One of my favourite neighbourhood restaurants, Proof Pizza and Pasta, closed last year in the MiMo District of Miami. Chef Justin Flit was cooking up some of the best pizza and pasta recipes, as well as an incredible burger. I’ve been in mourning ever since.
Fortunately, another top chef on the scene, Michael Beltran – a Coconut Grove celebrity chef and owner of a number of restaurants with Ariete being personally memorable – was also a fan and asked him to join him in this new venture. The highly anticipated new restaurant, Navé, recently opened its doors in the heart of Coconut Grove in November 2019. Located directly next to Ariete at 3540 Main Highway, in Coconut Grove, it was about a 45-minute drive for me. I assume you have to add much more time to your drive in the high season. It’s great for the residents there, but a major schlep for us plebs in Northern Miami. Luckily, I’ll drive just about anywhere for a good meal.
Although newly opened, the restaurant was packed, with seating about 130 between the indoor and outdoor patio space. Enter through the romantic outdoor patio with lit trees, and lush plants, and into a casually elegant, bright, whitewashed space with white painted bricks, birchwood tables, a long raw bar and a glassed enclosed pasta kitchen, where you can see your pasta bring cranked out before your very eyes. The ceiling is open with black exposed pipes to give it a modern feel, and there are a lot of people sidling up at the bar. As the evening wears on the noise level increases as there is nothing to dampen the sound. The crowd is on the older side, but this may just be the demographics of the area, just like Palm Beach.
The menu features crowd-favourite Italian dishes as well as seafood-centric options. It reads beautifully from salads to pizza from the wood-fired oven, to homemade pastas. I adored the enormous and skinny breadsticks on every table. The raw bar features clams, oysters, stone crabs, prawns, and big-eyed tuna. Or you can have your seafood prepared simply and served with gem lettuce. There are also a few meat choices among the entrees along with fish and seafood made with different preparations. And a few sides to choose from as well. The fresh raw bar has a beautiful selection and the seafood is of the highest quality. The pastas, a strong suit of Chef Flit, are excellent. His lasagna is a noteworthy and dreamy concoction of braised lamb, spinach bechamel, and the sweetest confit of cherry tomatoes between luscious layers of delicate sheets of pasta that are perfectly crisped on top. The pizza wasn’t as memorable as it was at Proof. The crust was a little tough and I couldn’t taste the truffles at all on my pizza.
The chefs use smart sourcing and cook with bold flavours. There is a nicely curated cocktail program, wines, and after-dinner drinks. Our savvy waiter Peter, tried to push the meloncello for dessert, a concoction made in house, but we had to sober up for the long drive home. I found the staff to be warm, friendly and professional. Hey why can’t Miami Beach train staff like that?
There were 5 desserts on offer. The Paris Brest was a little too crispy for my liking, I prefer a lighter and fluffier pate a choux. The baked Alaska was a lighter version, made with sorbets instead of ice cream. Call me old fashioned, but I like full fat ice cream under my soft meringue.
The restaurant has garnered many accolades and deservingly so. They have elevated modern seafood and Italian recipes. I expect the restaurant will continue to attract many new admirers. Maybe they can open an outpost in Miami Beach? One can only dream.