Surprisingly, Miami doesn’t have many restaurants that are casual and chic with a European sensibility— and with outdoor dining. Think the French or Italian Riviera. And, even better, one where the noise level is moderate, so one can carry on a real conversation. To the rescue, stylish French couple Anthony and Kathy who opened their trophy restaurant, Call Me Gaby at 22 Washington Avenue (opposite Joe’s Stone Crab)T.305-531-4800.
You’ll spot Gaby’s from the stylish, boldly striped large black and white umbrellas that set off both an outdoor lounge area and a dining terrace, punctuated with vibrant fuschia bougainvillea (wish I could grow them). The lounge area has comfortable banquette seating with plush brightly colored throw pillows, illuminated in the evenings with votive candles. Indoors there’s light wood furniture and lace panels lining the windows, with an open view and front row counter seats to the wood burning pizza oven. “I wanted to build a place where I would want to go,” said the French Vietnamese Kathy, “a place that has been missing from our neighhborhood.
The Italian menu of antipasti, novel salads in a Mason jar, pastas, and pizzas is supervised by a chef from Naples. Simple and fresh, the food at Call Me Gaby is all about the ingredients, which are mostly imported from Italy.
Begin the meal with their focaccaia. Unlike any other, it’s extraordinarily light and crispy, thanks to the dough.
The same dough is used for their unique pizzas. Predominantly water, the dough undergoes an intense 72 hours of leavening as part of a centuries old tradition. The high moisture content is what makes it incredibly light, highly digestible, and delicious. Also, says Kathy who looks like she watches her calories, “ It makes it easy to eat a few times a week without tipping the scale”.
There are classic pies on the menu, like the Romana with San Marzano tomatoes, anchovies, capers, black olives, imported extra virgin olive oil; and the Diavola with San Marzano tomatoes, Fior di Latte, calabrese salami, and extra virgin olive oil.
Gourmet pizzas offer more adventurous creations, like the Carla, made with Mortadella, basil pesto, and pistachio crumble; the Gina, made with “Fior di Latte,” baked potatoes, Chiodini mushrooms, stracciatella; and my favorite, the simple Monica with San Marzano tomatoes, straciatella cheese and basil. There’s also some French influence throughout the dishes, but none more so than the Pizzaladiere, a Provencal dish with caramelized onion, anchovies, and black olives.
Begin your meal or as an accompaniment to drinks, order the Tagliere Di Affettati, a generous chef’s selection of imported Italian cured meats, served with fresh seasonal fruit, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and a basket of the warm focaccia. Be sure to try one of the salads in a jar including the adeptly seasoned tomato with tricolor tomatoes, diced cucumber, julienned bell peppers, red onions, black olives, and a bright lemon dressing; and the Beet Salad, with fresh Italian Caprino cheese, roasted baby beets, hazelnut vinaigrette, and orange segments.
I also recommend the baby kale salad with blue cheese and pine nuts. You can add shrimp or chicken to any salad. There’s also a pot of lamb and beef meatballs with whipped ricotta, chives, and extra virgin olive oil, on my list for next time for sure.
Most of the pasta is homemade, like the gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream; and the Fiocchetti alle Pere e Tarfuto, which is a decadent dish of handmade pasta filled with truffle cream, caramelized pear, Parmigiano Reggiano fondue, and Aceto Balsamico di Modena Goccia Oro. Meat lovers with find a selection of steaks.
There’s a selection of dessert pizzas such as The Sabrina, a delicate pizza crust topped with orange jam, sliced oranges, dark chocolate shavings, powdered sugar, and mint. More traditional options include Tiramisu in a jar and Italian ice cream.
Wine prices are reasonable. A 5 ounce glass starts at $12 and bottles at $44.
Lunch or dinner at Gaby won’t break the bank. Antipasti, salads, pastas and pizzas are all priced between the mid and high teens with the exception of a few pizzas.
There’s also a good value happy hour. All cocktails (16 in all) are $9.00 each; wine is $7.00 per glass (yes, even the Barolo); and beer comes in at $5.00 a pop. There will be a happy hour menu of vittles to accompany the libations, and each plate will cost $9.00 (think pasta, tomato in a jar, personal pizzas and more). Happy hour is offered at the bar, outdoor lounge, and throughout the restaurant from 4 pm until 7 pm six days a week.
Photography by William Oberheiser