BEST NEW RESTAURANT

Café Ponte

Francophiles need not journey to Paris' exquisite Taillevent restaurant to dine. They can eat just as well right here at home thanks to Chris Ponte (pronounced PONT), who apprenticed at Taillevent and now owns and operates his own restaurant in the bay area. Opened just a year ago, it boasts a sophisticated 90-item wine list, unusually creative fare and a nice mix of expensive and affordable dishes. Drop in at lunch for a knockout duck eggroll with sweet-and-sour apricot sauce for a measly $5.75; at dinner, grilled chicken pizza ($9) gets you out in 20 minutes. Those of you who don't mind throwing down a little money to entertain your taste buds can order nine-spice duck breast with bok choy ($22) and a bevy of other exotic dishes that illustrate Ponte's many unique attributes as a chef.

Cafe Ponte, 13505 Icot Blvd., Clearwater, 727-538-5768.

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