Dining etiquette requires one to use a soupspoon for gazpacho, a dessertspoon for crème brûlée, and chopsticks for fitting in when dining with walrus. Learn to harness an arsenal of utensils with today's Groupon: for $20, you get $40 worth of continental cuisine and drinks during dinner at Café Ponte in Clearwater.
Café Ponte, touting a Golden Spoon and a Zagat rating as one of the top area restaurants, parades a menu of adventurous dishes studded with European and Asian influences. Executive chef Chris Ponte draws upon training at the Cordon Bleu institute in Paris as he anchors down tablecloths with appetizers including a bisque, which wafts creamy, curry-infused currents of pumpkin and crab around shitake-mushroom buoys ($7.50). Yukon-potato-encrusted Chilean sea bass romps through a field of leeks and sugar snap peas ($33) like an off-duty scarecrow, and revved-up taste buds accelerate toward butternut-squash ravioli with tart apple and hazelnut brown-butter sauce ($18). Polite eaters do handstands to enjoy the upside-down chocolate soufflé with tahitian-vanilla-bean ice cream ($9), and coffees and postmeal martinis lobby diners from pulpits beneath cut flowers and contemporary art.
After graduating Johnson & Wales University in 1991, chef Christopher Ponte began his career at Pepper Mill Restaurant. The chef had been accommodating special requests for one of Pepper Mill Restaurant's picky patrons for many months. It always took extra work to conjure up off-menu items, but Christopher didn't complain. He loved cooking. One day, the customer asked to meet the chef, and Christopher obligingly came to greet him at the table. As conversation casually flowed, the elderly gentleman asked, "What would the young man like to do in the future?" Without hesitation, Christopher said, "Study in France."
Mere months later, thanks to the patronage of one very happy customer and Long Island retiree, Christopher Ponte enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute, one of France's most iconic schools. He made excellent use of his time there—including apprenticing at Paris's Taillevent. Chef Ponte returned stateside to apprentice with Daniel Boulud at his self-titled restaurant, Daniel.
With this wealth of experience, in 2002, Chef Ponte opened Café Ponte. Awarded a Golden Spoon and a Zagat rating as one of the top area restaurants, his unabashedly adventuresome menu sizzles with European and Asian influences. The 250-seat dining room hosts its guests at intimate tabletops or a zigzag bar, which serves seasonal cocktails and fine wines from an eclectic wine list.