Ernie’s Italian Chophouse (Lighthouse Point)

Posted on March 25th, 2012 · American Italian Lighthouse Point

***** Ernie’s Italian Chophouse, 3150 North Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point, Florida 33064, (954) 781-0910.

The last time I checked–Jeff Eats had been in something like 260 different South Florida Italian restaurants. Math was never my strong suit, suffice it to say, that equates to a whole lot of pizzas, pastas, veal parms, eggplants, chicken cacciatores…Now nothing for nothing, the truth be told, the exact details about any-one particular “meal” is probably just a hazy memory.

Anyway…last night I gave 6 week old Ernie’s Italian Chophouse in Lighthouse Point a shot. By the way, I’m familar with Ernie’s location, in that over the years–it has housed several restaurants like Giulio Cesare Italiano Ristorante. The point I’m gonna make here, is that the “restaurant” that I knew, has been totally reconfigured-remodeled. Just so you know, when you walk into Ernie’s there is a separate bar area where you can eat–then walking a short corridor, there is a second room for dining with a pass-through window that allows you to watch the “chefs” work. The walls are white, there is a handful of “modern” scultpures on the walls, and both rooms have blue wall lights that give the joint an upscale South Beach look. From the decor, there is absolutely no tipoff as to the what type of food dominates the menu. For the record, Mrs. Jeff Eats and the couple we were with loved the decor—personally, I thought the lighting was too dark and the walls on the boring side—and since this blog is called Jeff Eats, I win! By the way, the joint’s website in addition to menu/prices has a few dining room photos, so you’ll see what the controversy is all about.

Now let me tell you about Ernie’s food.

The menu is not exactly huge, but there are enough appetizers, salads, pastas, Italian entrees, steaks/chops, desserts—so nobody is going to go home hungry.

At the top of this “review” I told you guys how I’ve been in so many Italian joints–that a haze has set in…well let me tell you, I will absolutely positively remember Ernie’s Italian Chophouse’s food. Let me make this as simple as I can, the chicken on-the-bone scarpariello that I “tried” was probably the best that I’ve ever eaten. Other entrees consummed- veal parmigiana, chicken milanase, broiled veal chop were absolutely top-notch—appetizers – meatballs, fried calamari were delicious and Caesar and fenel/beets/arguela salads were real good. For desserts, we stuffed our faces with in-house-made cannoli, flourless chocolate cake and cheesecake—I really enjoyed all three, but the cannoli and chocolate cake were worth the price of admission alone.

Let me sum the food up this way…this was one of the best Italian outings I have had in South Florida.

Now we- talk, prices and service. The prices aren’t neighborhood pizza joint prices—but surprisingly this “white table” cloth joint didn’t burn us. Now I’m just thumb nailing this–but maybe the whole shooting match was 7-8 bucks a head more than pizza joint fare. Trust me here, your favorite neighborhood pizza joint in a million years doesn’t come close to the goods that Ernie’s is turning out. On service–think competent “sports bar” folks and you got the picture. Just a thought, if Ernie’s makes fresh pasta daily, don’t you think that-should be used as a selling point? Or maybe that the salads and sides are big enough to feed two maybe even three people. Well I do! I will tell you- owner Ernie was all over the joint–visiting- from what I saw every table and trying his best to make sure that the kitchen and servers were doing shall we say…the right thing. Now, being a kind hearted soul, Jeff Eats is going to mix into the equation the fact that Ernie’s has only been open for something like 6 weeks.

By the way, for those of you who maybe wondering…yes, Ernie’s is located in a non-descript half empty South Florida strip center so parking was a snap.

I really enjoyed Ernie’s Italian Chophouse.

On a final note, every so often Jeff Eats finds a joint that has a shot at being a home run. Look, I’m not trying to tell Ernie what to do because I got no skin in this game… But, if you ask me…if he gets his service up to snuff and pipes in some tunes by guys like Frank Sinatra, Jerry Vale, Steve Lawrence and doo wop groups—The Duprees, The Passions and The Skyliners he’ll get a vibe going that will have the joint constantly packed.

Ernie’s is open Monday-Thursday 5:30pm-10:30pm, Friday-Saturday 5:30pm-11pm, Sunday 5pm-10pm.

36 Comments to “Ernie’s Italian Chophouse (Lighthouse Point)”

  1. GS says...

    Is it worth a drive from Boca?

  2. Buddy says...

    Looked at their menu and it appears a bit pricey.
    Also looked at dining room photo. I can see where you are coming from with that blue light thing.

  3. Sharon R says...

    My husband I ate there last week.
    Like you we had been there when it had a different look and layout. For me don’t like the two setup and the blue lights make the room way too dark. We ate in the back and the chairs and table setup wasn’t at all comfortable. The place look wise has some potential but the cool thing they are trying convey just misses. As for the food it was good. As for the waiter we had he really didn’t know the menu. Can’t believe that he didn’t even bother to mention that the pastas are made in house. You are right on your sports bar comment. On prices they could have been a drop lower. The food was good but based this time won’t be running back so fast to Ernie’s.

  4. AB says...

    My wife and I shared osso bucco and a meatball appetizer. Both were excellent. We also had the chocolate cake and it was delicious. The service needs some work. The layout is okay.

  5. GT says...

    Jeff: You’re good, you’re good.
    I have lived in Boca for over 35 years. I’ve see Italian joints come and go in the area like flies.
    I tried Ernie’s after reading a rave review in the Sun Sentinel and others in Open Table.
    Ernie’s has a shot to become a very popular restaurant. The food was terrific. What the guy has to is get the service up to the same level. You called it right as being sports bar quality.
    If Ernie gets that done he will have a restaurant with reservations out the wazoo.

  6. RR says...

    Best chicken scarp around. Somehow they make it crisp on the outside and moist on th inside. The sausage in the dish was just right not too sweet with just enough kick to make you know that you were eating it. The chef Gary knows his stuff.

    If Ernie plays it right he’s going to catch a really cool crowd that’s going to hang at the bar and do some heavy duty eating and drinking.

    Marx missed with Dino’s down the road. Went for his investors’ lungs but the food just doesn’t cut it. Ernie’s can be what Maxx isn’t a cool place.

    Ernie if you are reading this, Jeff is right get the service Up to par, play some Sinatra, Martin and doo wop music in there and you’ll get a good vibe going.

  7. PRT says...

    Jeff: you have the pulse of the area.
    pelligrino’s in boca owned by rao nephew bobby has old juke box with doo wop etc. they also have live keyboardist.
    Pete’s buena sera in parkland has live music.
    Problem with both is overpriced and full of themselves with just passable food.
    I ate at Ernie’s and the food was excellent.
    Service not professional.
    If Ernie follo a couple of your suggestions he could have a huge i winner.

  8. A Customer says...

    Been there a few times and I can’t agree more about the music. It seems like every time something fresh was put on, 5 minutes later the hostess kept changing it back to this boring satellite radio station. Service was good.

  9. LL says...

    Did you read the Take 2 Dining column in the Sentinel on 3/21? There was a rave review by David Dipino.

    • Ronny says...

      You guys don’t really rely on the Sun Sentinel, do you? Dipino and Tanasychuk are tools for local PR firms. Dipino just did a “rave review” of Prime in Delray which is one of the worst restaurants ever opened. Notice that all CarmaPR and Gab Group clients get rave reviews. Those guys have no credibility.

      Unless you just want to be a gullible fool of course

  10. JeffEats says...


    Just had a chance to read your comments.

    Yes, I read the review. It was so favorable, that it could have been written by Ernie himself or maybe even his mother.

    I really got a kick out of DiPino telling his readers that he was with his fiancĂ©e and then a few lines later referring to her as his date. Don’t know the first thing about the guy, but I’ll betcha lunch that I got ties older than he is.

    DiPino definitely spotted that Chef Gary Wood knows what he is doing. As I described, the food was right on the money. Now I could be wrong here, but his calling Ernie’s a fine dining restaurant totally misses the mark as to what Ernie and Chef Gary Wood are trying to create.

    If you take a look at my review, if the joint’s waitstaff was more shall we say old school…like the one at Matteo’s in Boca and the music was more –for lack of a better word Mobbed-Up, Ernie’s would be a dynamite cool place to eat and drink. For right now, it’s got great food, but lacks STYLE that would make it an “IN” joint.

    The term “fine dining” may mean one thing to DiPino and something totally different to me. Unless I’m dead wrong here, my money says that Ernie is trying to have a joint just like the ones that dotted Bronx and Brooklyn something like 25-30 years ago.

    Sorry I can’t be more specific in explaining what makes these joints special, but when you are in one, you know something special is going on . With that in mind, a little waitstaff tinkering and fine tuning the music and Ernie will have one of them.

    Thanks for reading…

    • Peter w says...

      Jeff Eats:
      You hit the nail on the head.
      Ernie’s could be an amazing place.
      Pellegrino’s when it was Deerfield had the vibe and style to go along with great food. Right now it’s trying to recreate all of that at a new Boca location.
      Buena Sera in Parkland has a huge crowd. For many it has the vibe and style. For me, the food stinks and is way overpriced.
      I’ve eaten in Ernie’s. The food is excellent.
      The two room layout lends itself to interesting possibilities.
      You are right, the waiters have to be retooled. Nothing stuffy, but professional and really know the menu. You are also right, that Matteo’s has the right kind of staff.
      Play the right kind of music and people will lineup to get in.
      For right now, delicious food but that’s about it.

  11. Mark Klein says...

    good food.
    not too terrible prices.
    amateurish service.

  12. mitchell robbins says...

    Was looking for a rest in the area so I stop in at Ernies…..and was i suprised. Food was EXCELLENT. Enjoyed my black grouper and side dish of pasta. Also had the beet salad which has to be the best around. I will be back and I am sure many times.

  13. LEE says...

    You got this one figured just right.
    Was in there for dinner the other night.
    Food is very good.
    Those blue lights make you think that you are on a dam spaceship.
    The service tries but they don’t have a cool professional sense to them.
    Prices are okay.
    If Ernie gets waiters up to par and throws in some real cool mood music he may have a winner.
    Problem I see is that if he doesn’t move fast enough, the location may do him in.

  14. trank w says...

    The meatballs and octopus were among the best I ever had. The service was fine and the decor and music were both OK. We really enjoyed this restaurant

  15. HARVEY says...

    Ate there last night.
    Food was okay but not great.
    Service is lousy. Waiters really don’t know the menu and aren’t very attentive.
    On decor, you are right, that blue light light walls is very boring.

  16. WS2011 says...

    Jeff, tried Ernie’s. Food was very good. He should listen to your advice because the blue lighting isn’t good and the service is a group of sports bar type help.

  17. Johnny21 says...

    Ernie if you are reading this.
    You got good food. Your service doesn’t fit the place. You need pros not guys who are guessing.
    You don’t have the best of locations so get problems taken care right away.

  18. Johnny F says...

    Ate there this evening. The chicken scarpariello was the best I’ve eaten anywhere. Not exactly sure how they make it but it’s crisp on the outside, tender and moist inside with a fabulous sauce. The sausages that come with the dish are sweet but not too sweet. Just right. My wife had the osso buffo and it was also delicious. Throw in great canolis and great house salad and the meal was a huge success. On service just right and the prices very reasonable for large portions and great quality. Loved Ernie’s.

  19. JN says...

    After reading Jeff Eats my husband and I tried Ernie’s. By far and away one of the best Italian restaurants we have been to.
    A real winner.

  20. XtraLean says...

    The chicken scrap is excellent.
    Can’t recall whe I’ve eaten a better version of this dish.

    • PETE says...

      Agree with you.
      Their chicken scrapiello is the best that I’ve eaten. It’s crisp and the sauce is sensational.

  21. DEDE says...

    Hey Jeff:
    Ate there food is very good.
    Prices a bit on the high side.
    Not a good location.
    If I was a betting man Ernie’s won’t make it. The location is too weak.

  22. frank w says...

    Did takeout on the amazing chicken scarp last night. . No blue lights, bad music, and bad service. 20% less and we ate in the comfort of our own home. Huge portion for $36.

  23. JeffEats says...

    frank w:

    Just had a chance to read your comments.

    Had dinner (#2) at Ernie’s with another couple about 3 weeks ago. Mrs. Jeff Eats and her girlfriend shared the chicken scarpariello. I had a cowboy steak and the girlfriend’s husband had the chicken parmigiana. Being the “food critic” I of course tried each dish and I gotta tell you that the scarpariello is outstanding. My steak was as good as the stuff served at the best upscale steak joints. The chicken parmigiana was also very good. Ernie send out cannolis, cheesecake and coffees. Even if they weren’t on the house, the desserts were first rate.
    Service was good.
    The blue lights still aren’t my bag.
    Unless I’m mistaken, no music was playing when we were there.

    Thanks for reading…

  24. Donny B. says...

    Hey Jeff, just read online a new rave review by the Sun Sentinel. They loved Ernie’s and gave it 4 stars.

  25. TT says...

    My wife and I have eaten there 3 times with a different couple. Everyone us agreed that the food is some of the best around.
    As for service first time out a bit shakes, last 2 times very knowledgeable and professional.
    We highly recommend Ernie’s.

  26. Manny T. says...

    The Sun Sentinel has now done three terrific reviews on Ernie’s. The latest one today will get the crowds who read the Friday paper pouring in.
    Jeff you were one of the first to spot Ernie’s.
    My family has been there 4 times and each time it was excellent.
    I think that the latest review is going to take our exclusive place away from us.
    Ernie’s deserves the crowds because its that good.

  27. Awq says...

    Ate there.
    Loved the food.
    Service was okay but not great.

  28. simon says...

    Food is very good.
    Service is good.
    Problem I see, Ernie’s is too expensive for Lighthouse location.
    If you really want to get into it, the location is extremely weak.
    Ernie’s should get the prices down asap.

  29. Alan says...

    Sorry, but I completely disagree with all the glowing reviews above. We just had dinner at Ernie’s and it was poor. The carpaccio was dry and so-so, the osso bucco underseasoned and tasteless with clumpy risotto that had some undercooked hard parts in it, and a ricotta cheesecake which was missing the cheese and tasted like sponge cake. Even the capuccino’s espresso was bitter. Pricing is reasonable and service was good, but food quality is severely lacking and there is next to no ambience with lots of bare walls.

  30. frank w says...

    Had diner there again last night with another couple and every meal was over the top outstanding. Pelligrino’s was our favorite Italian now we’ll only come here. Service has vastly improved.

  31. DoaNed says...

    very poor service

  32. MOMO says...

    Jeff Eats:
    Food is terrific.
    Service is like you indicated lacking.
    The decor like you indicated is boring.
    A few changes here and there could make Ernie’s a big winner.
    By the way, your review was far more accurate than the 4 stars the sun sentinel gave them.
    There is no way in hell that Ernie’s is a 4 starrer with that waitstaff. They just arent professional enough.
    Based on the food I’ll be back and hopefully Ernie gets the whole show working.

  33. Rob says...

    Usually restaurants with good food don’t go out of business in a year.

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