Italian Red Sauce (Sunrise)

Posted on September 30th, 2012 · Italian Sunrise

***** Italian Red Sauce, 3828 North University Drove, Sunrise, Florida 33351, (954) 533-8347.

On September 21, 2012, the Sun Sentinel gave Italian Red Sauce a terrific-4 star-rave review…

Last night, Jeff Eats tried Italian Red Sauce…and let me start by saying, “I knew John Kennedy and you sir are no John Kennedy”…maybe 2 1/2 stars, but 4 stars…give me a freaking break.

In order to be a 4 star restaurant you gotta have great food—the food was OK but great, not even close…you gotta have professional-competent waiters and managers—not a staff running around like chickens without heads…you gotta “timely” serve the food—not bring entrees out at different times…you gotta have a wait staff that knows the menu…you gotta have dishes that when served have the same “ingredients” as those listed on the menu…you can’t have a delicious house salad and fried zucchini- followed by a lousy veal ala romana and just passable chicken scarpariello and pastas.

Look! Italian Red Sauce has only been open for something like 6 weeks.

Trust me, I definitely saw “potential.” After speaking with Al the owner, I “even” think that with some work, Italian Red Sauce has a shot to develop into a half-way decent joint. That said, the restaurant that Jeff Eats ate in last night is not even close to being top-notch. Now, I might be going out on a limb here, but I “think” that the Sun Sentinel’s rave review may have actually hurt this joint–rather than helped it. If you look at the customer- reviews on “Open Table”—they are all pretty positive BEFORE the Sun Sentinel review came out…and they are all pretty negative AFTER the Sun Sentinel review came out. What Jeff Eats thinks happened here is…Italian Red Sauce which is basically brand-new was “getting its act” together before the review…the review–resulted in tons of people trying this new restaurant when it REALLY wasn’t ready to handle heavy-crowds…

Anyway…the Sun Sentinel’s 9/21/12 review is re-printed below for your enjoyment.

Let me close by saying, that unless “something” went terribly wrong at Italian Red Sauce during the 8-days since critic Danny Sanchez wrote his review (and, above I have given you that “scenario”)…Jeff Eats wouldn’t trust this guy’s opinion as far as I could throw him.
Italian Red Sauce: Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy

At Alfonso Ceparano’s Italian Red Sauce, the personality is as big as the food.
(Courtesy Italian Red Sauce )

September 21, 2012|By Danny Sanchez, Sun Sentinel

A big, bold restaurant name such as “Italian Red Sauce comes with a large personality in the form of owner Alfonso Ceparano. The hulk of a man, a New Yorker with the accent to prove it, roams the restaurant in a black suit shirt and tie as he chats with patrons, pats shoulders and shakes hands.
The restaurant’s decor matches his distinct taste and life experience. When you first walk in, you’ll see a wall with more than two dozen old photographs of Ceparano’s large family. To the left, one wall is a re-creation of the pope’s residence in Vatican City. Immediately in front is a large glass dessert counter with a mini bakery of cheesecakes, cannolis and more. The main dining area features a 1940s-style facade of storefronts, like something you’d see as you roam Main Street USA at Walt Disney World or in the waterfront area near the “Jaws” ride at Universal Studios. The faux storefronts are reminiscent of Little Italy, with “Raffa’s Italian Bread” advertising “Italian bread and biscuits,” or “Ashley’s Fine Dining” with little white embroidered drapes. But behind some of the dining room’s windows is the real deal: the Red Sauce chefs working in view of the dining room as they grill meats and prepare pastas.

Those people who exalt the motifs of white vinyl furniture and trendy, wildly colored glass lamps may roll their eyes at the restaurant’s design. Others, such as those in our camp, will delight in roaming the restaurant. Regardless, we quickly forgot we were in suburban Sunrise due to the whimsical decor, lack of exterior windows and the music of crooners such as Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra playing overhead. Our only knock on the settings: The acoustics inside can make the dining area get louder than usual, so you may want to request sitting at one of the more-sequestered tables if available.

Most plates here are divided into two options: a single portion that feeds one to two and a family-size portion that feeds about three to four. As our appetizers arrived, it was time to see if the restaurant’s name was more than an idle boast.

A solid start is the “fritto all ‘Italiana” ($12.95/$20.95), a mix of fried appetizers including a potato croquet, rice ball, fried mozzarella and polenta. As advertised, the accompanying red sauce is delicious, mildy sweet with a thin but slightly grainy texture that had us lapping it up with a spoon.

Meatballs with an enormous dollop of ricotta cheese in a pool of red sauce ($12.95/$22.95) rank favorably on my list of favorite local meatballs, with their dense, meaty flavor. You really don’t want to miss the eggplant Parmesan ($12.95/$21.95), rich with mozzarella and an unlikely appetizer offering. Just roll with it.

Another sure bet is the Red Sauce-style house salad ($10.95/$16.95), featuring Asiago cheese and roasted red peppers that practically sing with the house dressing.

Left nearly full from the large appetizers, we were enticed anew when the entrees arrived.

If you try nothing else at this restaurant, go for the homemade gnocchi with braised short ribs and Parmesan cheese ($17.95/$32.95). The short ribs were like meaty butter accompanied by nearly-as-wonderful homemade pasta. This is the dish I’d drive back here for.

Another great option is the “gamberoni gratinati” ($22.95/$39.95), shrimp breaded with light spices and baked to a flavorful, buttery consistency that we seldom find in restaurants. Chicken Parmesan ($16.95/$27.95) is solid and straightforward in its preparation, far upstaged by the other offerings. Tagliatelle pasta with stuffed beef, pecorino cheese and pine nuts ($17.95/$32.95) is a tasty but polarizing dish due to the heavy amounts of garlic. What really shined in this dish was the exceptional quality of the pasta.

Finally, it was time to get to what we’d all been hankering for since we walked past that pastry counter by the door. Tiramisu ($6.50) was heavy on the cocoa and cinnamon, but extremely moist and tantalizing. Chocolate sponge cake ($6.50) is a surefire choice for the table, with its lovely flavor and impressive presentation of swirled cream. We asked the server to make the third dessert a surprise, and he emerged with cream puffs with white cream filling topped with a luscious, creamy zabaglione sauce that had us melting at the table.

For its homey yet highly professional Italian hospitality, its numerous crowd-pleasing dishes and some big personality to match its big plates, Italian Red Sauce is a most-welcome addition to a region that could use many more great restaurants.

Italian Red Sauce

3828 N. University Drive, Sunrise


Cuisine: Italian, family-style

Cost: Moderate-expensive

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m. Sunday

Reservations: Recommended

Bar: Full service

Sound level: Loud

Outside smoking: No

For kids: Highchairs, no kids’ menu

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

45 Comments to “Italian Red Sauce (Sunrise)”

  1. JOE Y says...

    Jeff, My wife and I ate there. They give you a lot of food. The prices aren’t bad. The food is fair. The service is lousy. It took forever to get our food. Waiters were bringing wrong dishes to tables. We went there based on the Sun Sentinel and to the say the least we were very disappointed. It’s a cute looking place. The owner spent some real cash building the restaurant.

  2. BOB G says...

    Read Open Table, the reviews went downhill right after the review appeared. bet the restaurant got overwhelmed with people coming because of the article.

  3. Linda Jensen says...

    Sanchez calls this a great restaurant. He must be nuts.
    The food is strictly theme park quality and the service is terrible.
    Sanchez should be ashamed of himself.

  4. GSS says...

    I love red sauce joints.
    Italian Red Sauce isn’t very good.
    It looks like a chain operation and is very poorly run.
    Our waiter seemed to disappear and we had to ask other waiters and bus boys for help.
    Not exactly sure where Sanchez gets his owner being a hands on operator info from. Never saw the owner in our section during the entire meal.

  5. RRA says...

    Red Sauce stinks.
    Sanchez knows nothing.
    What a pitiful review.

  6. HTF says...

    My wife and I and another couple ate there last night. We got there at 8 pm.
    First impressions is that it’s a fun looking place.
    We enjoyed are salad and meatball appetizers.
    Our chicken parm main dish was fair but our chicken scarp didn’t have sausage in it and there were no wings or thighs. There was mostly legs which is probably the cheapest way to do this dish. It tasted okay but nothing special. Our penne ala vodka was good.
    The big problem was the kitchen was very slow in getting the food out.
    We also noticed waiters bringing dishes to wrong tables all night.
    Personally this restaurant was ok but it was run very amateurish.
    We wish the owner well but we won’t be back .

  7. PL says...

    This guy Al is going to lose his shirt. The food isn’t good, the service is lousy nd the location is for sheet.
    Just watch.

  8. Scotty says...

    Give Al a break….. My party of 6 ate there Friday night and the food was pretty good. Nice atmosphere, huge portions, we were greeted well and if there was any issue the staff took care of it. The restaurant has been open a total of 7 weeks, let’s see if they fix any problems you guys have stated. This is not Cafe Monteranos, but it also doesn’t have Monteranos prices, wait or attitude. South Florida restauranteur’s I feel so sorry for; customers are so quick to turn their backs. I try to support the little guys that put their heart and soul into opening and running their restaurants, not the chain guys count you as a number……

    • PL says...

      This restaurant isn’t very good.
      Small guy big guy, when a customer pays his or her money he is suppose to get good food and service.
      This restaurant is just a ball of confusion.

      • Scotty says...

        I am sure you were an expert in your business after 7 weeks, right Copernicus?? Typical South Florida guy, everything is bad and you are perfect.

        • PL says...

          Scotty baby honey,
          so the guy was only open 7 weeks.
          so where’s my discount?
          when i eat in a restaurant its not suppose to be my problem that the guy isnt ready for prime time. and if he isnt he should have a sign that says NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME so you get 50% off your bill because i cant give you what you are entitled to.
          get it?

          • Scotty says...

            Of course, I knew you would turn to “where is my free meal”; typical of your kind, always asking what is for free. Where did you get your rocket science degree, Kmart or Zayre?

          • PL says...

            i dont know about you, but i work very hard for money.
            if you pay a mechanic to fix your car, you expect it to be fixed the right way.
            if you go to a lawyer you expect him to do the right job for you. if i use your theories, if i go to a lawyer and i end up in prison and he tells me, look, im only out of school 7 weeks, so i’ll get better.
            this restaurant isnt very good. maybe it will get better, but when i walked in the door with MY MONEY i’m entitled to get the right thing, i’m not suppose to be letting the guy practice on me.
            you really arent very bright are you?

          • Scotty says...

            pl, if you don’t like the place then don’t set foot in there again. We will just have to have a quality meal without you. Just what restaurants do you believe are outstanding or are you one of those guys that can only be critical and throw hate at? By the way, are any of them 7 weeks old?? I doubt it.

    • JIMMY THE WHISTLER says...

      Hey Scott,
      I know Italian food.
      At one time or another I’ve had owned 7 Italian restaurants.
      I tried this one.
      This restaurant plays on an Olive Garden level, but Olive Garden has better prices and help.
      No matter how you spin it my friend, this restaurant isn’t very good.
      I really do wish the owner well.
      I know he went for a bundle building the place.
      If I was this guy, I would get an experienced restaurant partner in there right a way.
      From what I could see, the managers had no clue as to what was going on.
      From the food, somebody in that kitchen needs some serious help.

      • Scotty says...

        Jimmy, by the way Olive Garden has over 750 locations and have raised millions of doallars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I have a feeling they are more successful in the restaurant business then you. If you were smart enough to be the founder of Olive Garden, I have a feeling you would be “whistling” a different tune…..

    • RRA says...

      So let me understand this.
      Scotty wants to give the owner a pass on lousy food and crap service because he’s only been open 7 weeks.
      I don’t think so.

      • Shalom says...

        2 1/2 stars from Jeff and 4 stars from the Sun-Sentinel equals “lousy food” you truly are an idiot. Go get some Checkers and get a life…..

  9. Louie says...

    I have eaten here 5 times including a family dinner following my wedding and have enjoyed the service and food each and every time. I will continue to eat and support this place because it’s good. This will be my last visit to Jeff eats website as it has deteriorated into a bully pulpit, what was once a fairly good site about food has turned into a political wanna be hack site. whatever Jeff says his legion of blind followers pile on. One person has said they enjoyed the food and they start to pile on them. No need to pile on me as I won’t be reading your mindless, pointless followups. Get a life and make your own independent minds.

    • HNB says...

      Louie: Too bad you won’t be reading this.
      Italian Red Sauce is a mediocre restaurant.
      Like many others here, the Sun Sentinel review got me in the door.
      My experience is as follows.
      It was this past Friday night.
      We were seated promptly at 7:30pm.
      The restaurant is looks like very nice.
      My party of four ordered a chopped salad which was delicious.
      My party also ordered a fried zuchinni appetizer which was also delicious.
      My wife and I ordered for 2 the bone is chicken scarpiello. The other couple ordered the veal parm. For the table we ordered a penne ala vodka.
      After finishing our salads and appetizer we waited almost 40 minutes and after much complaining they finally brought out our chicken. It took another 15 minutes for our friends main dish to come out, same for the pasta. The menu said that the chicken scarpiello came with sausage and broccoli, which in our dish were nowhere to be seen. Throw in the fact that the dish was 95% legs and it was obvious that the kitchen had no idea ho to make this dish. Our friends veal was tough and they really didnt enjoy it. The penne was okay butwe all agreed that we had eaten much better.
      Our waiter disappeared for long periods and the managers and owner never even once came over to the table to apolgize for anything.
      While eating, we saw waiters bringing food to the wrong tables and we also saw waiters with dishes who didnt even know where to bring them.
      Think about this, this restauarnt has only been open 7 weeks and youve been there 5 times. Give me a break. There is absolutely no reason to eat in a restaurant like this that is just fair at best.
      Dont read Jeff Eats, no big deal. He calls it just like it really is.
      This restaurant wont be around for too much longer.
      You obviously dont know what decent food and service is all about.

    • sheryl k says...

      louie, if you think that this restaurant is good i’d hate to see what you consider a bad restaurant. red sauce isnt even close to being a good restaurant. you probably were impressed by the disney like storefronts and the amusement park quality food. be a smart guy and listen to jeff and he’ll steer you to good places not restaurants that serve average at best food and have inferior service.

    • Dean K says...

      Five times?
      Your wife married a dope,

  10. bobby james says...

    saw this on yelp, exactly what jeff said.

    had reservation had to wait about 15 minutes, hostess was very sweet, sat down waited 15 minutes for drink order and bread, food was terrible un eatable, the owner came over we told him ,he said the place is new and they are very busy in the kitchen.the manager was very nice but could do nothing, owner also was very nice but must get his act together to make this place good. they got 4 stars from the sun sentinel i dont know how? over all nice people trying to run a restaurant, need experience people good food to make it too many better places to go to.

    Was this review …?

  11. Joe Benito says...

    I’m going to bet that I you and I got underwear older than this guy Sanchez.
    I know for sure that I’ve eaten in more Italian joints than he has, because I’m Italian, originally from Brooklyn and have eaten literally in hundreds of them.
    His review is like a kid who got all excited by seeing some desserts in a display case when he walked in this joint.
    I ate there last week.
    It’s nothing special. Really just that simple.
    It looks like a chain design with its phony storefronts.
    The food at Olive Garden is better.
    The joint’s got a bunch of rookie waiters who dont know anything about Italian food no less good service.
    I wish the owner lots of luck but I dont see this one last too long.
    Having read you for a long time I know that you know good and you got to know that this joint ain’t good.
    I agree with your Sun Sentinel having loaded the poor bastard down with new customers than he could really handle.
    I did notice one of the waiters Vinny is from Matteo’s. Vinny use to be in mgt so just maybe he knows something and can help this Al fellow out.
    As for Sanchez, I can’t believe they pay a guy to write stories like the one he cooked up on this joint.

  12. ET says...

    Laughing my ass off here.
    I really can’t believe that some people here think that because a restaurant is new you the customer are required to cut them slack for poor food and poor service.
    If a restaurant can’t perform you shouldn’t have to pay them or pay them less.

  13. GDA says...

    When our food didn’t come out our waiter said, I’m really sorry, the kitchen got slammed.
    We won’t be back.

    • Shalom says...

      If you want quick, McDonald’s has a fish sandwich with your name on it. You can even hold the cheese……..

      • GDA says...

        Shalom, better QUICK than TAKES FOREVER.
        The service stinks.

        • Scotty says...

          See you in the drive thru lane

  14. TheLawyer says...

    You go to a lawyer. He loses your DUI case and you go to jail. The lawyer says he would have done better but he really doesn’t have too much experience because he’s only been out of school 7 Weeks. And you say to him, don’t worry I’ll sit in jail but next time I get a DUI you’ll be better prepared.
    Some of you people here are amazingly stupid.

  15. Gail says...

    I honestly have no clue what you guys are talking about. Italian red sauce is one of the most original restaurants I’ve been too. They are dedicated to their costumers pleasures. And they actually really care. Sure their are some kinks in the system that they will fix. The restaurant has only been open for 7 weeks! If you want to make a real review go their at least 2-3 times before you make a review! The restaurant has potential and are extremely caring. They deserve it and if you guys want to make comments like that then check your understandings because trying to bring down a new restaurant that deserves to make it and go far isn’t right. Go there again and recheck your opinions.

    • FrancisY says...

      What’s so original?
      Some stupid looking Disney phony storefronts?
      The food is no better than what you get in Olive Garden.

      • Gail says...

        How about you try and design the storefronts… im pretty sure its not easy. and im confident that the kinks will be out soon because they are dedicated and work very hard. i can tell this by the times ive been there and sat down and eaten their authentic food. sure they had a bad night because they got slammed by the sun sentinel but its not gonna happen again obviously because they probably learned what mistakes they had. under those circumstances i think they did an excellent job.

    • Ytr says...

      Let me know when they got all the kinks out and we can talk. For right now the restaurant isn’t running too hot.

    • BigNanlewis says...

      Hey Gail,
      You say the restaurant has potential
      I went to eat veal parm, not potential.

  16. Gregg L. Friedman MD says...

    Italian Red Sauce is the best, I could eat there everyday if I had the chance. I give it 5 stars.

    • HV says...

      You obviously don’t know what absolute garbage is.
      Italian Red Sauce has mediocre food and terrible service.

    • GRACE says...

      I absolutely agree. Every time I walk in ITALIAN RED SAUCE I feel a little touch of heaven. The food is fantastic – Homemade Pastas, Homemade Deserts. Hospitality above exceptional. Owner, Manager & Chef are always around and make you feel like somebody special. Staff is excellent. I too cannot wait to go again and again and again. Italian Food and atmosphere is at a plus at ITALIAN RED SAUCE. I LOVE IT.

  17. Ed Hammerman says...

    My wife and I ate at Italian Red sauce last weekend.
    No question in my mind that the owner invested quite a bit of money to build this restaurant. I was very impressed by the look.
    For those of you who think that the food is top shelf, I’m sorry that but I have to strongly disagree. The food is okay but it’s far from outstanding. The service is erratic. The kitchen and the servers aren’t in sync and it’s very obvious.
    Maybe everything will come together here but for right now this restaurant is a bit of a mess.

  18. George says...

    Jeff Eat’s is dead on with this restaurant. I recently ate at Red Sauce and the decor of the place is terrific. Plenty of spacing between tables. Wait staff seems to be plentiful. Drinks came promptly. Salad and fried zucchini were terrific. And then….self destruction. Total inattentiveness by the waiter and manager. They must believe in the philosophy in you have nothing good to say to your patrons, be scarce. A very long wait for the food. Pasta was fair, veal was tough. Food came at different times and all the manager could say was “Don’t worry”. Dessert description were fiction. The profiteroles were really cream puffs and the tartufo was chocolate cake. Give me a break! It was not worth the drive down from Boca.

  19. LoopyA says...

    They should rename this joint

    Inconsistent Red Sauce

    We won’t be back

  20. DINKYJOE says...

    jeff, the sun sentinel giving this joint 4 stars is absurd. betcha the guy got paid off.
    look at yelp.

    10/18/2012 1 Check-in Here
    Not quite sure why some havent had such a good seating, but tonight my family and I came here tonight and the food was delish! I would give it 5 stars but I gave it 4 because our server sucked. He was telling us about the specials and during that his eyes were all over. He also was as slow as can be. On a good note though, the food was great! Reminded me of how my family makes food, very southern Italy. Besides the food, the atmosphere reminded me of Italy, kind of cheesy but very cute. On one of thesides is aguy making fresh pasta. Bread, pastries, pasta… Everything was made fresh. Thats what I call good food! For the topping on the cake, the owner came to talk to us and talked about his family making it very warm feeling. I will so come back!

    Review from alissa
    I kind of wish my friends did not pick this place to get dinner the other night. The portions are family style so I was kind of excited to try what I thought was authentic Italian food. I was wrong ! Started out with the fresh mozzarella kind of tasted like the one at costco that you buy in the plastic container. Also tried the Cesar salad which the dressing tasted like it was from Wishbone like they opened a plastic bottle and poured it in top. At that point I should have just opted to not eat anymore but I was starved. The chicken Parmesan tasted like the chicken was Tyson frozen thrown in a fryer and cooked till it tasted kind of like rubber coated with cheese, and ragu tomato sauce. The only thing good was the atmosphere, and the service. The problem is I go to a restaurant to eat so if the food isn’t good then I will not return, and definitely not recommend this place.

    * I recommend you keep driving pass this place ! That is my only recommendation!

    Review from Mickey F.

    From California and had to come to Florida for a funeral. We were staying around the area of Oakland park with relatives . My wife and myself stumbled across this restaurant. Bad move.
    By the time I got out of the restaurant I was thinking the funeral would be for me. It was Alka Seltzer for dessert and Ex-Lax for a nightcap. The food really was terrible.
    Wish I had checked Yelp and heeded the negative reviews. Stay away from this place.
    I was referred to this restaurant by a friend. It goes without saying that I am no longer friends with this “person”. The Gnocci was bland with no flavor. I at least thought desert would save the meal, but sadly I was again disappointed. I brought this up to management (which I never do). Although they were extremely friendly, I can still taste the cardboard in my mouth. This would be a one star had it not been

    I don’t know where these 4 other reviewers ate as I know they didn’t eat at Italian red sauce. The place was tacky and the decor was cheap and place was noisy . In a shopping center that I thought I was getting mugged in if I exited my car .

    The food was on the level of olive garden with the prices of casa d Angelo

    Hated the place and you will too .

    had reservation had to wait about 15 minutes, hostess was very sweet, sat down waited 15 minutes for drink order and bread, food was terrible un eatable, the owner came over we told him ,he said the place is new and they are very busy in the kitchen.the manager was very nice but could do nothing, owner also was very nice but must get his act together to make this place good. they got 4 stars from the sun sentinel i dont know how? over all nice people trying to run a restaurant, need experience people good food to make it too many better places to go to.

    Review from Mitchell M.
    I was skeptical about trying an Italian restaurant in Sunrise since the majority of them range from awful to mediocre in a sparse environment BUT was pleasantly surprised by this place since the decor reminded me of old school Italian restaurants that you don’t find anymore. Food was good to very good and even single portions were huge. Had gnocchi with short ribs which was gigantism for one, three chunky people would have been full on one portion. Not sure if the short ribs were of top quality but was good nonetheless. The gnocchi was a little on the heavier side but again good. My wife and I also shared chicken parmagiana which also was good although of a portion that yes one person could finish. We also had burnt cauliflower which was great. We followed with their homemade zeppolis which needs to be reworked or eliminated and tartufo which was very good. This is a great family style restaurant and a very good value. Given their bizarre choice of location I hope they can survive long term.Including 4 glasses of wine, tax and tip the price was surprisingly reasonable at about $100. Nice touch that the owner came out and introduced himself and asking our opinion of the food.

  21. dobberman says...

    the place sucks,
    the wait staff has no idea as to what the hell they are doing.
    you have been warned.

  22. RRE says...

    Jeff, read in the sun sentinel that the joint is now under new mgt.. with a new menu.

    • Gail says...

      I went there last night and they’re under new management but the same owners. The manger is much more friendly and dedicated himself to make everyone’s experience great. It’s a new menu but its unbelievably delicious. So much more options and prices are cheaper. If I say so myself that this place has gotten better and still carries its 4 stars in the sun sentinel.

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