People often ask me what is my favourite Italian restaurant in Miami? I never have a definitive answer for them because I am never that impressed with what Miami has to offer. There are a handful of good ones that I favour, but never a great one. I can add a new one to my list of favourites, Via Emilia 9 at 1120 15th Street, just east of Alton Road. They serve elevated Italian cuisine here and truly merit my accolades. A charming, quirky, casual restaurant, it seats about thirty people in the main room, with another eight overlooking the bar and tiny open kitchen and a few outdoor tables.
Chef Giancarlo “Wendy” Cacciatori hails from Emilia Romagna and his menu reflects dishes from this rich gastronomic capital of Italy. This is the part of the world where the best Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and prosciutto come from. The area is also known for its homemade pastas, like tortellini and ravioli, which were made famous here. Actually the number one restaurant in the world is in Emilia Romagna in Modena and Chef Wendy is friends with the owners. The food here is authentic and the chef gets his wines and food from these Italian regions. The chef has lived in Modena and Bologna. Every day if you come before noon or even on some evenings, you can come in to see a fresh variety of pastas being rolled out.
Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by the chef’s wife, Valentina. You’ll notice how small the kitchen is. One of the evenings I dined there, Chef Wendy was the only one in the kitchen, seen managing many pots of boiling water solo.
The culinary journey is extraordinary. The menu lists antipasti, salads, a long list of pastas, meats, cheeses and prosciuttos and of course, dolce.
You can start your meal with a board of imported meats and cheeses. You can have these with a basket of cestino, a puffy fried bread or thin grilled bread called piscine. The burrata with cherry tomatoes is of excellent quality.
I love fresh pasta so I decided to go with a four-course pasta tasting. You can choose from a list of 15 homemade pasta dishes. We tried the tortellini in brodo, a rich broth filled with a generous portion of tortellini. And the pumpkin cappellacci, a homemade ravioli with mascarpone and pear, it wasn’t even listed on the menu. We also had large pumpkin-filled tortellini, and the chef switched out the butter and sage sauce because we told him we love a bolognese sauce. It was unbelievable! What do they say, it is all about the sauce, and here it is perfection. Our last course was a homemade fettuccine done in a simple butter and the chef personally came out to shave some fresh white truffles on top. Upon request, they can personalize the stuffing of your pasta.
I have also tried the meat lasagna on one occasion. The beef sauce was tasty but I prefer a thicker lasagna and one that is more saucy, here it was a little dry. Upon request they can personalize the stuffing of your pasta. One night we tried the chicken in red wine and found the dish to be on the dry side. The veal, wrapped and stuffed with cheese and ham, could also have been more moist. I really enjoy the restaurant’s flatbreads, which are unlike anything I have had before in an Italian restaurant. They are like a cross between a quesadilla and an Indian naan bread. Mine was filled with mozzarella, ham and arugula. I could come back and just have this dish and a glass of wine. I noticed when we entered the chalkboard mentioned a five-course white truffle menu for $160. Don’t let that throw you off, the food is quite reasonable, and the quality is outstanding. I really wanted to try the veal cooked in milk, but it is a rich dish and there was no more room, except for dessert of course.
The server recommended the tiramisu, but I mentioned I can’t have anything with too much caffeine at night. The chef made us a deconstructed rich tiramisu, without the espresso. He had two biscuits in it and a chocolate spoon to scoop it up.
The small staff couldn’t be friendlier and Chef Cacciatori works magic in his little gem of a restaurant. It isn’t perfect but the food is soulful and luscious. Open daily from 11am till 11pm.
I have a good tip, but don’t tell too many people, or then you will never get a table – through the end of 2016 they offered the menu at half price on Tuesdays, AND … they will be starting again in June 2017! I am talking the entire menu. Book early for this fabulous deal.