Miami's Italian Invasion

Kyle Johnson

Pasta is something the town does right.

For the most decadent Italian in the city, look no further than the be-all, end-all Il Gabbiano (335 S. Biscayne Blvd.; 305-373-0063), where chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano, bruschetta and fried zucchini are served before diners are even handed a menu. Try the porcini mushroom ravioli in Champagne and black truffle sauce or one of the dozen takes on veal. In the Miami Design District, chef-partner Dena Marino serves up roasted pear and cheese fiocchi with white-truffle cream and stone-oven-roasted octopus at her wildly popular MC Kitchen (4141 NE Sec­ond Ave., Ste. 101A; 305-456-9948). And Sinatra is often playing at upscale, authentic eatery Macaluso’s 1747 Alton Rd.; 305-604-1811), which dishes out Miami’s best meatballs.

Cipriani Downtown Miami (465 Brickell Ave.; 786-329-4090) is a staple, and Casa Tua (1700 James Ave.; 305-673-1010) is every sophisticated local’s favorite. Here flickering candles and beautiful flowers on the tables add to the soft, romantic ambiance. It’s lively, too: Members of the private club upstairs can take part in outrageous late-night karaoke parties on Wednesdays. For those unwilling to sacrifice fine cuisine or a buzzing scene, Miami Beach’s South of Fifth Street neighborhood seems to have more Eastern European models, hip-hop moguls and NBA stars per capita than anywhere else in town thanks to Roberto Cavalli’s Cavalli Miami Restaurant & Lounge (150 Ocean Dr.; 305-695-4191). In Sunset Harbour, locals love Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante (1801 Purdy Ave.; 305-531-2228) for its simple Italian plates prepared with the best ingredients for dishes like clams, salads, pasta with meatballs and the sumptuous pecorino cheese spread served with bread.

A few miles north is Cecconi’s Miami Beach (4385 Collins Ave.; 786-507-7902) at Soho Beach House, where the outdoor-courtyard garden seating is supremely idyllic and people-watching is as good as the food. The menu includes rich pappardelle duck ragù but also healthy alternatives like tasty kale, chicken, apple and pancetta salad. Next door at the Fontainebleau, chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta (4441 Collins Ave.; 305-674-4660) has decadent creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms and a glittery scene. Power lunching at Carpaccio (9700 Collins Ave.; 305-867-7777) in the Bal Harbour Shops is a thing. Outdoor seating is lovely, and the waitstaff is efficient; lunch can last 17 minutes or hours—it’s up to you. The salads and pizzas baked in a woodburning oven taste best with Champagne.