There's an Entire Frickin' Lobster in This Bowl of Pho
While Miami might have an Italian restaurant or 16 that thinks $24 is a reasonable price for a plate of noodles, the guys who run this Midtown ham-hawkery don't really buy into that. Here you can get one of the restaurant's eight different types of Italian-imported charcuterie for a single-digit price, and if you want to venture into something like the cavatelli with house-made ricotta it won't set you back more than $20. Plus the portions will actually fill you up without emptying your wallet.
In Miami we are good at a great many things. Subtlety is not one of them. Case in point, Cibo Wine Bar, whose outlet in SoFi doesn't just have 3,500 bottles of wine, it boasts them. Not content to just mention the selection, it's placed a two-story glass case of them right in the middle of the 12,000sqft restaurant, and -- this being Miami -- there are "wine angels" in spandex and fishnet stockings dangling from the ceiling to pick out your selection. They pair nicely with the house-made pastas & sauces and wood-oven pizzas.
Every city has to have a tiny hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant run by people from Italy, that has amazing food and costs half of what its big, sexy competitors do. And while you're welcome to jump in the comments and tell us which one it is, our pick is this spot wedged onto Washington Ave between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Not only does it have an extensive menu of food that tastes straight out of Italy, but the pizza might be the best in Miami.
Contrary to what Hollywood tells you, there are a lot of people who live in South Beach and actually can't afford $100,000 cars. We refer to them as "locals," and when South Beach locals want Italian food one name always comes up: Sylvano. This little spot tucked away on Liberty Ave has a laid-back, anti-South Beach vibe to it, and the Italian-run place serves up authentic food at prices intended for people who live here year-round. So while you might not get enough food that your eyes pop out of your head, you're definitely not being gouged.
Sure, Chef Angelo Elia's menu gives you an authentic taste of what his family's kitchen puts out. But if you'd like to get an authentic earful of what his family's dining room might have been like, head there on a weekend, when you'll basically see what it's like eating with a large, boisterous Italian family that's just been told it'll be 60-90 minutes until their table is ready. Good news, though: if you want some of their best-in-Fort Lauderdale pizza, the pie-slinging offshoot is only a couple miles down the road.
The 1980s were an exciting time for Plantation. The Broward Mall had just opened. The Blades brothers were just starting their careers. And there was a landmark Italian restaurant called Valentino helmed by Tony Rocchio serving up hearty plates of pasta to everyone in town. Watching Tony closely was his son Giovanni, who in 2006 took everything he learned in the 21 years watching his father, and opened up his own Valentino in Fort Lauderdale. And while he's changed locations, his restaurant is still the best Italian fine dining in the 954.
Miamians seem to be split into two groups: natives who still live with their parents and transplants who moved as far away from their parents as humanly possible. If you fall into the second group, but occasionally want to feel like you're eating with family, head to this tiny spot Downtown run by an old Italian couple who close the place on American AND Italian holidays, or whenever they feel like it. The mismatched furniture really makes it feel like home, but unlike home you can still bring your slightly questionable dates here: it's also one of Miami's most romantic restaurants.
This might be the best restaurant experience you can have in Miami without ever ordering a thing. Not that the folks who run this high-end Downtown Italian eatery would condone that, but combine the front-row seat to Biscayne Bay and the Miami River with a selection of fresh cheeses, charcuterie, and focaccia served gratis before you even look at the menu, and you've already got a better time than a lot of places around town. But don't quit while you're ahead: the filetto farcito (filet w/ foie gras) and risotto ai frutti di mare will make you forget all about that refill of focaccia you asked for.
Unlike every person to have their own reality show in Miami, this reality-star restaurant is actually good at something. Sure, it was featured on Best New Restaurant but it wasn't because it had 100,000 Instagram followers. It's because it makes some of the best pizza in the city in wood-burning ovens, along with house-made pasta and rich red sauces that don't need to be married to Roy Black to gain massively popularity.
Broward County citizens can take comfort in this Las Olas mega-restaurant from the Big City Tavern people, where they're dry-aging steaks on site and making up dishes you've never seen before, like pasta mafaldine: the delicious burnt ends of the lasagna tossed with a beef and pork ragu. The Italian mojito is on point too, but know that if you have more than one, it’s a long, expensive Uber ride back to Miami.
South Beach pro tip: if you don't feel like waiting till 9:30 for your 8pm reservation at Prime 112, the same delicious, prime dry-aged steaks are available across the street here, at Myles Chefetz's Italian offshoot, where they actually seat you on time. But if steak's not your objective, the softball-sized meatballs are the best in Miami. And the Kobe Bolognese buffalo mozzarella lasagne is, shockingly, one of the best values in the city: unless your first name is Ndamukong, it'll last you two meals and clocks in at only $29.
Is there anything worse in Miami than someone who, immediately after telling you their name, feels the need to tell you they’re from New York? Probably not. But the food here is so good we can overlook it. Not only does this chic all-white space serve up some of the best pre-meal freebies in America with its bruschetta with mussels and fried zucchini, but if you mix the Champagne truffle ravioli with a little bit of the homemade Bolognese, it very well may be the best Italian dish you've ever tried.
Nobody makes you feel more convincingly that you're in Italy like former-Scarpetta chef Michael Pirolo does at Macchialina. This tiny Alton Rd eatery not only survived the volatile Miami restaurant industry, it did it on Alton Rd when Alton Rd was a giant pile of gravel. The only spot not called Panera to survive the Alton Armageddon, it's done it with the richest red sauces, freshest pastas, and most inventive cocktail menu on this list. And while picking the best Italian joint in town is hard, the fact that this place has thrived under the worst circumstances imaginable gives it the tie-breaking edge.
You wouldn’t think a spot wedged next to a Papa John’s and across the street from Yardbird would be the most rustically romantic restaurant in South Beach. But as soon as you pass the Italian deli and market at the entrance, you step foot into a wood-tabled, metal-fixture filled Italian experience. The lights are dim and the wine selection is carefully crafted, creating the perfect atmosphere to enjoy house-made pastas like the gnocchi four formaggi (four-cheese gnocchi) or the tortellini alla panna (tortellini in cream sauce), then linger a while in this little slice of Tuscany before you head back to the reality that is South Beach.
The Grove’s restaurant renaissance is anchored by a few of the best new restaurants to hit the city this year, chief among them in Spasso. Chef Gaetano Ascione -- whose pedigree includes a couple of Michelin-starred spots in London and Gioco in Chicago -- has brought his native Neapolitan cuisine to Miami. He’s seamlessly fusing in local specialties, like the grilled ahi tuna with roasted Tropea red onions (the onions are so sweet they’re used to make the base of gelato). And the open kitchen also puts out fantastic Italian favorites, most notably the house-made tortellini stuffed with spinach and mozzarella and blanketed with velvety truffle fondue.
When you literally have a guy making pasta in your front window, you’re setting the bar pretty damn high. And unlike a lot of things in South Beach that have in impressive exterior, this joint actually delivers. It’s a tiny, narrow restaurant with small tables that serves its wine in tumblers, where you can hear the conversations of the people next to you but will pay no attention because the food is so good. You -- and I mean this -- can’t go wrong with any pasta on the menu, and the service is astonishingly friendly, fast, and competent. Exceptional anywhere, but almost unheard of in South Beach.