Miamians, by reputation, share a common love for all things “en vogue”: gorgeous beaches, internationally-acclaimed resorts and spas, the latest fashion and fitness trends, and undeniably, bold food. The singularly most effective remedy to relaxing amidst busy schedules or reconnecting with friends, food is the epitome of this city’s diverse global population. Hence comes the ecstatic annual anticipation for the Miami Spice Restaurant Program, held this year from August 1 to September 30 at a record 171 participating restaurants. Currently in the midst of this culinary madness, residents and tourists get to enjoy this year’s new second pricing option, a wellplanned economical maneuver by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau separating restaurants into either the Luxury or less expensive Fine Dining category.
I have tried a multitude of delicious locales and discovered new favorites; however, one restaurant trumped all. Italian import Toscana Divino, located smack dab in the heart of Mary Brickell Village, mixes unmatchable freshness with exquisite flavors for the most succulent, authentic Tuscan-inspired meal I’ve had since, well, Tuscany. Selecting amongst the decadently- named options from the $39 Miami Spice three-course, prix-fixe dinner menu was no easy feat, but with help from my charismatic and yes you guessed it- Italianwaiter, I felt confident in my ten-minutelong decision.
The meal began with a dish of well-aged venison carpaccio accompanied by porcini mushroom tartar, toasted hazelnut and lime gremolata, arugula, ruffle vinaigrette and parmesan. Needless to say, this mouthwatering mix is overly capable of whetting the appetite! Not only was each morsel bursting with flavor, causing my dinner date and I to exchange equally “oh wow what is in this” glances, but the impossibly thin venison slices comprised the perfect serving size.
My entrée’s arrival was well-received by my ravenous stomach: risotto “alla Parmigiana” milk braised rabbit ragu, celery, and black pepper. It appeared unassuming enough, but do not underestimate. Each forkful of this creamy dish drips with unparalleled flavor, containing just the right amount of minuscule vegetables to complement the rice. Paired with a glass of crisp prosecco followed by a rich authentic chianti as part of their Miami Spice “Wine Flight” offering the choice of three wines for $15, this dish will forever enliven my culinary memory as one of the most unsuspecting yet unforgettable meals I’ve ever tasted. Plus let’s be honest: an Italian meal is not given justice devoid of proper wine pairings! This will never present a problem at Toscana Divino, as it houses a custom floor-to-ceiling wine cellar boasting more than 1,200 bottles of wine directly in the heart of the restaurant.
To conclude, my fellow dining adventurer and I shared our desserts of raspberry almond cake with vanilla “crème inglese” raspberry sorbet, and bittersweet chocolate mousse with butter caramel and coffee ice cream. As hoped, both were up-to-par with the rest of the meal and left us antsily awaiting the next bite.
In true Tuscan fashion, this restaurant offers the real Italian dining experience; just as in the historic golden land of food itself, the meal is not rushed and commences instead at a leisurely pace. Tables are casually re-set between courses, the service is timely and personable but not overbearing, and patrons are encouraged to simply relax and partake in a genuinely sensuous culinary experience. Chefs Marco Stabile, a Michelin star recipient and owner of Florence’s famed Ora’D’Aria, and Julian Baker, a notable European Tuscan cuisine specialist, give an entirely new meaning to dining decadence. Molto delizioso!
For an up-to-date list of participating Miami Spice restaurants and menus, visit www.iLoveMiamiSpice.com.