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Miami abounds with top restaurants of all kinds. As the authors of It Happened in Miami, we wrote about them and experienced them while promoting our book in 2016.
A new year and new epicurean delights to partake of: Macchialina, Costa Med, and Toscana Divino. All three unique, all three very different from each other. The trio, however, did have one very important thing in common – real and individual owners not corporations, that sat with us, explained their restaurant concepts, talked about their buying local, being hands on, involved in all aspects of their business. Their philosophies and feelings showed up big-time in their top-flight establishments. It made for a trio of memorable dining experiences.
Run by Jen Chaefsky and chef Michael Pirolo, Macchialina at first glance seems more like a New York City hangout to our Big-Apple sensibility than a top-of-the-line Miami restaurant.
Dimly lit, brick walls adorned with all manner of photographs, a youngish crowd, a place the night we were there accommodating foodies, a large group, a smattering of couples, there was a positive vibe of diners enjoying themselves.
The five-year-old establishment on Alton Road between 8th and 9th Streets in South Beach serves up electric music most of the time from speakers, along with very interesting and carefully prepared food from skilled servers.
Our server Gabe was just terrific in every way. Informed, attentive and enthusiastic, he suggested the tasting menu and matched wines to the splendid selections we savored. It was an over-the-top suggestion and over-the-top dining.
Although they were busy “minding the store,” hard at work, the owners Chef Michael Pirolo and Manager Jennifer at different times spared a few minutes to come by providing insights into their “baby,” Macchialina.
Let it be noted many things to like about this “with it” dining place a few stay in memory: the original and creative menu, the tantalizing tiramisu served in a mason jar of creamy mascarpone pudding capped with chocolate crumbles, espresso granite, pleasing pub-style ethos, the rustic and removed environment a way to escape the frenzied scene of South Beach.
Highly Recommended. 820 Alton Road, Miami Beach; 305.534.2124.
Located in the heart of Key Biscayne in the Square Shopping Center, Costa Med features a highly pleasing black-and-white, modern-bistro atmosphere. Waiters are extremely friendly, informed, and anxious to please. The cuisine is a combination of American, South American and Italian, in all - essentially Mediterranean.
We had our full of carefully served and fabulous food and wine that included: burrata tower; French onion soup; oysters; classic caprese; organic chicken; exotic, fresh Norwegian salmon; apple tart with vanilla ice cream; over-the-top expresso; and more. The taste still lingers!
We were joined for a while by the affable and knowledgable co-owner of this very comfortable restaurant, Antonio Braschi. He explained his journey through the world of food to creating his “dining room” in 2003 in Key Biscayne, now a home away from home for so many.
The articulate restauranteur explained how some special themes merge in Costa Med - quality local food, the impact of Mediterranean cuisine, the homemade pastas, and the inventive desserts.
We experienced all of it and the philosophy as noted on its home page by the great film-maker Federico Fellini: “Life is a combination of magic and Pasta.” It is all that and more at Costa Med.
Highly recommended. 260 Crandon Boulevard, No. 46, Key Biscayne.
Recently off a couple of weeks in Venice a couple of months back, we had our taste buds and our senses re-invigorated and re-awakened with all things Italian at Toscana Divina on an absolutely serene and dreamy January night in downtown's Mary Brickell Village.
This is Italian food extraordinaire. It was like being in Italy, but in some ways even better - Tuscany, dining subtropically al fresco! Balmy, breezy Brickell, a fitting setting for a magnificent meal—including attentive and informed service.
The word is that Toscana Divino is considered by many one of the best Italian restaurants in South Florida. And that is not just talk, that is reality. The happening restaurant offers the most contemporary and traditional Tuscan and Italian cuisine, and has bragging right to the world-famous Fiorentina steak.
The serving is so European, so lovingly prepared Florence-style. Drawing its inspiration from classic dishes that are found throughout Tuscany, Tosca Divino (meaning divine Tuscany - and it is) highlights fresh, seasonal ingredients from local markets and the rest directly imported from Italy.
The whole operation, from busboy to owner, is so pleasing. Elegant, carefully appealingly decorated, Toscana Divino features delicate dishes and presentation that is perfection. There is also an incredible selection of Italian wines.
A tower of stacked wine bottles accents the contemporary interior of Tuscany Devine. Outdoor seating under the stars and the Miami moon which we availed ourselves of accentuated the entire experience – it was almost like being in Tuscany.
Special kudos go to Chef Andrea Marchesin from Treviso, who directed our dining experience and the wine, the oysters, the salmon, the soup, the homemade pasta, the pan fired branzino (European sea bass) delicate, with just a few mini-veggies on the plate.
Being there was a night to remember. We shall return.
Highly recommended. The Shops at Mary Brickell Village, 900 S Miami Ave, Miami; 305.371.2767.