Wednesday, April 3, 2013

dei Frescobaldi South Beach, Miami a mecca for wine & food aficionados

Story and photo gallery by Dwight Casimere

SOUTH BEACH, Miami Beach--A 700 year old Italian wine legend from Tuscany has lent its name to an ambitious culinary effort, which promises to be a mecca for lovers of great wine and expressive, modern Italian cuisine.  dei Frescobaldi Ristoriante, Wine Bar and Lounge, in the Hotel Astor, at the corner of Washington & 10th in DSouth Beach, dominates the garden area, part of the expansive lobby level and a cavernous lower level dining space to create an ideal environment for the appreciation of gastronomy.

Greeted by affable host Piero Benini, the excellent appointments within the ultra-chic modern art deco environment, are evident. Gleaming white furnishings are offset with exposed floor to ceiling wine rack displays and carefully positioned pieces of modern art and alcoves with a plethora of rare celebrity photo prints and carefully scattered art deco pieces. Just as the restaurant is visually pleasing to the eye, the menu and wine list are equally appealing to the palate, with a copious mix of Italian and modern American fusion specialties designed to enhance the experience of sampling a wine list that heightens the wine tasting and fine dining experience.

"The menu is a mixture of Italian peasant food and high cuisine," said General Manager Benini. "Our chef really likes to blend Old World standards with a modern twist of interpretation. We use fresh local ingredients to heighten the flavor experience, because our emphasis here is the marriage of wine and food. In this way, we hope to bring out the best qualities of both."

dei Frescobaldi Miami Beach is based on the concept of the original restaurant in Florence, where casual elegance is the key. Located in the heart of this historic city, just off the Piazza della Signoria, the restaurant is noted for, not only its outstanding cuisine, and wine list, largely representing the wines of the one of the region's founding families, but the level of service.  "Where the customer is treat like a king!" is the motto of the restaurant.  Additional versions of dei Frescobaldi are located in Rome,m where there are three locations, and in London, where the restaurant is located within the confines of the historic Harrod's department store.

Dining at dei Frescobaldi is like a celebration, so it was appropriate to start with the Danzante Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry ($20). This parkling wine has a delicate mousse, with intense flavors of fruit and the fragrance of delicate white flowers, apples and pears.

The first course was one of the restaurant's signature dishes and a Florentine favorite; a warm composed salad of grilled octopus, squid and cuttlefish with a white ragout risotto. It was paired with Danzante Pinto Grigio  ($18) It was the first white wine offered and, because of its bright citrus nose and distinct layers of white peaches and crisp green apples on the palate, it was a wine that would make encore appearances throughout the meal, which was dominated by the most exquisite fresh seafood ever.

dei Ferscobaldi is famous for its fresh homemade pasta and the chef in Miami Beach did not disappoint with Taglioni, a thin fettucini noodle with black truffles and butter, again with the Danzante Pinto Grigio. This is a clear example of how simple is always better. One could smell the rich, earthy aromatic truffles almost as soon as the dish exited the kitchen. The delicate noodles seemed to disappear on the palate, allowing the rich, umami feel and flavor of the butter truffle sauce to linger in the mouth. Abondanza!

The wine list at dei Frescobaldi is, of course, dominated by the great wines of the Fescobaldi family. There are some real treasures here, like the Mormoretto 2006 Toscana ($56) or the Nipozzano Riserva 2005 ($65) Chianti Rufina. These are wines perfectly suited for what would have been my next course, had there been any room, the sliced Bisteca alla Florentine with black truffles. Next time! and, based on my experience, there certainly will be.

I finished the meal with the restaurant's signature Lily cappucino and a magnificent tiramisu the best I've ever had. This one is the real deal. Every tiramisu  I've had anywhere else was a mere pretender!

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