Yours truly had a preview of the much anticipated, uber three story Italian food hall La Centrale Miami in Brickell City Centre. Suffice it to say that this is the future of restaurants and food retail. You name it, they have it in the 40,000 square feet. 14 different Italian eateries. 5 bars. A personal shopper who will buy whatever ingredients you want from a special grocery list menu while you’re eating — and give you recipe cards on how to prepare those ingredients if you want ideas. A cooking and event studio. An entire floor designed for sommelier- led wine tastings and pairing, along with a wine shop featuring 500 labels. A performance stage for live music and entertainment. 1,000 Italian retail products. All of this officially opens February 16.
La Centrale is the brainchild of Matthias Kiehm whose background includes Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, the Ritz Hotel in Paris and Harrods in London. His co -partner, Jacopo Giustiniani has wine culture in his blood, having grown up between his family’s winery the Fattoria Sardi in Lucca and his hometown of Florence. Most recently he turned his passion to his Felice Wine Bar in New York City.
I asked Kiehm the obvious question — how is La Centrale different from Eataly? We’re much more restaurant focused — 70% of our operation and the other 30% is retail, ” he said. Plus, a bottom line is they want their prices to be “approachable”. Guests can indulge for anywhere from a $2 Lavazza espresso to a $58 branzino imported from Italy. The ground floor in particular is designed to be more affordable. Another guiding principle he mentioned is wherever you eat, you can buy the products, but more on that a little later.
Let’s talk about the food . The kitchens are presided over by Tuscan born Vincenzo Scarmiglia who has a team of chefs from different regions of Italy along with a French chef. On level one, find an espresso bar which serves up sandwich halves and breakfast pastries. Do not miss having a corneta, the Italian answer to a croissant, that’s a tad less flaky than a French version, with a light sugar glaze.That and the sweet round bread, bomboloni, are to die for. (Note: during the preview the restaurants were not yet open, only the espresso bar was available).
The Mercato, Level one, is designed like a classic Italian piazza and features six grab and go counters including espresso, salumi e formaggi, insalate (ready made and design your own), focacceria, rosticceria with fried and roasted items, and Pronto (see video above) with ready to go hot Italian meals ranging from veal milanese and roasted leg of lamb to roast turkey and vegetarian dishes (open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m). Signature products including pastas, cheeses, sauces are handmade in house.
Rounding out the level one offerings is a pizza and pasta eatery specializing in Neopolitan pizza cooked in wood fire overs. A Pastificio counter sells house made pastas to take home.
Level two is the place for the premium restaurants, a signature Aperitivo Bar and chocolate and gelato eatery run by Italian chocolatier Venchi (pick up one of the chocolate “Cuban” cigars flavored with orange).
What’s your pleasure, meat, fish or plant based dishes? You’ll find them all here. Carne is a Italian butcher shop with a variety of cuts cooked in a wood fired grill.
Pesce features fish from South Florida and the Mediterranean. With both the butcher shop and fish grill, you can buy prime cuts of meat and fish and seafood to take home. Stagionale is the place for risottos, dishes inspired by seasonal produce and hand pulled mozzarella which you can also buy to take home. On the same floor is Venchi serving 16 flavors of gelato and over 80 chocolate products.
Level three is all about wine with sommelier led wine tastings and pairings, a wine shop with over 500 different wine labels, a Tuscan inspired wine bar with a fritti menu selection and small plates and a tasting room. There’s also a room for private events. Rounding out the offerings is a $20 prixe fixe menu for lunch and dinner in the Enoteca.
La Centrale is the first venture of this kind by the partners. From Miami their plans are to go to Boston, Atlanta, and then the world? They have a brilliant, well thought out concept and it’s definitely worth a visit.
La Centrale Miami, Brickell City Centre, 701 S.Miami Avenue.