The Dish: The Neptune platter is extraordinary at Sasso's

Patrons can enjoy everything on the menu in different ways at Sasso’s International Cuisine and Seafood, where dishes from many countries are featured in weekly specials. Their signature dish and No. 1 best seller, the Neptune platter, is unique.

Sasso’s owner, Marianne Tirri Kramer, calls it a simple dish, more Italian than anything else, yet extraordinary, because it is made with fresh black grouper. “There are probably 100 varieties of grouper, but we only use this one, and people come back again and again because we guarantee our fish is fresh every day. It has to be black grouper, that’s the main thing.”

There is a big difference between red grouper and black grouper, explains Kramer. Red grouper is a coastal fish, while black grouper is found only in deeper waters and is much more tender.

To create the Neptune platter, Chef Darwin Ceballos pan sears the black grouper, and then makes lobster risotto, mixed with Italian broccollini. Rock shrimp, sautéed in garlic with tomato, finishes it off. Ceballos peels the tomato by putting it in hot water, then ice water, and then removes the seeds. He adds white wine, butter and a pinch of salt and pepper for a spectacular rock shrimp sauce that tops the platter.

A graduate of Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute, in Rhode Island, Ceballos has cooked professionally for 30 years. During his career, he has hosted TV shows and worked in Montreal, L.A., San Francisco, Boston and Miami. Kramer says, “People come in and ask to meet the chef, (even when) they are chefs themselves. They can’t believe this cooking is on Marco.”

Like every Sasso’s entrée, the Neptune platter is served with a soup du jour, such as lobster bisque or grilled chicken corn chowder or a variety of fresh vegetable and fish soups, and a gourmet house salad of mixed greens, honey vinaigrette, julienne carrots, grape tomatoes, black olives and garbanzo beans. Diners may prefer French onion soup made from scratch and Caesar salad, with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for only $2 more.

Ceballos says he puts his heart into everything he makes, prioritizing creativity and a willingness to find different ways to make each meal unlike any other. “It will be different from everybody else, because I am different,” he laughs. “Everything has to be done with love, not because we have to do it. If it comes from your heart, it’s going to come out nice, even cutting vegetables. You don’t need to cut them the way everybody else does it. Evolution of food is making old styles new with different ideas. Cooking is easy, but you have to love what you do.”

Ceballos likes to create his own dishes by putting ideas from several recipes together with surprising new results. “You can’t believe what comes out,” he says. “I want you to taste every little bite. I cook like I talk — passionately,” Ceballos grins.

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