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Romantic Italian in South Beach

I'm trying to find an Italian restaurant in South Beach (a short walk from the Loews) is still open. Friends ate at the restaurant in June 2006 and raved about the place.

It was described to me as Italian with a great outdoor dining courtyard in the back that played old romantic black & white movies on the garden wall.

Ring a bell for anybody? I'll be in South Beach the week of January 15th and would like to try the place if I can figure out the name of it and if it's still open.

Any help is much appreciated. Thanks!

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    1. re: netmover

      Thanks! Have you eaten there? Any opinions on the food?

      1. re: tpatricco

        Yeah, way over priced. Not great.

        1. re: tpatricco

          It's been a while I must confess. I ate inside when they first opened, outdoors fits your description, the main dining room was a bit bright as I remember.

          Upstairs was a cool vibe at the time. Other CH contributers would have a more up to date take on the place.

          Drinks and some apps may do the trick? Entrees to follow if you get inspired? 17th & James Ave SOBE

        1. re: 2top

          I appreciate the candid feedback. The atmosphere sounded compelling. I'm from Northern NJ so I'm used to great & varied Italian at NYC-ish prices. I'll check out Casa Tua early in the week for drinks & apps as suggested, and decide if it's worth returning when my husband arrives for the weekend.

          Escopazzo looks great! Thanks!!

          1. re: tpatricco

            the other place you may want to try is Osteria del Teatro on Wash & Espanola Way. It's considered the best "Northern" Italian in MIA.

        2. Osteria is the best italian restraunt in Miami Beach, but esco has the setting you are looking for. I think esco is overrated but many love it. Not that osteria's ambiance is bad btw. Casa Tua does blow both away in ambiance, however, the food at casa is more expensive and worse than either esco or osteria.

          1. I've eaten at Casa Tua twice in the last 3 years. It is the closest I've ever come to eating at a real Italian restaurant in the US (not the normal everything covered in red sauce glop). First time was excellent - second was very very good. It's chic - expensive - hard to get a reservation - and trendy. Might not be everyone's cup of tea. Note that I just went there for the food - and left a happy camper. Also note that I generally hate restaurants on Miami Beach. Robyn

            1. Please, osteria absolutely destroys it. It is not even close.

              7 Replies
              1. re: tpigeon

                Thanks for your remarks Robyn. I'm sad to hear you seem to have never had a good red sauce (real Italian Americans call it gravy) experience. Here in NJ we have excellent places for "red sauce" style cuisine (Try Spirito's in Elizabeth for delicious, bare bones old school red sauce). We also have more typical Northern Italian restaurants as well. Both have their own merits and just depends what you're in the mood for.

                I appreciate your feedback on Casa Tua. I think I have a good sense of what to expect there, and I also think having realistic expectations makes for a more likely positive experience anywhere.

                tpigeon, I'll definitely investigate Osteria del Teatro as well.

                I have an Italian (Roman) friend in Miami, so I'll inquire as to his opinion as well.

                1. re: tpatricco

                  I have had good red sauces. In Italy. In my own kitchen. I'm a decent Italian cook - even make my own pesto in the summer :). Just don't generally find them in Italian restaurants in Florida. I think Casa Tua would be about a one star Michelin place in Italy - but - because it's in South Beach - it costs more than one would spend for comparable food in Italy.

                  As for service/attitude - I have not eaten there on a busy night in high season. On the nights I ate there - I had excellent service on the phone in terms of reservations - and at dinner. That includes one night where I changed the number in our group from 4 to 2 to 4 the night of our dinner.

                  Regarding Osteria del Teatro - I used to go there years ago before the original chef was murdered. Liked it. Couldn't bring myself to go back there after the murder. The idea gave me the creeps. I suspect most of you are younger than I am and don't have similar baggage.

                  Note that if you get off Miami Beach - there are (or at least used to be) some really good Italian restaurants. One favorite of mine when I lived in Miami was Cafe Abbracci (in Coral Gables). I believe it is still quite good. Robyn

                  1. re: tpatricco

                    Do real Italian Americans really call it gravy? I am 100% Italian American and have never heard anyone call it that except New Jersey Italians. There must be a deliniation somewhere.

                    1. re: JackieB

                      Could be a Jersey thing...I'm not Italian myself, but many around here do call it gravy.

                      Not when it tastes like it came from Olive Garden obviously, but when you simmered it in a pot on the stove all day Sunday.

                      1. re: tpatricco

                        My MIL, from Long Island, calls it sauce but remembers, growing up, it was always called "gravy" around her household. And her mom apparently called it gravy too.

                        1. re: dietfoodie

                          It's interesting. I also noticed a trend of calling all pasta 'macaroni'. As in "what shape of macaroni?" (to put on the gravy). Hmmm..

                          1. re: JackieB

                            My MIL does that occasionally too, but she usually qualifies, as in, "I have to put the macaroni on, the rotini on."

                            The only person I've ever heard refer to it exclusively as "macaroni" was a older gentleman I used to work with who was actually from Italy originally and still had quite a heavy accent.

                2. Yes, beware of restaurants on South Beach. A decent place is Le Bon, a Belgian restaurant that has a great special between 5 and 7-ish, you can choose from five or so mussel preparations for only $9.50 and you get a nice order of frites on the side (the rest of the menu is not worth the price though). The other restaurant that I like is Timo in North Miami; the service is impeccable. Don't miss Cuban food (off The Beach) though, and Stone Crabs are still in season I believe.

                  1. You want good red sauce? Go to Philomenas in Pompano...it's well worth the drive! You will feel as though you went to a wiseguy's grammas. Having been bred on good red sauce, it has taken me 20 years down here to finally find the real Macoy. All this Northern stuff does nothing for my Italian or should I say Southern Italian cravings. Philomena's ROX!

                    It's been a while since I have been back to Osteria, but since the murder, there have been some great chefs at the helm. As a matter of fact, that chef's best friend and sous chef at the time of the murder, was back for a stint at one point. That happened back in the 80's R, it's time to get over it and give it another try!

                    1. Pompano is about an hour's drive from Miami Beach - assuming the traffic on I-95 is ok (which it usually isn't). So I'm not sure the drive is worth it (for any restaurant).

                      Note that I moved from Miami in the mid-90's. I do get back there maybe once a year or so - but - when I go - I usually like to try new places I've heard about. That's why I haven't been back to Osteria. Robyn

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: pvgirl

                        PV, I have made it to Pompano in 34 minutes from South Beach...Take the Turnpike!

                        IMHO, You cannot proclaim to be a true Chowhound if you're unwilling to drive an hour for phenomenal food. Sorry.

                        Seeing how the original OP is car-less in sobe, your post on that front is semi-legit and I'll let it slide, however my reply was directed at the 'gravy' post in particular.

                        Another great "gravy" aka red sauce can be had cheaply at Lorenzo's cafeteria in NMB. Have them smother your 5" thick Eggplant Parm for an Eye-talian delicacy to be savoured straight thru your siesta! Lunch only...or early dinner if you prefer.

                        To Debbie: I am most happy to hear your recent review of Osteria still being Number 1 ! I must confess it's been WAY too long since I've been back.

                        I too have something new to report on the Italian front...and that is a place called Basilico out by the Miami Airport on NW 36th St. Really good Telefono sauce and I hear the Osso Bucco they do on weekends is the bomb!

                        1. re: netmover

                          I never said I was car-less. I will in fact have a car the whole time I'm there for business. I don't necessarily want to drive that far for dinner by myself and I think there are enough good places to try in South Beach to stay there on the weekend when my husband joins me. I was mostly curious about Casa Tua because I'd heard about their interesting atmosphere in the courtyard dining area. I appreciate all the great feedback! Thanks again!

                          1. re: tpatricco

                            The patio at Casa Tua is charming (I like it better than inside). If you want to dine there - be sure to specify that when you make a reservation. One fly in the ointment is that if the restaurant is completely booked (common a lot of the time) - and it rains - you will be out of luck in terms of dinner (and the reservationist will probably tell you that). The other fly in the ointment is that when it's warm (which is usual most of the time in south Florida) - you can get "no-see-ums" at night - particularly under the tables. Can be murder on your legs if you don't rub on some insect repellent.

                            Note to Netmover - my folks used to live near Pompano (Lighthouse Point). So I must have made the trip from Coconut Grove to there 1000 times. Only time I ever approached 34 minutes was when I had to rush to the hospital on Sample Road at 2 am after my mother had a heart attack. I think one can be interested in good food without having any desire to fight terrible traffic to get it. Another problem you run into in Florida is random traffic stops for DUI. Unless you don't drink - or have a designated driver - or hire a taxi/car - I think it's wise to try to stick "close to home" when dining. In the case of the OP - temporary home will be Miami Beach. It is perhaps not my favorite - but there are plenty of places to eat well there on a short trip. Also - Miami Beach has great cab service - which I recommend - not only because of DUI laws - but because parking is tight (my brother lives in the area - and even he takes cabs to restaurants). Robyn

                            1. re: pvgirl

                              points well taken...Lighthouse Point is further on up the road. Philomenas is in South Pompano, just south of Pompano Park. I hear you loud and clear about that DWI poop...were I in South Beach for just a few days I wouldn't make the trip either...I just spread the word for those who long for the Southern Italian "Gravy" (which is a term I just learned on this thread). That Sicilian style "gravy" is in short supply here in South FLA.

                      2. I just ate at Osteria last weekend (right before the New Year) and it IS the best tialian on South Beach, imo. We ate with a group of 10 and eveyone was happy. We ordered lobster salad, layered roasted peppers with mozzerella,salmon with lobster sauce, sea bass livornese,lamb chops, pastas, great wines, many desserts, etc....Just to give you an idea. It is a small, dark place that overlooks the sidewalk so you can "people watch". I wouldn't say it is extremely high in the romantic dept. but it is definitely not a dive either. Most locals simply like it for the food and service. I think it is worthy of a try!

                        1. By far Casa Tua is the Most romantic and fabulous place...you will love it. Ps. I live there so I am sure about this.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Idineout

                            Casa Tua is a horrible restaurant; if you like food, you will not like this place; however, if you like ambience, this is the place for you; i have been there many times and would never take anybody there who values a good meal

                            1. re: joneze

                              We didn't end up going to Casa Tua. I had reservations for Friday night, but we had happy hour plans and then tickets for Jon Stewart as part of the comedy festival. Rushing though dinner didn't seem worth it.

                              Based on the mixed reviews of this place, I'm ok with having skipped it.

                          2. Hi,
                            I am going to South Beach with my husband and another couple at the end of March. I have been researching some restaurants and wondered if anyone can give me feedback on which ones to check out. These are the restaurants I am considering:

                            JOhnny V
                            Tuscan Steak
                            and Casa Tua with my husband
                            Please let me know opinions or other recommendations!

                            1. I have not tried Quattro or Casa Tua yet, Johnny V would be my top choice out of that group. I despise the service at Tuscan where they consistently make you wait an hour after reservation time. Touch is a nightclubby type place, the food is decent but for their prices there's better.
                              I'd suggest you add to your list Talula, Mark's South Beach, Table 8.
                              http://www.table8la.com (this is for their LA location, no website for Miami yet).