I’m in love with Amare Miami restaurant, a new Italian entrant South of Fifth. It was several years in the making, its owners wanting to get it just right, as in a labor of love. But as we know, especially in Miami it takes more than passion – it takes serious experience and talent. The restaurant is a collaboration between restaurateur Gino Iovino, owner of award-winning restaurant Girasole in Atlantic City, along with Franco Ricatti and Chef Cosimo Cassano of Bacco Osteria, the Michelin-starred concept in Puglia, Italy. Cassano oversees the kitchen. Their specialty is Southern Italian cuisine with a refined and elegant touch .
Two dishes in particular are going to be on my best dishes of the year, a major accolade. And then there’s the casually elegant, artisanal décor inspired by the Amalfi Coast, that’s perfect for Miami.
We were hard pressed to decide which dishes we wanted, there were so many appealing choices, many of which are seldom found in menus here. Unique is the Classici Settimanali, an additional special dish offered one day per week, including a traditional family-style Sunday Dinner with Rigatoni Pasta di Gragnano Spicy Italian Sausage Ragu, Beef Braciola and Pork Ossobuco.
Cocktails, too, are creative and delicious, especially the list of signature cocktails which includes the tangy blood orange margherita and pomegranate martini.
Our starters were the melanzane and zucchini, oh so thin slices of both vegetables with mozzarella di buffala, tomato crèma, and basil pesto. They encouraged us to try the Carpaccio Mare, filet mignon dressed with sliced asparagus, cherry tomatoes, parmigiano and artichokes. The dish was lightly warmed which I hadn’t seen before, bringing out the flavor even more, and then drizzled with Laudemio Frescobaldi, called the “Ferrari” of olive oils.
A specialty are the pastas from Gragnano. Made from durum wheat grown at high altitudes, it is considered the best pasta in Italy. The type of wheat used influences the flavor of the pasta, the ability to stay al dente, and to absorb the sauce. It also has the highest protein content at 13%. My choice which will also be one of my favorite dishes of the year, Casarecce. It is Tuscan kale pesto made with brussel sprouts, mushrooms and toasted almonds. OMG, it was sublime – so flavorful and rich tasting, surprising that it only had a touch of cream.
For a main course we opted for the Colorado lamb chops , four to an order, so we shared. They were perfectly charred and tender, and the herb spiked sauce was light, with just a hint of sweetness from Moscato wine. The accompaniment was crisp roasted potatoes and another winner, Cavolini — brussel sprouts with truffle crema, almonds and parmigiano.
To accompany the meal, the Rosa de Montalcino ($58) was excellent. It’s also offered by the glass at $ 16 (6 ounce pour). If you want to bring your own wine, corkage fee is $35. And indeed, someone in the affluent neighborhood already did – he brought a $30,000 bottle of wine.
House made desserts are displayed in the Dolci Station which treats guests to latte arte, or “the art of milk,” offering homemade pastries, specialty cakes and desserts made fresh daily, a selection of imported formaggi, and coffee beverages brewed at the espresso bar.
Prices are fine dining. Appetizers are in the high teens; carpaccios, $18, $24; pasta and risottos in the twenties; meat and fish entrees, high thirties and forties; sides, $12.
Amare has a spacious outdoor seating area that they call a “piazza”, plaza, punctuated with terracotta pots with lemon trees whose fruit will soon make its way into desserts and garnishes for cocktails. A curving architectural canopy shields many of the tables from the elements, along with oversize umbrellas with LED lights, the latest and greatest. Indoors the handsome blue and red color scheme with blue and white tiled floors complement a wall display of ceramic plates and shelves lined with ceramic and glass vessels, echoing the hand blown water glasses. Everything except the water glasses are custom made.
Amare, One Collins Avenue, T.305-731-6999. It is open for lunch and dinner daily and is offering Miami Spice which features a number of these favorite dishes I mentioned.