2018 has to go down as the summer of exceptional eating in Miami. It’s probably a sign of the city’s growing prominence and wealth, attracting many of the world’s finest chefs and restaurateurs. The latest entry, Osteria Baiocco, is the first US outpost of David Ranucci, who owns several successful restaurants in Milan. For Miami he has chosen to highlight Roman and Etruscan cuisine, a welcome departure from the usual Tuscan, or other regional cuisines represented here like Ligurian, Sicilian and Pugliese. Many of the finer restaurants in town are like the city’s advertising slogan, “It’s SO Miami”. Not so Baiocco. It has an authentic Italian sensibility in all ways – understated yet stylish, and welcoming , with a crowd that comes for the food. And is it ever delicious. We dubbed Baiocco the “Temple of Pasta”. But then again, every dish my friends and I had, all foodies, got high marks.
It’s housed in a colonnaded colonial home with outdoor patio and garden. The original rooms with a total of 45 seats were kept, along with brick wall accents, punctuated with a collection of nostalgic pieces, from hanging copper pots and posters, to equestrian objects and a sleek, Faema vintage espresso machine.
The menu is divided into house made eggless pasta or semolina pasta , soups, antipasti, secondi piatti (entrees), contorni (sides) and dessert. Start with the lightly fried zucchini flower filled with mozzarella and a hint of anchovies or the fritti romani, a plate of small fried bites of cauliflower, cod and rice balls filled with mozzarella cheese. If you want something very light and flavorful, opt for the fennel salad, spirals of fennel with oranges, black olives and olive oil.
Choose from among ten pasta dishes on the menu. More unusual ones include the testaroli al pesto, a 2000 year old semolina and water pasta recipe in a pistachio pesto sauce (have to try that next time); pici briciole e acciughe, anchovies and bread crumbs; and the bombolotti alla gricia, pork guanciale, pecorino cheese, onions and chili flakes.
The two standouts we had were the lombrichelli all’Etrusca with a spicy tomato sauce so rich it was almost like a paste with pecorino. The carbonara, made with tonnarelli pasta alla chitarra (only flour and water), guanciale (pork cheek), and pecorino cheese . Made without the customary cream, all of the flavors really popped.
As mains we opted for the very fresh orata alla Ponzese, sea bream baked in parchment paper with olives, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, capers, basil and thyme . The fish was melt in your mouth fresh and the seasoning perfection. Mr W opted for the filettto di maialino all’Etrusca, slow cooked pork filet made in a red wine reduction with dried prunes, red onions. It was tender and very flavorful.
Besides tiramisu and gelato there’s a selection of delectable tarts, all homemade, including a cream with nuts, another with pear and chocolate, and my favorite, a crostata di marmellata, a “must” for me on any trip to Italy. Here it’s a combination fruit confit. It was as good as I’ve had in Italy. As a thank you from the chef, diners are given tiny round donut like confections made with rice, raisins, orange peel, mile and sugar called zeppo di San Giuseppe.
Prices are very reasonable. Appetizers range from $4 to $12; pastas are $16; entrees are in the $20’s and desserts are $7. A glass of wine (generous 7 ounce pour) starts at $7 and a half liter at $14. Bottles start at $28. A major kudo to Baiocco for their reasonable wine prices! As yet, there’s no hard liquor as they’re waiting on a license.
They quietly opened, without PR or advertising, and they’re filling up through word of mouth (I found out through a reader), with diners coming from all over South Florida. So reserve and don’t miss it.
Osteria Baiocco, 5599 Biscayne Blvd, T.305-759-1007. Open for dinner only, Monday through Saturday.