Italian in Miami-Dade
I have a list of places I am wanting to try, but I have no idea how they'll compare with the other Italian restaurants in our city. Zagat was a good start, but I don't want to entirely rely on Zagat. I also listed some Italian restaurants that I have already tried, for reference and also for comparison.
Numbers in parenthesis are Zagat's ratings in 2006 (I don't have the 2007 version yet). I've kept out restaurants rated below 20, but I've kept in restaurants that have not been ranked. I've also tried to keep out pizza places that doesn't serve many variety of Italian pasta dishes.
Italian in Miami Beach:
Hosteria Romana (20)
Osteria del Teatro (26)
Cafe Prima Pasta (21)
Tuscan Steak (24)
Cafe Ragazzi (25)
Cafe Avanti (20)
Casa Tua (24)
And in the rest of Miami I'm curious about:
Cafe Abbracci (25)
Casa Toscana (20)
Bice Ristorante (21)
Cafe Da Vinci (21)
Via Quadronno (24)
Peppy's in the Gables (20)
La Gastronomia (22)
Randazzo's Little Italy (22)
Romeo's Cafe (27)
Cafe Vialetto (24)
La Loggia (21)
Trattoria Sole (20)
Trattoria Luna (21)
Bella Luna (22)
Big Cheese (20)
Gil's Capa Bistro (22)
Bruschetta & Co. (However, this restaurant looks a little too chain-y, if you asked me)
Pasta Factory (Though, I must say, I don't really trust this establishment)
Places I've tried, mostly in Miami:
Anacapri (21) - Miami's "Olive Garden" chain but better.
Rosinella's (21) - Ditto, but cheaper. Look above.
Chocolate (23) - Chocolate ravioli was interesting & good - not the best ravioli I've had though. I give points for creativity though. The chocolate salad could be a lot better.
Tutto Pasta (23) - Good pasta
Perricone's (20) - I never was really impressed by this place but I love the little market, ambience, and once in a while, a dish would taste really good.
Basilico (24) - Good pasta
Portobello - I liked the pasta dishes and tiramesu here, but carpaccio and non-pasta dishes could be better. Risotto is good, but one time I thought it was barely undercooked.
Panna Cafe - I came here for the dessert, so no official opinion other than "good dessert in the glass display case"
Soya & Pomodoro - This one is probably the worst I've had so far in Miami-Dade - very bland, canned tasting, and unoriginal. The only plus about this one is the building it's in.
But the worst in South Florida, in my opinion, actually was the worst Italian I've had in my life, unfortunately - at Zuccarelli's in Margate.
The only ones I can vouch for are Big Cheese, a South Miami institution that's a typical "red sauce" joint (but still very good for what it is) and Gil Capa's Bistro, hidden away in a residential neighborhood near Miami-Dade College in Kendall, where I had an excellent meal several years ago.
I actually LIKE "red sauce" Italian restaurants, since that's the Italian food I grew up eating. I like pasta, chicken parmigiana, lasagna, garlic rolls, melted cheese, all the classics. There always seems to be a lot of Chowhound snobbery toward those kinds of places, but I just don't have a lot of experience at the fancy/trendy/gourmet/expensive Italian restaurants that everyone else seems to love.
Ever since I was a child, every time my parents wanted to go to Pasta Factory, I would cry and scream and refuse to eat because I thought it was disgusting.
Apparently, few things have changed!
Abracci can be overrated sometimes, but they still have my favorite dessert....the carmelized sugar bowl filled with zabaglione cream and berries!
Of those I've tried, I'll divide into the "great" (would go out of my way for and recommend to out-of-towners), "pretty good" (would look forward to going to), "decent" (passable, even good, but unmemorable), "mediocre/other", and "not mentioned".
Sardinia - love the antipasti - beautiful veggies, great cheeses and salumi, with a nice well-salted bit of bitter salad greens. The baked giant prawn appetizer w/ fregola was fantastic. Really enjoy the pasta w/ bottarga (salted dried tuna roe). Interesting, regionally authentic cooking and a nice, diverse Italian wine list.
Timo - I don't really think of this as an Italian place, though there certainly are some Italian / Mediterranean influences, with several pizzas and pastas on the menu. Whether or not you call it Italian, it is definitely one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Menu is regularly updated, lots of interesting small plates, some really great dishes, very nice and diverse wine list.
Cafe Ragazzi - been a while since I've gone, but I always like the stuffed artichoke app (usually a special and not on the regular menu) and a pappardelle w/ truffle oil (again, usually a special if I recall right).
Bugatti - I like their caesar salad (and I'm not a big caesar salad fan, but this one comes w/ nice if untraditional additions of sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts), some very nice home-made pastas, good gnocchi w/ pesto sauce, and the first Wednesday lasagna special. Menu was fairly recently updated and some of the newer items, like a salmon over a bed of cabbage & pancetta, are excellent.
Macaluso's - I've not been myself, this is purely on the basis of Mrs. F's raves about the place.
Cafe Prima Pasta - friendly spot run by Argentines in "Little Buenos Aires" on 71st Street on the Beach. I recall their pastas used to be better, now they're only OK. Still like their veal dishes (picatta, saltimbocca). They also used to do a very nice chicken with a tricolore salad on top but that seems to be off the menu.
Casa Toscana - cozy, intimate little place on Biscayne Blvd., and the proprietress is very charming and friendly. Have been there a few times, the food is good but unmemorable. Like their wines.
Randazzo's Little Italy - for what it is, they do it well - antipasto salad spiked with chunks of veg, salami, olives, pepperoncini, followed by a big heaping bowl of penne w/ meatballs and sausage (I'm a meatballs AND sausage guy, though you can choose your poison) w/ a scoop of creamy ricotta. I think they now have some other stuff on the menu but I've never paid attention.
La Gastronomia - only recently started visiting this spot in the Gables. Pretty good thin-crust pizzas, nice pastas. Everything I've had has been decent, nothing has been particularly memorable.
Anacapri - just recently moved into a much bigger space in the Gables, will be interesting to see how they do. Have only been once, some things were quite nice, possibly just not really my style of place.
La Loggia - notable mostly just for being one of the only places downtown with decent food. I do like an orrechiette dish they have w/ chicken and mushroom and peas.
Tiramesu - decent, not outstanding.
Rosinella - same. I like their vitello tonnato and their gnocchi.
Villagio - only ate there once, unmemorable.
MEDIOCRE / OTHER
Abbracci - meh. Never been impressed by the food at this place.
Carpaccio - meh.
Perricone's - blech.
Avanti - I think this is closed.
Tuscan Steak - forever pissed at them for making a group I was with wait over an hour for a reserved table. Food wasn't worth the wait. Probably better than I will ever give them credit for, but so be it.
Oggi Cafe - along 79th St. Causeway - would fall into the decent category. On par w/ Prima Pasta.
Luna Cafe - around 50th & Biscayne - possibly somewhere between mediocre and decent. Only been once, probably won't go back.
Barchetta on the Bay - unspeakably bad.
Il Mulino (Sunny Isles) - haven't been
Pescecane (Surfside) - ditto.
Osteria is fantastic. I thought Abracci was one of the most overpriced places I have been to in Miami. Years ago, my family used to love Primavera in Ft Luaderdale, great creme brulee actually. If you are up north, try the fresh tomato basil pizza at pizza time. While it is a "red sauce" joint, this pizza is my absolute favorite in SFL.
Casa Mia on 123rd St. east of Biscayne, a hidden gem. Small neighborhood Italian run by Paolo. Charming ambiance, very good food especially the fish plates and pastas, friendly service and outdoor tables. Fantastic homemade soups. Tourist free zone. 1950 NE 123rd St, North Miami, 305.899.2770. Moderate prices.
I finally got Zagat 2007... here's how it compares with 2006. Those noted are the ones that saw ratings changed. I'm pleased to say that in general the restaurants improved in ratings and there's an increase in number of Italian restaurants that scored over 20.
Ago (21) moved up from (20)
Anacapri (22) moved up from (21)
Bice (22) moved up from (21)
Cafe Avanti (22) moved up from (20)
Caffe Milano (20) from (18)
Cafe Prima Pasta (22) from (21)
Caffe Vialetto (26) moved up from (24)
Caramelo (20) moved up from (19)
Carpaccio (21) moved up from (20)
Casa Toscana (23) moved up from (20)
Cioppino (23) moved up from (22)
Escopazzo (26) moved up from (25)
La Loggia (23) moved up from (21)
La Palma (21) from (20)
Macaluso's (24) moved up from (23)
Timo (25) moved up from (23)
Tiramesu (21) moved up from (20)
Tuscan Steak (25) moved up from (24)
Fratelli La Bufala (21) from unmentioned
Il Migliore (24) from unmentioned
Il Mulino (23) from unmentioned
La Locanda (23) from unmentioned
Luna Cafe (23) from unmentioned
Oggi's Cafe (21) from unmentioned
Sardinia (22) from unmentioned (new)
Sylvano's (20) from unmentioned
Quattro (22) from unmentioned
Cafe Ragazzi (23) moved down from (25)
Rosinella's (19) moved down from (21)
Tutto Pasta (21) moved down from (23)
Villagio (20) moved down from (21)
And those that went below 20 in 2007 from 2006:
Big Cheese (18) moved down from (20)
Peppy's in the Gables (19) moved down from (20)
Via Quadronno (18) moved down from (24) - steep!
Surprisingly Soya & Pomodoro (19) is rated higher than where I thought it would be - I can't imagine it being on the same level as Rosinella's. Hrm.
All of which ought to give you an indication of what the Zagat's ratings are worth - not all that much. I certainly don't think you can attribute much significance at all to a 1-2 point change in rating in either direction.
Is Macaluso's any better this year than it was a year ago? Is Ragazzi any worse? I think not.