The Major Food Group adds another restaurant to their ever expanding Miami roster. Founded by Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick, The Major Food Group presents Contessa Ristorante. Located at 111 NE 41st Avenue in the Miami Design District, this is the second location for Contessa with the first opening in Boston in 2021.
It’s big, bold, glamorous and is everything you would expect from an extraordinary hospitality group. It’s an upscale restaurant, but perhaps in my opinion not as high end as Carbone. It certainly doesn’t have any of the free antipasto that you receive when dining at Carbone and another difference is while Carbone celebrates Southern Italian food, Contessa has a menu that focuses on Northern Italian. But both restaurants serve American-Italian fare, and both serve quality ingredients. The vintage playlist is also a blast from the past, similar to their other restaurants.
This Contessa is larger, 10000 square feet of space over two floors, with covered outdoor patios and additional seating on each floor. They can seat around 200 patrons and they aim to transport guests into feeling they are in Lake Como in the 60’s. I’ve been a regular of Lake Como since the 70’s, and I certainly don’t see any similarities, but the decor is definitely splashy and elaborate. Done in peaches and lacquered teal walls, with beautiful marble floors downstairs and wooden herringbone upstairs. Old photographs line the walls, Murano light fixtures and antique mirrors, silk pendant lights with fringes, lush plants, and an exquisite curved bar upstairs, and burled wood tables. It is old school, swanky and certainly nostalgic.
I’m a fan of the bartending skills at all the Major Food Group restaurants and this place is no exception. My Negroni was perfect and so was my guest’s dirty martini. There are all the typical Italian spritzes, Bellinis, or you can also explore the wines offered from central and northern Italy.
My favourite items to order here and at Carbone are the appetizers and pastas. They are all delicious and always a highlight for me. They always make an excellent beef carpaccio and the pasta with the lobster was perfect . The veal Milanese and the Sostanza butter chicken from one of my favourite restaurants in Florence were tasty, but both much better in their original locations of Italy (Florence). The branzino fish, was on the small side and smothered in green olives, but was also fine. There were an array of desserts too. None as divine as those served at Carbone, but were still prepared well. We tried the pistachio and olive oil gelato, a lemon and meringue tart and a chocolate hazelnut cake.
Considering the restaurant has only been open a few weeks, the service was excellent and the bow-tied servers were knowledgeable and attentive.
This hospitality group has another hit on its hands, and it’s a convenient stop while shopping in the Design District for lunch or as a destination in the evenings. Serving classic Italian food, with warm hospitality and an energetic and glamorous atmosphere.