredients, flipping shrimp tails into their hats, and conjuring soy sauce out of thin air. Away from the flaming tabletops, meanwhile, bartenders make use of their own skill sets as they mix specialty cocktails, which occasionally use splashes of plum wine or sake to imbue familiar-sounding drinks with new dimension.