2017 is going to end on a culinary high note for me discovering top new entrants and — I’m going out on a limb here, the best Italian restaurant in Miami. This was welcome after a dry spell in exceptional dining. Last week you read about Sakura736. Now it’s all about Italian cuisine and Forte dei Marmi Miami. I’ve dined at Forte dei Marmi three times in 60 days and I can’t wait to go back. The space was formerly occupied by Cavalli and prior to that Danny Devito’s place, both of which were short lived. Heading up the kitchen is two star Michelin chef Antonio Mellino and his talented son chef Raffaele which right away speaks to the seriousness of the restaurant venture. But sometimes Michelin star cuisine can be precious or too studied. Not so here. It veers to classic cuisine, but with a creative twist and slow food culture, and some totally new dishes here in Miami.
Quality also shines through. I had an intimation that quality was a bottom line when I saw the glistening whole fish on public display. The commitment to fine products showed through in everything from the tasty, thin breadsticks (yes, breadsticks) to the meat, truffles, and even the pistachios. Coincidentally I recently read in the New York Times an entire article about the much prized Sicilian pistachios called “Bronte” which retail for $33 a pound. They come from the rich soil at the base of Mount Etna.
Named after a Tuscan sea town of the rich and famous, the 250 seat Forte Dei Marmi has a sophisticated simplicity in its dining and décor — a cream and beige design palette and flattering lighting with ubiquitous votive candles.
I started with the raw and cooked salad. Mixed raw vegetables were presented as a basket encircled by zucchini, seasoned with Tuscan olive oil. The greens were on a divine rich zucchini puree with nary a drop of cream. Mr. W had the fried zucchini flowers, plump and deftly fried in a tempura like batter, and laced with tomato sauce.
Next up was the linguine alla nerano, small pieces of baby zucchini fried in peanut oil, then sautéed with parmesan. Delicious. A very different choice was the flavorful buckwheat papparedelle .You can taste the distinctive flavor of buckwheat, teamed with seasonal mushroom and black summer truffles. Next time I’d like to try the Tagliolini with Alaskan crab, cherry tomatoes and chili oil.
A standout is undoubtedly the 36 hour slow cooked suckling pig with broccoli rape and quince puree. Not surprisingly, fish is a main event here, flown in from Spain and Portugal. Like branzino? Opt for Branzino Zucchini filet with zucchini puree, green beans and zucchini blossoms. Whole Mediterranean Fish is also offered ‘al sale’, grilled or acqua pazza ( cooking the fish in fish broth, cherries tomatoes, capers, olives, and basil).
On earlier visits, on two occasions friends had the Prime Beef Tenderloin Millefeuille with shitake mushroom and black summer truffle accompanied by fondant potato they liked it so much. It was perfectly cooked, the finest quality of beef, and a novel presentation.
Desserts include the pistachio gelato that earned my distinction of one of the best desserts of the year. And what a presentation, in a natural cut travertine bowl from a San Pietro marble quarry near Forte dei Marmi. Another top choice is the Rum Baba served on a Carrara Marble travertine board.
The restaurant also features the Chef Mellino’s Seasonal Tasting Menu – a $110 pre-fixe five course menu featuring all new items each season with an optional wine pairing for $65..
Additionally, the wine and cocktail program focuses on organic and biodynamic offerings. Notable cocktails include Fool Paradise ($16) with purity vodka, grapes, basel, lime and ginger beer, Uva Sole (18$) with reposado tequila, luxardo maraschino cherry, sage, grapefruit juice, hopped grapefruit and orange bitters.
Appetizers range from $9 to $24; pastas in the $20’s; entrees from $32 to $42 except for the 45 ounce prime T-bone Florentine style and whole fish (MP).
Glasses of wine ( 5 ounce pours) start at $14; bottles start at $69 but most range around $100.
On the second floor of Forte Dei Marmi is FDM Arts Club is a private space that’s a cultural hub , part lounge and part social network. FDM Arts Club is described as is “a space for discovering and consuming surprising and thought-provoking art, design, music, and hybrid design & culinary experience with special food pairings created to compliment programmatic offerings.” It is open to the public on Wednesday.
Forte dei Marmi ,150 Ocean Drive.Indoor and outdoor seating. For reservations, call (786) 276-3095. It’s open for dinner and brunch on weekends.